In the busy and colourful city of Mumbai, I, Rupali S. Akolkar, went on an adventure where it was hard to tell the difference between doing what I should and doing what felt right, and between the rules of society and being kind to others.
It all began over a decade ago when the corridors of justice led me to the doorstep of Majlis, an NGO where a league of dedicated female lawyers championed the cause of women and children. This encounter marked the genesis of my pro bono voyage, joining Majlis as a panel lawyer a journey that resonates deeply with the ethos of Café Social Magazine and the Inbook Foundation’s Law Social Responsibility initiative.
“Rupali Akolkar, a lawyer who speaks for the voiceless and stands for the vulnerable.”
Enthralled by their commitment to pro bono services and dedication to societal betterment, I joined forces. The corridors of justice became my sanctuary as I traversed the realm of legal complexities. From cases of domestic strife to the intricacies of criminal intimidation and dowry demands, my focus expanded with each legal challenge, mirroring the diverse tapestry of Mumbai itself.
In the backdrop of this metropolis, the Café Social Magazine and Inbook Foundation’s initiative struck a chord. Their commitment mirrored my own, a shared dedication to pro bono services and the belief that the law should be a beacon of justice for all.
My professional sojourn led me through the labyrinth of criminal, civil, family, and land acquisition laws. Serving as Counsel for the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and units under the Ministry of Railways, I found my stride in the vast legal landscape.
Empanelled as an Arbitrator with the Hon’ble Bombay High Court, Asian Exporter’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Indian Institute of Arbitration and Mediation (IIAM), my journey transcended local boundaries.
Yet, my advocacy wasn’t confined to courtrooms; it spilled onto the streets and into the lives of those in need. Championing women and animal rights through various NGOs, I became a storyteller in a different narrative. Workshops, seminars, and awareness sessions became my medium, sensitizing people to the legal rights of women, children, and animals.
This journey is not just a professional pursuit; it’s a tale woven with personal experiences. Childhood spent away from home, often in a boarding, exposed me to the silent struggles of families educating their children. The preference for male children and the challenges faced by families with daughters etched an indelible mark on my consciousness.
Inspired by my father, a guiding force in my pro bono journey, and fuelled by my mother’s ethos of giving, I found my purpose. These values became the pillars of my commitment to societal well-being.
Empanelled with the Legal Services department of the Bombay High Court, I took pride in my legal aid experiences. One remarkable chapter involved a minor’s abduction, a legal battle that saw the denial of bail for the accused. Witnessing tears of joy from the victim’s family affirmed the transformative power of legal intervention.
My pro bono canvas extended to the forgotten voices behind bars. Constitutional principles questioned how someone’s freedom could hinge on their financial means. It became my cause to bridge this gap and ensure justice for those who couldn’t afford it.
Pro bono service wasn’t just a learning experience; it was a journey of blessings. Early in my career, it provided exposure to facets of law that often elude a novice. The sense of inner peace derived from giving back to the universe became my guiding light.
Dedicated to the welfare of animals, I invested in harmony between species, fostering understanding and eliminating fear. The ultimate reward came when someone sought me as their last ray of hope, and I could assist in finding a resolution.
My pro bono journey, though a decade old, is a commitment to a lifetime of service, gaining new experiences, and forging new relationships.
Rupali S Akolkar
This article is part of Café Social Magazine’s “Lawyers Social Responsibility (LSR)” series, dedicated to celebrating lawyers who make a positive impact through pro bono work and social responsibility initiatives.