Senior Advocate Anarkali Agni highlights her journey as a lawyer and enjoying her practice in present times
Anarkali Agni is a senior advocate, a counsel for Goa University and a Senior Counsel at the Bombay High Court with a rich experience in the legal industry.
Sr Adv Agni hails from Ribandar, her father Dr Savlo Keni was a very notable doctor and the Vice Chairman of Kala Academy. Her mother, Sudha was a poetess who penned various poems in Konkani and Marathi along with writing for All India Radio, as well. The renowned Konkani poetess Vijaya Bai Sarmalcar was her aunt. Sr Adv Agni grew up surrounded by music, art, poetry and books in her childhood home. She studied at Bal Bharti Vidyamandir and mentions that she grew up along with the school. “I was in the first batch in the fifth standard and they kept on adding classes as I advanced every year. After completing my eleventh standard I went on to graduate in Arts from Dhempe College of Arts and Science. Later I joined V M Salgaocar College of Law, where again, I was a student of the first batch,” she adds.
Sr Adv Agni still wonders how she got into the legal profession given that there were no lawyers in her family. “My father was a doctor and no one in my family had ever taken up law. When I was young, I had a passion for public speaking and when I was studying for my second year in Faculty of Arts, I was part of a congregation held in honour of V. S. Khandekar, the noted Marathi writer. I got a chance to speak in front of a large crowd at the Institute Menezes Braganza and it was something I thoroughly enjoyed. My father, on seeing my enthusiasm, advised me to take up law as a profession and since then there was no looking back.”
Sr Adv Agni says that in Goa it is not possible to specialise in any one specific area of law, and personally she feels that it is a blessing in disguise as lawyers get an opportunity to handle cases of all kinds, else there is no challenge to one’s intellect. As a counsel of Goa University, she mentions that she has handled admission matters, service matters, matters under Article 30 (minority educational institutions) of the Constitution and other such cases. She would handle matrimonial cases, custody matters of children and also matters of completely different texture such as labour laws. She has also handled diverse type of cases like property matters, and criminal cases, once in a while.
In 2014, Adv Agni was designated as Senior Advocate by the Bombay High Court; and till date, she is the only lady advocate to be designated as Senior Advocate in the state. The early years in the profession for her were marked with very interesting cases. Fortunately for her, she never faced adversity or bias on account of being a lady and does not recall any discriminatory treatment meted out to her. “I started out at a time when lady lawyers were few and far between. But I did not face a situation where judges or clients made distinction between lady and the male lawyers. On the contrary, people were very interested in seeing a lady lawyer during those days. Everything so far for me as a woman has been smooth sailing,” she adds.
Over the years, Sr Adv Agni has handled an interesting mix of cases. “The challenge to a lawyer is when a law point is brought up one has to argue not only on facts but also on the statutory provisions of the law. I have even argued rape cases, but steadfastly avoided to accept briefs where cases pertain to rape on minors. Some of them really stand out as special cases in my memory.”
She states that the most challenging thing about her profession was balancing her career and family. “When a woman succeeds, she works more than a man, as a woman has to balance her career, her home and her children. I did all of this. My daughter is a lawyer, too; and when she was small I did have a tough time. My husband had fallen sick back then and there were times when there was no help and I had to rush from the court after attending to my matters for the day, to tend to my husband and child at home. But then it gives one experience which I feel is the best teacher.”
Sr Adv Agni says that spending time with her grandson is what makes her ecstatic. “Now at my age, I have gotten used to my work and I feel it is necessary to work to keep my mind active.”
Apart from her legal work she is very interested in dramas and had participated in a few of them when she was young. She loves music and plays the harmonium sometimes. “I love to write and have written a book on poetry in Hindi and Urdu and have published a book of short stories.”
Sr Adv Agni credits her parents who inspired her and her biggest support has been her husband, Advocate Ajit Agni. “My first matter in the High Court was referred to me by my husband, and I will always be grateful for his support. Professionally, we have worked together and we have faced comparisons over the years, but he has always been my pillar of strength.” Sr Adv Agni plans to write another book and says one is as old or as young as one thinks. “When I am with my grandson, I am five years old and those are my happy hours.”
She signs off with a message to aspiring professionals. “Hard work, tenacity and perseverance are the most important factors. No matter how intelligent one is, if there is no hard work, things don’t work out. Success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration; and it is a mantra I firmly live by”