Fathima Beevi: SC’s 1st Woman Judge Who Swore In A Convicted Jayalalithaa As CM

Fathima Beevi: SC’s 1st Woman Judge Who Swore In A Convicted Jayalalithaa As CM

It was also Justice Beevi, who initially rejected the mercy petitions of four death row convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination.

N ChithraUpdated: Friday, November 24, 2023, 01:12 AM IST
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Fathima Beevi: SC’s 1st Woman Judge Who Swore In A Convicted Jayalalithaa As CM |

Justice Fathima Beevi, Supreme Court’s first woman judge, who died in Kerala on Thursday, will go down in history as a Governor who had administered oath of office to a person convicted in a corruption case to govern a State. 

No one expected Governor Fathima Beevi to invite Jayalalitha to form Govt

In the summer of May 2021, then AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa had rushed to the Raj Bhavan in Chennai to submit a letter from her party legislators declaring her elected as the AIADMK legislature party leader. On the basis of this letter, she staked claim to form the Government. No one expected Governor Fathima Beevi to invite her to form the Government.

For, in the run up to the elections, the Returning Officers in four Assembly constituencies had declared Jayalalithaa’s nominations invalid on two counts. One, as a person convicted in two TANSI land deal cases for a prison term of three years in each case, she stood automatically disqualified from contesting in an election. Two, as per the Representation of People Act, a person shall not file nominations in more than two constituencies. 

The swearing ceremony that shocked everyone

However, to the shock and surprise of everyone, Justice Beevi hurriedly swore in Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister along with four Cabinet Ministers at a simple ceremony at the Durbar Hall. 

An advocate B R Kapoor moved the Supreme Court challenging the decision and in September that year, for the first time in the history of the country, the highest court in India unseated a sitting Chief Minister. The court also ruled that along with Jayalalithaa her entire Cabinet would have to go. It was then that O Panneerselvam was sworn in Chief Minister with the full Cabinet. 

Beevi's resignation

This time, however, the honours were not done by Justice Beevi. It was Governor Rangarajan, who was holding additional charge, who administered the oath. In July that year, Justice Beevi had resigned after coming under a cloud over her report in the midnight arrest of DMK leader M Karunanidhi by the Crime Branch CID. The police had broken into the former Chief Minister’s house past midnight, manhandled Karunanidhi and took him into their custody in a hurriedly filed FIR alleging irregularities in the construction of a flyover in Chennai. 

What’s worse, the police for the first time took into custody two Union Ministers – Murasoli Maran and T R Baalu, both from the DMK, on charges of assaulting the police and attempting to gatecrash into the CB-CID office. 

Vajpayee's call for report

The Vajpayee Government, which needed the DMK’s support, had called for a report from the Governor but she merely sent the Government’s version justifying the arrests. The Union Cabinet then recommended her recall following which she resigned. 

It was also Justice Beevi, who initially rejected the mercy petitions of four death row convicts in the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi assassination. The Madras High Court had disapproved of this as she had acted without the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Subsequently, on a Cabinet recommendation, she had commuted to life the death sentence of the prime accused Nalini Sriharan. 

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