Justice Fathima Beevi, India's First Woman Supreme Court Judge, Passes Away At 96; A Glimpse Into Her Remarkable Legacy

Justice Fathima Beevi, India's First Woman Supreme Court Judge, Passes Away At 96; A Glimpse Into Her Remarkable Legacy

With only eight women appointed to the SC bench since independence, the journey began with M. Fathima Beevi in 1989, marking a slow progression in fostering gender diversity within the esteemed institution.

Tejas JoshiUpdated: Thursday, November 23, 2023, 03:26 PM IST
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Justice M. Fathima Beevi, India's pioneering female judge to ascend to the Supreme Court, passed away at the age of 96 on Thursday. Not only did she make history as the first woman appointed to the highest court, but she also earned the distinction of being the initial Muslim woman judge in any higher judiciary.

In the 71 years since the establishment of the Supreme Court on January 26, 1950, the inclusion of women judges has been sparse. With only eight women appointed to the bench during this period, the journey began with M. Fathima Beevi in 1989, marking a slow progression in fostering gender diversity within the esteemed institution.

Justice Fathima Beevi's journey

The pages of history have M. Fathima Beevi inked in the records, she is the first female to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice of India. Also, she was also the first Muslim woman in Higher Judiciary.

Fathima Beevi was born on April 30, 1927 at Pathanamthitta, in the erstwhile state of Travancore (presently in Kerala).

She took schooling from Catholicate High School in 1943 and later moved to Trivandrum to pursue higher education. She secured a B.Sc. degree from University College, Thiruvananthapuram after which she began her study in law from Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram.

Legal career

She was one of the only five female students in her class in the law school, a number that later became three. After completing her law degree in 1950, she appeared for the Bar Council of India examination and emerged as the first woman to top the exam. This was followed by her receiving the Bar Council gold medal, making it the first of her historic achievements.

Initially, she enrolled as an advocate and began her career in the lower judiciary in Kerala on 14th November, 1950. Progressing in her career, she made it to the notable position at the Supreme Court of India.

On 6-10-1989, Justice Fathima Beevi was appointed at the first female to be appointed a Supreme Court Justice of India. By being appointed at the Supreme Court, she paved the way for women to pursue careers in a male dominated judiciary.

Political career

She had a political career too. Justice Fathima Beevi went on to become the Governor of Tamil Nadu on 25-01-1997. Appointing her and former chief justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court as the governor of Kerala, the then President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma had said, “Their experience of and insights into the working of the Constitution and the laws comprise valuable assets.”

After resigning from her position as governor of Tamil Nadu, she got back to her ancestral home in now Kerala. She lived post retirement in her home state.

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