Broke All Barriers Of Societal And Gender Perceptions: Kerala High Court Remembers (Late) Justice Fathima Beevi
"Justice Fathima Beevi broke all barriers of societal perception to take up a profession that was once considered a man’s prerogative..She has paved the way for countless women to take up the legal profession now," Kerala High Court Chief Justice Ashish J. Desai said, while addressing the full court gathered to commemorate the demise of Justice Fathima Beevi. The first female Judge to...
"Justice Fathima Beevi broke all barriers of societal perception to take up a profession that was once considered a man’s prerogative..She has paved the way for countless women to take up the legal profession now," Kerala High Court Chief Justice Ashish J. Desai said, while addressing the full court gathered to commemorate the demise of Justice Fathima Beevi.
The first female Judge to be appointed to the Supreme Court of India, Justice Beevi passed away on November 23, 2023, at the age of 96.
She began her career in the lower Judiciary of Kerala in 1950, and soon rose through the ranks from serving as the Munsiff in the Kerala Subordinate Judicial Services, as a Subordinate Judge, as a Chief Judicial Magistrate, as a District and Sessions Judge, as a Judicial Member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal -- to becoming a High Court Judge in 1983, and a Supreme Court Judge in 1989.
She was also the first Muslim woman Judge to be appointed to any Higher Judiciary and holds the distinction of being the first woman Judge of a Supreme Court of a nation in Asia.
Speaking at the occasion, Chief Justice Desai quipped that Justice Beevi's contribution to the Judiciary in analysing and interpreting complex legal issues was remarkable. He said that Justice Beevi's sheer brilliance and chiselled skills reverberated through the legal sphere.
Chief Justice Desai added that Justice Beevi was a beacon of hope who empowered women across the nation, and was also a 'shining star of India's legal horizon'.
"The legacy of her charisma will trigger the inner aspiration of womenfolk for generations to come. Her courage, determination, grit and perseverance will prove to be a great source of inspiration to the legal fraternity and society at large," he said.
Advocate General Gopalakrishna Kurup, who also spoke on the occasion remarked that Justice Beevi always upheld the primacy of the Constitution and Rule of Law. He added that the late Judge showed compassion in deserving cases, and great patience while listening to arguments in Court. AG Kurup described the tenure of Justice Beevi in short as, “You came, you saw, you conquered.” He added that her decisions were based on justice and fairness and were never carried away by personal philosophies or technicalities.
AG stated that Justice Beevi attained her rightful place in the history of the Indian judiciary by overcoming the conscious or unconscious bias existing towards women which led to greater gender equality.
“She through her life own life proved wrong the patriarchal instinct of having lowered expectations of performance from women. She had been a role model and inspiration to many.”, he said.
Advocate Saiby Jose Kidangoor, President of Kerala Advocates Bar Association, mentioned that Justice Beevi who was appointed as the Governor of Tamil Nadu from 1997 to 2007 received both praise and criticism during her tenure.
“During Justice Fathima Beevi’s tenure as a governor, Her Ladyship made headlines by rejecting mercy petitions from four prisoners involved in the Rajeev Gandhi assassination case by invoking the power conferred under Article 161 of the Constitution which allows the governor to pardon. After the Hon’ble Supreme Court reconfirmed the death sentence awarded to the four accused in the Rajeev Gandhi assassination case, Justice Beevi as the then governor of Tamil Nadu commuted the death sentence awarded to Nalini, the next year, on the main ground that she was a woman and had a daughter. “, he said.
Advocate Saiby went on to observe that Justice Beevi’s tenure as a governor turned controversial when she supported the law and order situation in Tamil Nadu which led to tension with the Central Government and she left the office of governor under controversial circumstances accepting Jayalallithas' majority after the elections.
Advocate Saiby further mentioned that the appointment of Justice Fathima Beevi as a judge of the Supreme Court was a historic moment and a significant step towards gender equality in the Indian legal system.
“Justice Fathima Beevi’s legacy continues to inspire generations of women in India to pursue careers in law and judiciary. Justice Fathima Beevi’s life and career are a testament to Her Ladyship's dedication to the legal profession and her role in breaking gender barriers in the Indian judiciary. Justice Fathima Beevi was one of the most remarkable chapters of women empowerment in the Indian judiciary…”, he said.
Chief Justice Desai directed the registry to place on record and to convey condolence messages from the bar and the bench to the members of late Justice Beevi’s family.