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"My Family Also Victim of Judicial Delay": Says Justice R. Banumathi In Her Farewell Speech

Radhika Roy
17 July 2020 3:31 PM GMT
"My Family Also Victim of Judicial Delay": Says Justice R. Banumathi In Her Farewell Speech

The President and Members of the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association hosted a function to bid farewell to Justice R. Banumathi of the Supreme Court of India.

Justice R. Banumathi discharged her duty as a Judge of the Apex Court for the last time today, with her retirement taking place on 19 July, 2020. She had assumed the role of a Judge of the Supreme Court on 13 August, 2014, and is the sixth woman to be a Judge of the Supreme Court of India.

Justice Banumathi's journey, spanning over three decades, began with her direct recruitment as a district judge vide the Tamil Nadu Higher Judicial Service. In April 2003, she was elevated as a judge of the Madras High Court. In November 2013, she was transferred to Jharkhand High Court and was appointed its Chief Justice.

Today's farewell ceremony commenced with a Welcome Address delivered by
Senior Advocate Kailash Vasdev
, Vice President of the SCBA.

The ceremony then progressed with Attorney-General KK Venugopal stating that it was a sad day as one of the most beloved judges of the Supreme Court was leaving. He recounted multiple great orders rendered by Justice Banumathi during her time as a district judge, a High Court judge, and then as a Supreme Court judge.

'We are losing a good judge; a great judge. So, all I can say is, bon voyage. I know you love your family; you've spoken about your grandchild. But, I hope you come back to legal work soon, maybe by way of arbitration."

Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, the President of the SCBA, then initiated his address by lamenting, "My Ladyship, I must confess, that the Court will have a serious vacuum without you, and the Collegium will find it difficult to fill it up. The Bar will miss you, as it is in you we found an independent Judge who was always willing to listen to us."

Dave noted that Justice Banumathi embodied the cornerstone of the rule of law, which was the bedrock of democracy, by being fiercely independent and giving multiple dissenting opinions. He listed her achievements and contributions, by not only being the President of the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy, but by also authoring various handbooks and books on the various aspects of law.

He further highlighted her kind and encouraging disposition towards members of the Bar.

"The Bar is really grateful about the way you treated members of the Bar; the affection that you showered on us, even while being firm with us with your decision-making. Specially the younger members of the bar, whom you treated with utmost respect and kindness."

Dave then deviated from the topic at hand and underlined certain grim consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic which had left young lawyers to fend for themselves without any financial assistance. He stated the Bar was standing alone, not being supported or cared for by the Bench, and as the pandemic was the greatest challenge to humanity, the members of the Bar were suffering immensely.

"We've had suicides of young lawyers, with the loss of two lady lawyers in the past one week. The SCBA and generous members of the Bar are trying to help. We have helped hundreds, but there are hundreds more who are waiting. Our resources are limited. There are thousands who are dependent on the institution for their survival."

In light of the above, Dave requested for a balance to be found between having virtual and physical courts side by side, as the damages to the wellbeing of lawyers were irreversible.

Dave concluded his address by saying, "In you, the Bar found someone who was really a friend. Today, when you are leaving us, we are feeling quite sad. Fortunately, you are not leaving Delhi, and I hope you will join us, maybe by way of arbitration. We wish you lots of happiness and success. Thank you very much."

Justice Banumathi then commenced her farewell address by thanking everyone for joining her on a Friday evening, to share good thoughts and good words about her. She recounted her childhood and her journey to the Supreme Court of India

"I was born in a very small village, in a backward district in Tamil Nadu. I lost my father in a bus accident, when I was 2 years. In those days, we had to file a suit for compensation. My mother filed a claim and the court passed a decree. But, we couldn't get the amount due to complicated procedures and lack of assistance. Myself, my widowed mother and my two sisters; we are victims of court delay and its procedural lags. We did not get the compensation till the last day."

Having entered the Tamil Nadu Higher Judicial Services at the age of 33 in 1988, Justice Banumathi served the institution for over 3 decades, while navigating mountains of obstacles.

She further observed that, despite comments on pendency of cases, various positive initiatives had been taken by the Central Government, State Governments and the judiciary to aid in the accessibility to justice and to ensure more efficiency of the system.

"With more citizen-centric services such as availability of judgements/orders online, easier accessibility to cause lists, e-payments, e-summons, mobile apps etc., these are all arms meant to increase transparency of the system."

She advised young lawyers to keep reading and increasing their knowledge, as with the pervasiveness and expansion of law in all spheres, there was a need for lawyers to be a
"fountain of information".

Justice Banumathi then thanked her family for providing her support throughout her career and ensuring that they always stood by her in difficult times.

"My sincere thanks to my husband, who is a lawyer in mofussil courts. He always encouraged me to take up law and pursue the legal profession. My husband is a person of highest integrity and he provided unwavering support to me throughout my life. He was the pillar of support which allowed me to maintain honesty and integrity throughout my service."

She further thanked her sisters, her children, and her brother and sister judges of the Supreme Court as well as every other Court where she had served.

Justice Banumathi also noted that the lawyers who had appeared before her in Court, had always been thoroughly prepared and brought forward their best. She requested them that they should not take it to their heart if she had ever hurt them, as her only intention was to encourage young lawyers and help them learn.

She also thanked the media and the press attached to the Supreme Court for diligent and sincere reporting of orders of the Supreme Court as well as for maintaining discipline while being present in her Court for reporting purposes.

In response to Dave's suggestion regarding the working of physical courts, Justice Banumathi observed that it was a decision that had to be taken by the Committee of Judges. While acknowledging that the country was suffering a lot and these were very difficult days, she appealed to everyone to wait for a while as it was more of a
"life concern".

"COVID-19 is dangerous and very fatal. Let's hope that a vaccine is developed and very fatal. Let's hope that a vaccine is developed and we get some good news. Let us all collectively pray for the nation that India will come out of this and the situation becomes normal."

With a wish for everyone's safety and well-being, Justice R. Banumathi then concluded her farewell speech.

The ceremony then came to an end with a Vote of Thanks delivered by Rohit Pandey, Acting Hony. Secretary of the SCBA.

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