Category : Obituary
Author : Aura Staff

Justice Fathima Beevi, the trailblazing first Muslim woman appointed as a Supreme Court judge, passed away on Thursday at the age of 96 in a private hospital in Kollam, Kerala. Her historic appointment served as an inspiration for women aspiring to pursue careers in the legal profession.
Regarded as a symbol of gender justice and women’s empowerment, Justice Beevi left an indelible mark on the legal landscape and beyond, becoming a beacon for those advocating for equal rights.
In a condolence message, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan acknowledged Justice Beevi’s life as a remarkable chapter in the saga of women’s empowerment in the state. He highlighted her pivotal role in making Kerala the first state to contribute a woman judge to the country, solidifying her legacy as a trailblazer in the pursuit of justice and equality.
Beevi commenced her judicial career by being appointed as a judge of the Kerala High Court in 1983. Her stellar trajectory in the judiciary continued when she was elevated to the position of a Supreme Court judge in 1989, marking the beginning of an illustrious chapter in her career that spanned until 1992.
During her tenure as a judge, Justice Beevi championed the cause of equality through pivotal verdicts. Notably, she played a key role in a case related to specific provisions of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation of Appointments) Act in 1991. In this capacity, she emphasized the constitutional provisions designed to protect every citizen from arbitrary exercises of authority by the state or its officers.
Post her retirement from the apex court, Justice Beevi continued her dedicated service to the nation. She served as a member of the National Human Rights Commission and later assumed the role of the governor of Tamil Nadu, contributing significantly to the realms of human rights and governance.
In a condolence statement, the Girls Islamic Organisation of India also remembered Beevi, writing that “GIO expresses deep condolences on the passing of Justice Fathima Beevi, the first woman judge appointed to the Supreme Court. Her accomplishments and dedication echo through our nation’s history. A legal luminary, she outfaced norms, inspiring countless to pursue their dreams with courage. May her legacy serve as a reminder of the vital need for diversity and inclusion within our institutions, demonstrating the inspiring role women have been playing since decades.”
In a touching obituary, lawyer Indira Jaising wrote of the importance of the path that Beevi opened for others: “It is important that our national institutions reflect the diversity of the people who approach the courts. It gives a sense of confidence to them in the institution. Today, women outnumber men in law schools, our courts are flooded with women lawyers sufficiently senior to warrant their appointment. But still, the number of women appointed to the benches of high courts and the Supreme Court is abysmally low. Diversity in national institutions is an end in itself and is an essential aspect of democracy. Diversity in the judiciary should include the appointment of women, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in much larger numbers. In Amrit Kaal, by sheer lapse of time, there is no lack of legal talent in this country. However, the rationale for diversity to our policymakers must be clear: Diversity is a democratic imperative. When women are given reservation in Parliament in the name of “nari vandan”, our constitutional mandate of equality is forgotten. This lapse of memory also accounts for the problems women face after appointment. Sexual harassment of woman judges is not unknown to our legal system — on the record, many woman judges have complained of it… Fathima Beevi did open the door, but it’s a revolving door, sometimes letting women in and sometimes, keeping them out.”

1 Comment

  1. D Riya

    Feeling proud!


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