First female judge of Supreme Court Justice M. Fathima Beevi conferred with Padma Bhushan


First female judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice M. Fathima Beevi, was conferred with Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian honour in the country, on the eve of the 75th Republic Day.

Justice Beevi passed away on November 23 at the age of 96. In her long and decorated career, she served as a role model and icon for women across the country. She even left her mark on the political arena by being appointed as the Governor of Tamil Nadu after her superannuation as a Supreme Court judge.

She was born in Pandalam of Kerala in 1927 and completed her schooling at the Catholicate High School in Pathanamthitta. She finished her Bachelor of Science from University College, Trivandrum and obtained her Bachelor of Law Degree from the Government Law College.

Justice Beevi’s father encouraged her to study law. She topped the Bar Council exam in 1950, becoming the first woman to receive a Bar Council gold medal. She enrolled as an Advocate on November 14, 1950. Her career spanned over 40 years, rising through the ranks from district court to the SC.

Justice Beevi began her legal profession from the lower Judiciary of Kerala and soon rose through the ranks serving as the Munsiff in the Kerala Subordinate Judicial Services, as a Subordinate Judge and a Chief Judicial Magistrate.

Justice Beevi became a District and Sessions judge in 1974. She joined the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in 1980 and was appointed as a High Court judge in 1983. She was the first woman to serve as a High Court judge in independent India.

She made history in 1989 by becoming the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court. She also became the first Muslim woman in the higher judiciary and the first woman to become a Supreme Court Judge in an Asian country.

After retiring in 1993, she served as a member of the National Human Rights Commission and then as Governor of Tamil Nadu.

She resigned from the post of Governor of Tamil Nadu after rejecting the mercy petitions filed by four condemned prisoners in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

A full-court reference was held on December 14, 2023 in the Supreme Court in memory of Justice Beevi.

Remembering the work done by Justice Beevi for the Judiciary, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that she was a remarkable judge, who broke many barriers and served communities with idealism. He said although Justice Beevi dreamt of pursuing chemistry, her father, a government employee, persuaded her towards law. She left a lasting impression on the profession.

After many years of public service, Justice Beevi retired to her hometown Pathanamthitta in Kerala. Her sense of public service continued and she was part of several social initiatives. She will continue to represent the causes of many she inspired, added the CJI.

He said the country was forever indebted to Justice Beevi for her tireless service, adding that her spirit will live on in the cause of justice.

Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta said that she was a true inspiration for all lawyers, especially woman lawyers. She will remain an icon and a true pioneer in law, he added.