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First woman judge of Supreme Court, Justice Fathima Beevi, passes away at 96

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First female Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice M. Fathima Beevi, passed away on Thursday at the age of 96.

Late Justice Beevi, in her long and decorated career, 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. 

Justice Beevi began her career in 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 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.

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