Recently, Indian Judiciary elevated 3 women judges were elevated to the Supreme Court of India. Justice Fathima Beevi climbed the ladder of success three decades ago when the presence of women in any field was just rare and she being a Muslim lady it was a momentous achievement not only through the lens of gender but also the empowerment of many who believes in hard work and determination.
Fathima Beevi was born, raised and educated in Kerala and enrolled as a law student in the year 1950, the same year when the Supreme Court first assembled. In the 1970s she became the Chief Judicial Magistrate and then as the Sessions Judge.
“I won’t forget the Chandanakudam festival of Juma Masjid and the pilgrims walking to Sabarimala”, said retired supreme court judge M Fathima Beevi while remembering about her native place Pathanamthitta.1
She was the eldest daughter of Annaveettil Meerasahib and Khadeeja Beevi and her father supported her education which paved the way for her taking law in Thiruvanthapuram Law College. Back then very few women entered legal profession. She after law college joined Adv. Parmeshwara Pillai as his assistant.
She was then appointed as the Judicial Member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal in January, 1980. After that she was appointed as the permanent judge of the High Court in 1984. In 1989, she was elevated to Supreme Court and then she retired on 29thApril 1992.
After retirement she became the governor of Tamil Nadu in 1997. During this time she rejected the mercy petition filed under Article 161 of Indian Constitution of four persons in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.2
Subsequently she found herself in a series of controversies including the appointment of Jaylalitha as Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu when she was not allowed to contest the elections. She then resigned from the post of governor and finally even the Supreme Court observed that a governor should not go against the Constitutional mandates. The Supreme Court even overturned Jaylalitha’s appointment.
She also held other positions such as Chancellor of Madras University, Chairman of Kerala Commission for Backward Classes(1993) and member of National Human Rights Commission ( 1993). She was awarded with the prHon. D Litt and Mahila Shiromani Award in 1990 Bharat Jyoti Award.
She was also considered by the Left groups for President of India, but eventually the NDA government proposed Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
Her life is an inspiration for millions of women especially in the legal field. One can reach the top if worked hard and determined. Although she had been in a turmoil as the Governor of Tamil Nadu, undoubtedly she has encouraged women to come up and fight for what they want.
- Tanvi Akhauri, As Judiciary Scripts History, Flashback To Fathima Beevi Becoming SC’s First Woman Judge, SHETHEPEOPLE, (Oct 11, 2021, 6: 36 PM), https://www.shethepeople.tv/news/fathima-beevi-first-woman-judge-supreme-court/https://www.shethepeople.tv/news/fathima-beevi-first-woman-judge-supreme-court/.
- About Fathima Beevi, Indian Justice, PEOPLEPILL, (Oct 11, 2021, 6: 27 PM), https://peoplepill.com/people/fathima-beevi.