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M. Fathima Beevi
Stories of inspiration from Smart Girl Stories across the globe. M.Fathima Beevi-  First Female Judge To Be A Part Of The Supreme Court Of India

M.Fathima Beevi-  First Female Judge To Be A Part Of The Supreme Court Of India

M. Fathima Beevi is a true trailblazer for women across India and around the world. This legendary figure has accomplished so much in her lifetime, from becoming the first female judge of the Supreme Court in India to her countless achievements as a human rights lawyer and social activist.

M.Fathima Beevi continues to be an empowering female figure to countless women today – proving that not even the sky is the limit when it comes to chasing your dreams. No matter what M.Fathima set her sights on, she pushed forward with unrelenting determination and an unwavering passion for justice and equality for all citizens of her beloved country!

M.Fathima Beevi Education

M.Fathima Beevi was born on 30 April 1927 at Pathanamthitta in the Kingdom of Travancore, now in the Indian state of Kerala in pre-independence India. She attended Town school and Catholicate High School, Pathanamthitta and got her BSc in chemistry from University College, Thiruvananthapuram. She obtained her B.L. from Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. 

Background Life

Justice M. Fathima Beevi began her journey to the Supreme Court from a small village in Kerala. Born to Annaveetil Meera Sahib and Khadeeja Beevi, she was the eldest of eight siblings. Her father, a government servant, encouraged both his sons and daughters equally to study well.                         

Her father was ambitious for her and wanted her to study law. In keeping with his wishes, she joined the Government Law College, Trivandrum. At the time, Anna Chandy was the first woman judicial officer working near Travancore. Her father was very impressed by Chandy’s achievements and perhaps, she motivated him to dream of his own daughter making her mark in the judiciary. 

The Journey Of M.Fathima Beevi                    

She became the first woman to top the Bar Council of India’s exams and was awarded the Bar Council gold medal for 1949–50. She was an outlier in the courts of the time. Men dominated the premises, and women were barely seen, especially in positions of authority. To quote her, ‘Judicial service was more attractive than the practice at that time. Women were not very much encouraged by the general public, very few succeeded as lawyers.’ 

It was a meteoric rise by any standards, given the times and lack of diversity in the judiciary back then. She was now the first Muslim woman to be appointed to the higher judiciary. A year later, she was made a permanent judge of the Kerala High Court from which she retired in April 1989. However, barely a few months later, she was appointed to the Supreme Court as judge in October 1989, making her the first female judge of the Court. This was indeed a watershed moment in the history of the Indian judiciary. 

Her appointment to the Supreme Court over other senior judges was a political decision by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in the wake of the controversy over the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act of 1986. It had taken the Supreme Court of India almost four decades after Independence to appoint a woman as a judge. Even today, decades later, the representation of women in the judiciary is far from equal to that of men. 

An Empowering Female Figure

She became the first woman judge of a Supreme Court in Asia. She would also be the first female Muslim judge of a Supreme Court in India and Asia. To quote her on this, “However, there should not be any discrimination between candidates on [gender basis]. A woman should get equal treatment and equal consideration.”                                                             

She retired as the Judge of the High Court on 29 April 1989 but was further elevated to the Supreme Court as a Judge on 6 October 1989 where she retired on 29 April 1992. She later went on to become the Governor of Tamil Nadu on 25 January 1997. 

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