Fathima Beevi: The First Female Justice of the Supreme Court

Gender equality has been a faraway goal for the world for many years. As women have increasingly and persistently participated in some facets of society, the gap is being closed slowly but surely. Women in the legal profession serve as one illustration of this. The International Day of Women Judges is observed on March 10 to raise awareness of the importance of gender equality in the legal system. The significance is emphasized by the UN, as it will contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal on gender equality and empowerment. The number of female judges in the Indian judicial system has increased over time. Young ladies have been motivated by them to pursue their dreams and change the legal system in their nation.

One of them is Fathima Beevi, a woman from Kerala who served as India's first female Supreme Court judge and paved the path for numerous more women to follow the path.

Who is Fathima Beevi?

M. Fathima Beevi (born April 30, 1927) is a former justice of the Indian Supreme Court. She was the first Muslim woman to be appointed to any of the country's higher judiciaries and the first female judge to join India's Supreme Court when she was appointed to the apex court in 1989.

  • She served as a National Human Rights Commission member after leaving the court, and from 1997 to 2001 she presided as governor of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

  • She was one of the five female students in her law school class, which later decreased to three. She passed the Bar Council of India examination after earning her law degree in 1950, being the first woman to do so. She then won the Bar Council gold medal, which was the first of her legendary accomplishments.

Early Life

Fathima Beevi was born on April 30, 1927, in Pathanamthitta, Travancore (now Kerala, India), to Khadeja Bibi and Annaveetil Meera Sahib, a government employee. She was the eldest among two brothers and six sisters. In 1943, she graduated from Pathanamthitta's Catholic High School after completing her education. She spent six years in Trivandrum, where she moved to pursue her higher studies. She earned a B.S. in science from University College in Thiruvananthapuram before enrolling in the Government Law College in the same city to pursue a legal education.

Initially, Beevi wanted to pursue a career in the science field, but her father persuaded her to pursue law instead, perhaps inspired by the success of Ms. Anna Chandy, the first woman to serve as a judge on India's High Court and the first female judge in the country, who was employed close to their home. In her law school class, which eventually had just three women left, Fatima Beevi was one of only five female students. Nevertheless, this did not discourage her; after earning her law degree in 1950, she took the Bar Council of India test and won first place, earning the Bar Council gold medal, the first of her historic accomplishments.

Important Judgments

Fathima Beevi presided over several case hearings during the course of her long and famous career and was known for her thoughtful judgment. A few of the significant cases Fathima Beevi presided over are listed below:

  • The case was regulating statutory authority. The case was significant because it dealt with the welfare of the general public and how to safeguard it from the arbitrary authority that the state or its agents may exercise. According to Justice Fathima Beevi, citizens must be shielded from the excessive power that state authorities have over them. She also emphasized that the law of natural justice must be applied to limit the use of power (Scheduled Caste and Weaker Section Welfare Assn. v. the State of Karnataka, (1991).

  • In this instance, the bench was required to render a decision about the constitutionality of a state law. Justice Fathima Beevi pointed out that the Court has the authority to examine the legality of any state law, even if doing so requires carrying out the instructions outlined in Article 39 of the Constitution (Assam Sillimanite Ltd. v. Union of India, (1992).

  • In this instance, Order 1, Rule 10(2) of the Civil Procedure Code's "necessary party" clause drew Justice Fathima Beevi's attention to an essential point. The distinction between a "necessary party" and a "necessary witness" was made by Justice Fathima. Justice Beevi asserts that a witness is required if he has pertinent information regarding the issues at hand. A person must be bound by the outcome of the action and the issue to be resolved in order to qualify as a "necessary party." What qualifies as a "necessary party" is determined by the individual's need to be bound by the outcome and the fact that the issues in the action cannot be resolved without him or her being a party (Ramesh Hirachand Kundanmal v. Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay, (1992).

Likewise, Fathima Beevi has held a variety of positions throughout her life, including those of advocate, Supreme Court judge, member of the National Human Rights Commission, and governor. However, the most significant role she played was opening doors for other women to pursue careers as judges and advocates. She motivated numerous female judges and advocates to advance in their positions and do something amazing. There had not been a female Supreme Court judge in 40 years before to Fathima Beevi, and in the roughly 30 years since her appointment, there have been 10 female judges. Even this serves as evidence of the legacy Fathima Beevi has left behind. She continues to advocate for women's rights in the court even after she retired, and she has consistently asked for a reservation for women in the upper judiciary to give them a chance to be fairly represented.


Q1. Who is of female first justice of India?

Ans. Justice Anna Chandy, who appointed justice of Kerala High Court on February 9, 1959 and served until her retirement on April 5, 1967, is the first female justice of India.

Q2. What is the story behind Lady Justice?

Ans. Lady Justice, also known as Justitia, is a symbol of the goddess of justice who is often portrayed as a blindfolded woman holding scale in right hand and a sword in left hand. The image of Lady Justice is based on the Roman goddess Justitia, who was the goddess of justice and fairness. She was often depicted as a goddess holding a sword, which represents the power of the state to enforce justice, and a set of scales, which symbolize the impartiality and objectivity of the law. However, the blindfold, which is added later to the image, represents the impartiality and objectivity of the law. Besides, the blindfold also tells that justice should be blind to matters such as wealth, status, or race.

Updated on: 27-Jan-2023


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