Justice M. Fathima Beevi, a trailblazer in the Indian judiciary, passed away on November 23, 2023, at the age of 96.
Born on April 30th, 1927, in Pathanamthitta, Kerala, she rose to prominence as the first female judge of the Supreme Court of India, marking a historic moment when she was appointed to the apex court on October 6th, 1989.
Her illustrious career began after obtaining her Bachelor of Laws degree from the Government Law College in Thiruvananthapuram. She commenced her legal practice on November 14th, 1950, and eight years later, she became a Munsiff—an entry-level judicial officer. Her ascent continued, culminating in her appointment as a High Court judge in August 1983.
Justice Beevi's contributions extended beyond the judiciary; after retiring from the Supreme Court in 1992, she served as the Governor of Tamil Nadu from January 25th, 1997, to July 3rd, 2001. Her tenure as governor was not without controversy, particularly surrounding the arrest of former Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and the subsequent political turmoil that led to her resignation.
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Despite these challenges, Justice Beevi's legacy as a pioneer for women in the Indian legal system remains unblemished. She was also the first Muslim woman to serve in higher judicial positions in India, breaking barriers and setting a precedent for future generations.
Her passing was mourned by many, including State Health Minister Veena George, who expressed that Justice Beevi's demise was "extremely painful." The minister lauded her as a "brave woman" with numerous records to her name, emphasizing how she demonstrated that willpower and purpose could overcome adversity.
Justice Fathima Beevi's life and career have left an indelible mark on India's legal history, inspiring countless women to pursue law and strive for equality in the judiciary. Her death is a significant loss to the nation, and she will be remembered for her pioneering spirit and dedication to public service.
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