Women Talk

Justice M. Fathima Beevi: The first female supreme court judge

How Justice M. Fathima Beevi created a history?


Even for almost four decades after India’s independence, the absence of a woman in the top court was a big problem. Despite being half of the country’s population, it took women so many years to reach the court stairs. This tells the condition of the women of our country. Actually, the Supreme Court of our country was established in 1950, but it took a total of 39 years for a woman to reach there. Crossing the walls of patriarchal society, Fathima Beevi created history by reaching that position. She became the first woman judge of the Supreme Court of this country. Interestingly, she became the first woman to reach this position not only in India but across Asia. In such a situation, it will be interesting to know Fathima Beevi closely.

How were her initial days?

Fathima was born on 30 April 1927 in Pathanamthitta, Kerala. Her father’s name was Annaveetil Meera Sahib and her mother’s name was Khadija Bibi. She was born in a Muslim family. Her parents did not leave any stone unturned in her studies. With their support, Fatima finished her schooling. Thereafter, she studied law at Trivandrum Law College. During her studies, only five girls studied in her class, of whom Fathima was one. By the end of college, only three girls were left in the class, but Fathima was not affected by this. Her desire to do something has never let her spirits down. She completed her studies and went on to create history.

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When did she top the ‘Council of India’ exam?

Fatima started showing her ability from the very beginning. Wherever she went, she left her mark. After graduating from college, she took the Bar Council of India examination in 1950. She topped this exam. Also, she made the first record of her life in her name. Because this was the first time a woman has topped this exam. After that, she never looked back again. In the same year, she started working as a lawyer in Kollam, a lower court in Kerala. It is not easy for a woman to work there. In such a situation, she too had to face many difficulties. She always wore a scarf on her head, due to which people looked at her with different eyes!

How has she travelled a long way in her career?

Before reaching the Supreme Court chair, Fatima travelled a long way. During this, she was appointed as a judge at different places. For her excellent service, she slowly climbed the ladder of success. During her career, she served as a Munsif in the judicial services of Kerala. Later, she served as District Sessions Judge, Chief Judicial Magistrate and also a Judicial Member in the Income Tax Department. After this, a big opportunity came into her life in 1983, when she was appointed as a judge of the Kerala High Court. There she remained till 1989. Despite her best services, her steps did not stop.

When she become Asia’s first woman judge in the top court

Six months after her retirement, she was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court. In October 1989, she became the first woman judge. She ended the wait of almost forty years. She not only created this history in India but also became the first woman to reach this position in the whole of Asia. This was a time when Fathima represented women from all over India in the apex court. This was a golden moment in history. As if raindrops fell on the barren land, they came to life. Apart from Asia and India, she also became the first Muslim woman to hold the position. She retired from the Supreme Court in 1992.

She also served as governor of Tamilnadu

Even after retiring in 1992, she did not stop giving her services. Further, she became a member of the National Human Rights Commission and gave her services. Seeing her consistent performance everywhere ahead, she also got the governor’s chair. In 1997, she was appointed as the Governor of Tamil Nadu. She remained in this post till the year 2000.

The dream that Fathima Beevi saw, she showed by turning it into reality. She has broken the notions for women present in the society, where they have been considered weak for a particular position. However, Fathima Beevi definitely created history by reaching this position. Especially, at a time when women’s early education in school was like chewing iron grams. This is the reason why her name gets written in the golden letters of history! Her story became an inspiration to many women out there.

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Jagisha Arora

MA in History. Writes on gender, caste, and social issues. Believe in Dr. BR Ambedkar and Democracy
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