Historic moment as three women take oath as judges of SC; read to know more about them

With Justices Hima Kohli, BV Nagarathna and Bela M Trivedi taking oath, the Supreme Court now has four women judges – the highest ever – among 33 judges

(Left to Right) Justice BV Nagarathna, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice Bela M Trivedi
(Left to Right) Justice BV Nagarathna, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice Bela M Trivedi

NH Web Desk

In a historic moment for gender representation, three women took oath as judges of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

They are Justices Hima Kohli, BV Nagarathna and Bela M Trivedi, who are among the nine new appointees to the Supreme Court. With their appointments, the Supreme Court has four women judges - the highest ever - among 33 judges. The Supreme Court has had 11 women judges (including the new appointments) in its history so far, as per a Live Law report.

Justice Hima Kohli

Justice Hima Kohli was elevated from the post of Chief Justice of the Telangana High Court. She was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Delhi High Court in 2006 and was made a permanent Judge the next year. She was made the Chief Justice of Telangana High Court in January this year. At the Supreme Court, she will have a term till September 2, 2024.

Justice Kohli was born on September 2, 1959 in Delhi. She did her schooling at St. Thomas School, New Delhi. For her higher education, Kohli went to St. Stephens’ College, University of Delhi from where she graduated in History (Hons.) She did her post-graduation in First Division and then went on to join L.L.B. course at the law faculty, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi.

In 1984, she got enrolled as an Advocate with the Bar Council of Delhi. She was the Legal Advisor and Standing Counsel in the High Court of Delhi from 1999-2004.

She was appointed as Additional Judge of the High Court of Delhi on 29 May 2006 and took oath as a Permanent Judge on 29 August 2007. Later, she was also appointed as a Member of the General Council of the West Bengal National University of Judicial Sciences, Kolkata from 11 August 2017.

Justice Kohli was appointed as a Member of the Governing Council of the National Law University from June 30, 2020.

Justice Hima Kohli is known for her firm approach in enforcing executive accountability and defending women rights. Recently, she was in news for championing the cause of public health during the Covid-19 pandemic. On one such occasion, Justice Kohli came to the rescue of numerous Covid-19 patients from neighbouring states of Telangana, halted at state borders without any medical aid or even prior notice.

"This is a blatant violation of the Constitution. You are denying medical treatment to people. You are stopping people from entering without any official Order and without letting the public know? Who permitted you to do this?" Justice Kohli slammed the authorities.

Justice Kohli has made observations against the prejudices and discrimination prevalent against women. Speaking at a public event, Justice Kohli dubbed the plight of women in India, facing barriers steeped in gender bias, as a "shadow pandemic". She stated that not only are women of the household forced to work doubly hard during Covid-induced lockdown, but the country was also seeing a surge in domestic violence cases.

The remarks later resonated in one of the orders passed by a division bench, of which Justice Kohli was a part.

Justice BV Nagarathna

Daughter of former Chief Justice of India ES Venkataramiah, Justice BV Nagarathna from Karnataka High Court is in line to become the first woman Chief Justice of India in September 2027 if appointments go as per the seniority turn, although her tenure as the CJI would only be for 36 days.

In an emotional farewell speech delivered by Justice BV Nagarathna on August 27, 2021, she had said, "The message from this leaf in my book which I want women advocates to take note of is, that with access to the right opportunities, each one of you can achieve your dreams. I, therefore, urge each one of you to seek out these opportunities armed with faith in yourself and stride ahead to achieve all that you want to and also give back to society."

Born on October 30, 1962, Justice Nagarathna started as a lawyer in Bengaluru and practiced in constitutional law, commercial law, including insurance law, service law, administrative and public law, law pertaining to land and rent laws, family law, conveyancing and drafting of contracts and agreements, arbitration and conciliation.

She was appointed as an additional judge in 2008 and was elevated to the position of a permanent judge of the Karnataka HC two years later.

Among the landmark judgments delivered by her is the one stressing the need to regulate electronic media. In the 2012 judgment, she wrote, “While truthful dissemination of information is an essential requirement of any broadcasting channel, sensationalism in the form of ‘Breaking News’, ‘Flash News’ or in any other form must be curbed.” She urged the Centre to set up an autonomous and statutory mechanism to regulate broadcast media.

In a 2019 judgment, Nagarathna ruled that a temple is not a commercial establishment and its employees are not entitled to gratuity under Payments of Gratuity Act, but can avail similar benefits under the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act.

Justice Bela M Trivedi

Justice Bela M Trivedi, the first woman judge from the Gujarat High Court to be appointed as the Supreme Court judge was elevated to the High Court as an additional judge on February 17, 2011. In June 2011, she was transferred as an additional judge of the Rajasthan High Court. She was transferred back to the Gujarat High Court in February 2016. During the period from 2003 to 2006, she served as the Law Secretary to the Gujarat Government.

On December 27, 2019 Justice Trivedi, sitting with Justice A.C. Rao considered the case of Anil Surendrasingh Yadav v. State of Gujarat which was a case of rape and murder of a three and a half year old. The detailed judgment in a very nuanced manner appreciated various submissions and concluded that the abhorrent and atrocious nature of crime committed in a diabolical manner was one of “rarest or rare” and fit for awarding the punishment of death penalty.

Her emphasis on welfare for all living creatures is remarkable. On January 12, 2021, in the case of Akrambhai Shaukatbhai Posti vs State of Gujarat. Justice Trivedi considered a bail application for offences committed under the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act and Animal Preservation Act by a habitual offender and rejected the same holding that “animals, like the human beings have the capability of comprehending the physical and mental pain and that they do feel severity of the physical harm inflicted on them.”

Marking her support for gender justice, Justice Trivedi has also participated in conferences organized by the All India Federation of Women Lawyers.

At the Supreme Court, she will have a term till June 10, 2025.

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