Supreme Court of India got its first woman judge in the top five senior judge collegium after 13 years. Justice R. Banumathi has been appointed among the top five senior judges after the retirement of Justice Ranjan Gogoi.
The last female judge who has been in the top-five collegium of Supreme Court was Justice Ruma Pal. She retired in 2006. She was the longest-serving woman judge in the collegium appointed in the year 2000.
The other members appointed as top five judges of the Supreme Court are SA Bobde, NV Ramana, Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman with R. Banumathi in the fifth position of seniority. However, she will be retiring on 19 July 2020.
Justice Banumathi is one of those Supreme Court judges who has made it to the top from the district level courts. She began her career in 1981 as a lawyer and then entered the Tamil Nadu Higher Judicial Service as a direct recruit District Judge in 1988 and worked as District and Sessions Judge in various districts of the State. She was appointed as a judge of the Madras High Court in 2003. Ten years later she became the Chief Justice of Jharkhand and then she was appointed a Supreme Court judge on August 13, 2014.
Justice Banumathi was a part of some important benches that confirmed the death sentence to the convicts of Nirbhaya gang-rape case and Delhi High Court’s order on refusing anticipatory bail to former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in INX Media Case.
There were only eight women judges who served for the Supreme Court till date. Currently, there are only three women judges out of 34 judges in the Apex Court. The two other women judges include Justice Indu Malhotra and Justice Indira Banerjee.
Sadly there has been no woman Chief Justice of India until now. Unfortunately, Justice R. Banumathi will not stand a chance to make it to the top three in the collegium due to her retirement next year.
Justices Fathima Beevi, Sujata Manohar, Gyan Sudha Misra, and Ranjana Desai who previously served the Apex Court as judges also had short tenures which were less than five years.