Mrs. Anna Chandy - India's first woman High court judge

Anna Chandy, the first female judge in India.
Kerala High Court.
 "To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to women. If by strength is meant moral power then woman is immeasurably man’s superior.''  
                                   .........  Mahatma Gandhi
 Throughout India in the early 1900s when it came to public service and politics, it was exclusively a male domain. Women were not allowed to go beyond matriculation because of the sheer fact that they had to move or associate themselves closely with males. This would mean the Indian culture would be at stake and women would succumb to male exploitation, etc. Yet another misconception among the conservative Indians was that women were not as much talented and competent as men were. Thus scores of talented women were denied fundamental rights, education and opportunity to move forward in the Indian  conservative society.

Though matriarchy is recognized in many communities in Kerala, the society as a whole, was biased against women and majority of the people there say "matriarchy is the biggest hypocrisy" in Kerala and actually the head of the family is always the male member. So, matriarchy, in the true sense was not practiced in any part of Kerala and simply it was a myth.

With respect to recognition of women's rights, etc., among the Indian women, Kerala women were more daring and determined than their counter parts elsewhere. In Kerala, despite hurdles, women made an early entry in politics and were granted rights to vote for the Shree Mulam Popular Assembly in 1919 and further, they were given voting and membership rights as far back as  in 1922. In the late 1930s one Narayani Amma  became the first woman legislator in the princely state of Travancore.

Anna Chandy (1905-1996), born in 1905 and raised in Tiruvananthapuram in a Syrian Christian family of  Kerala, was the first woman judge in India and also the first high court judge in this country. She also took the honor of being the first woman to get a law degree in Kerala. She did her post-graduate degree in 1926.  While  practicing  as a lawyer from 1929, she was actively involved in  promoting the cause of women's rights and their legitimate role in the society. The women workers in the agricultural lands suffered a lot and were not paid reasonable wages by the landlords.  Similar was the fate of working women in other fields as well. To promote their cause and redress their grievances, Mrs. Chandy started a magazine called ''Shrimati,'' that she both founded and edited.
Anna Chandy,  first woman in  Kerala to get a law degree.
Despite protests, hostilities  and unbearable animosities  from both her competitors  and media, besides  unfair campaign practices, she contested the  Shree Mulam Popular Assembly in 1931 and successfully elected for the period 1932-34.  Sir C.P. Ramaswami Iyer,  the then  Dewan of Travancore Princely State (1936 to 1947), was not only an eminent lawyer of repute but also  Advocate-General of Madras  Presidency from 1920 to 1923, Law member of the  Executive council of the Governor of Madras from 1923 to 1928, Law member of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India  from 1931 to 1936.  No doubt, he recognized  the talents  of Mrs. Anna Chandy and her legal credentials. Mr. Iyer  was also the first to appoint a lady as  a Munsif in Travancore in 1937 and this made her the first female judge in India.  That time the Indian subcontinent was under the British Crown and freedom struggle was going on in many parts of India. In 1948, after India's independence in August, 1947, she became a District Judge. Her certain landmark  fair court  judgments and verdicts reflected her depth of knowledge in the Indian system of laws and their right application.  Mrs. Anna Chandy later became the first  ever Indian woman  High Court Judge  when  she was appointed to the  Kerala High Court on   9th February, 1959. She had held that coveted post till  5 April,1967.  After retirement, she became a member of the  Law Commission of India. She died on July 20,1996  at the ripe age of 91.

Anna Chandy was one of the early torch-bearers of women's  rights in India and made a  valid contribution towards the progress of Indian women, especially  those of Kerala. Through hard work and dedication she rose to the position of eminence at a time when women empowerment was a by word. She, on her own merit, achieved greatness by breaking barriers in the society that was steeped in conservatism.  Often described as the first generation feminist, Anna Chandy  achieved what was impossible. 


"First to appoint a lady advocate – Mrs. Anna Chandy — as District Judge.". Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-27.
"Former Judges of High Court of Kerala". Retrieved 2008-05-27.

                               (Revised December 03, 2015)