Justice Leila Seth, first woman judge on the Delhi High Court

Justice Leila Seth. www.harmonyindia.org

Justice Leila Seth .billanddavescocktailhour.com

The status of women in India has been a subject of see-saw changes over the past several centuries. Their status  in the ancient to medieval times  was at the lowest level  and since the beginning of freedom struggle and with the advent of many social reformers, the history of women in India has been eventful. Much emphasis was placed on their equal rights and women empowerment. In modern India, it is matter of great pride  that women have held high positions of power,  including that of the President (Prathiba Patil), Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi), Speaker of the Lok Sabha (Meira Kumar, Sumitra Mahajan, et al), Leader of the Opposition, Union Ministers, Chief Ministers (Jayalalithaa, Vasundhara Raje, Mamata Banerjee, et al) and Governors (Vijayalakshmi Pandit, Jyothi Venkatachalam, Fathima Beevi, Margaret Alva, Mridula Sinha, et al), justices, (Janaki Amma, Anna Chandy, Sheila Seth, T. Meena Kumar, K. K. Usha, et al),  Mayors ( Tara Cherian, Charubala Tondaiman, Vaishali Bankar, Mercy Williams, et al), etc. 

In private companies many women hold positions of power and pelf. There are women pilots, military officers, high altitude mountain climbers and other achievers. The wrong misconception, that the women are not as competent as men are, is not true and this is borne out by the the above facts. In spite of it atrocities  such as  rape, acid throwing, dowry killings, and  forced prostitution of young girls do occur some where  across India in spite of stringent laws in force. Stringent punishment ought to be given to the culprits to check on such crimes against women. Women’s rights are secured under the Constitution of India — mainly, equality, dignity, and freedom from discrimination; further, India has various statutes governing the rights of women.  Justice Anna Chandy (1905-1996) of Kerala was the first female judge in India and also the first woman in India to become a high court judge February 1959).

Mrs. Anna Chandy -
India's first woman judge British India

Justice Leila Seth  had the rare distinction of becoming  the first woman judge on the Delhi High Court in 1978 and the first woman to become Chief Justice of a state (Himachal Pradesh) High Court in 1991. She achieved this great honor after real struggle and the covetous post was not offered to her on a silver platter. As a determined and able woman her ascendancy to the top post in the justice department  was methodical and purely on merit, despite her gender factor.  She was the first woman to score highest rank  in the London Bar exams  of 1958.

Gandhiji on women, www.pinterest.com

Hillary Rodham Clinton.mashable.com

Born in Lucknow in October 1930, she called to  the Bar in 1959 and  was a junior to Ashoke Kumar Sen when he used to practice during his absence from the central cabinet of India. Mostly she handled cases related to   Income Tax, Sales Tax, Excise and Customs), Civil, Company and Criminal cases, numerous  Matrimonial suits and writ petitions. 

Married to one Premo Seth, she had  three superb children, one being Vikram Seth, a famous writer. Her great achievements  can be summed as follows:

First Indian woman who held the first rank in the Bar examination of London in 1958.

First Indian woman judge at the Delhi High Court in 1978.

First Indian woman Chief Justice at the Indian High Court of the state Himachal Pradesh in 1991.
Specialist in matters related to various tax laws, etc.

A Chief Justice post  of the Indian High Court is a responsible and is the highest judicial position on par with the  highest rank judge in the Indian Supreme Court. He or she has responsible judicial as well as its administrative works. Chief Justice  has to allocate  the cases and appoint legal benches in order to manage the important matters of law, besides administrative works such as appointing court officials and supervising the Supreme Court functions and its  schedules. Justice Leila Seth handled the various extra duties with meticulous care.

Off official duty at home, she was a loving and  doting mom, and believed in nestling her kids like birds. Her children grew up into responsible  citizens, under her affectionate care. To her, children are like flowers and ought to be nurtured with care.

 Upon seeing a huge crowd in the Delhi High Court, Justice Leila Seth  enquired bout it to a clerk. He informed her that ''this was a group of farmers who had come to Delhi upon invitation from the Prime Minister, to see the capital’s sights. They had just been to the zoo, and their next stop was the High Court- to see a woman judge.''
This was 1978, when the appointment of a woman judge was rare, Justice Anna Chandy of kerala had been appointed over 40 years before Seth’s appointment as a High Court judge (1937) When Sir. C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar was the Dewan of Travancore princely state..

Justice (retd) Leila Seth, mother of celebrated author Vikram Seth,  passed away at her Noida residence in January 2018. She was 86.