Justice R Banumathi, who retires on July 19 as the judge of the Supreme Court, said on Friday that she and her family was the victim of delay and complicated legal procedures that prevented them in getting the compensation for the death of her father who died in a bus accident.
The lady judge, who for the last time on Friday, conducted the court proceedings, said in her farewell address, that there were “mountains of obstacles for no reason” in her three decade career as the judge of the subordinate court to the apex court.
Justice Banumathi, described as “a great judge” by Attorney General K K Venugopal, would be remembered for the landmark judgement in the Nirbhaya gangrape and murder case of December 16, 2012 in which the four convicts were awarded death penalty.
She headed the bench, which heard the case till an hour before the convicts were hanged to death on March 20 morning.
Justice, Banumathi, who is the member of five-judge collegium and only the second lady judge to achieve the feet, also recently heard the politically sensitive corruption cases involving former union finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram.
In a webinar organised to commemorate her three-decade long career as a judge, she talked about her father’s accident and the delay related to the compensation.
“I lost my father in a bus accident, when I was of two-year age. In those days, we had to file a suit for compensation. My mother filed the claim and court passed a decree. But, we couldn’t get the amount due to complicated procedures & lack of assistance.
“Myself, my widowed mother and my two sisters, we are victims of court delay and its procedural lags. We did not get the compensation till the last day,” she said.
She talked about her struggles and said that during her judicial service, there were mountains of obstacles for no reason.
With the retirement of Justice Banumathi, the apex court will be left with two women judges — Justices Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. Never before in the history of the Supreme Court there had been three sitting lady judges.
The judge, in her farewell speech, lauded various initiatives taken by the governments and the judiciary to ensure more efficiency of the system as well as to aid in the accessibility to justice.
“The technology present today wasn’t there when I entered the judiciary. In the present day, everyone speaks of pendency of cases and they pass a lot of comments saying that the pendency is affecting the economy of the nation.
“I want to strike a positive note that various initiatives have been taken by the Central Government, State Governments and the judiciary to aid in the accessibility to justice and to ensure more efficiency of the system,” she said.
Various enactments, moves like increasing the strength of Judges at the High Courts and the Supreme Court etc have helped in bringing sweeping changes, she said.
Justice Banumathi added that with more citizen-centric services such as copies of judgements and orders, easier accessibility of cause list, e-payments, mobile apps etc. are all arms meant to increase accessibility and transparency of the system.
Wishing that a vaccine is developed soon for COVID-19, she said that “at this point, regarding physical courts, that is a decision to be taken by the Committee of Judges. But, we must wait for sometime, because more than appearance, we must understand that it is more of a life concern.”
While expressing her respect for all the religions, she said that though she was a Hindu, she also believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Attorney General K K Venugopal AG K K termed Justice Banumathi as ‘a great judge’.
Supreme Court Bar Association president Dushyant Dave praised Justice Banumathi as “a fiercely independent judge who gave multiple dissenting opinions.”
Justice Banumathi started her journey as a sessions judge in 1988. She was elevated to Madras High Court on 3 April 2003. Thereafter, she was elevated to the apex court on August 13, 2014 and was the sixth woman judge in the SC. She was also the second-ever woman to be part of the Collegium.
Justice Ruma Pal was the first woman to achieve that feat. She retired in 2006.