It rarely happens that a trial court judge makes it to the Supreme Court, much less a woman. But the SC collegium headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha has recommended elevation of Jharkhand high court chief justice R Banumathi, who started her career as a trial judge in Tamil Nadu, to the top court.
If Justice Banumathi is elevated, the SC will have two women judges including Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai.
Besides her, the collegium also suggested the names of senior advocate UU Lalit, Meghalaya high court chief justice Prafull Chandra Pant and Gauhati high court chief justice Abhay Manohar Sapre.
Lalit has appeared for Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi in the CWG scam case and was appointed as a special CBI prosecutor for the 2G scam trial. If cleared, Lalit would be the second lawyer to be appointed as SC judge in less than a month.
Justice Banumathi (58) joined the TN Higher Judicial Service in 1988 as a direct recruit district judge and would have a seven-year tenure in the SC.
She served at various posts in the subordinate judiciary before being made a judge of the Madras HC in April 2003.
Known for her simplicity and dignified acts she was earlier in the news for offering to surrender two housing plots that she had purchased from Tamil Nadu Housing Board in 2008 after the land scam came to light in December 2010.
Banumathi joins the club of illustrious judges such as Justice HR Khanna, Justice RS Sarkaria, Justice AM Ahmadi and Justice C Nagappan who served at all the three levels of Indian judiciary – district courts, high courts and the SC.
Senior advocate Rajeev Dhawan welcomed the collegium’s move to elevate a woman judge who has experienced working in trial courts. “In the 1950-60s SC was dominated by judges from the civil services. But the trend of lawyers getting elevated picked up in the 1970s. Justice Bhanumathi’s appointment is a worthy move. We can’t ignore the fact that one-third of high court is filled with judges from judicial services.”