The Madras High Court got four new judges on Wednesday with the swearing in of Justices Sundaram Srimathy, D Bharatha Chakravarthy, R Vijayakumar and Mohammad Shaffiq.
The swearing in of Justice Srimathy also took the tally of women judges in the High Court to thirteen, the highest among the High Courts in the country.
Speaking on the occasion, Advocate General R Shanmugasundaram recounted the long years of legal practice and the varied experience that the newly appointed judges bring with them.
"I whole-heartedly welcome and congratulate each one of them for achieving these formidable heights. It is possible to achieve these heights only if one inculcates basic values like integrity, industry and perseverance. It is quite true that nothing is easy. With respect to legal work, that is absolutely true. It is apparent from their Lordships' elevations that they lived through these tenets in their lives," he said.
In the ensuing address, the Chairman of the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry (BCTN) was prompted to point out Justice Sundaram Srimathy will become the thirteenth woman among sitting High Court Judges. Recently, Justice T Krishnavalli had retired from office, bringing down the number of sitting High Court women judges to twelve.
"It is proud to mention that our Hon'ble High Court is having more number of women judges compared to other High Courts and we expect the same to continue," the BCTN Chairman said.
In his address, the President of the Madras High Court Advocates' Association (MHAA) expressed hope that the High Court would reopen soon for physical hearings. On behalf of the President of the Madras Bar Association, a note of appreciation was made for both the judges as well as the court staff for aiding the working of the High Court amid the pandemic.
Welcome addresses were also made by the chairpersons of Law Association as well as the Women Lawyers Association (WLA). The WLA chairwoman also took note to extend a special welcome to Justice Srimathy, being the thirteen woman judge of the High Court.
Following the welcome addresses, each of the newly appointed judges also spoke briefly.
"I feel a sense of pride and privilege to be associated with this great institution. I hail from an ordinary family. I am a first-generation lawyer ... As a Judge, I pray to almighty to give me the grace to hear patiently, consider diligently, to understand rightly and to decide justly, and to grant me due sense of humility," Justice Srimathy told the gathering.
Justice Chakravarthy informed that he too was a first-generation lawyer and that he hailed from a rural background. He credited his parents for having thought ahead of their times in ensuring that he went to the best schools.
"I was left in the care of my grandmother, Thangammal, during school study. If I am any good at storytelling, the credit goes to her. She instilled the reading habit in me," he added.
He went on to recount his early years of practice, how his seniors treated him like family and his experience in setting up a law office with his colleagues, Saikumar and (now Justice) Ilanthiraiyan.
"The profession was very kind to us. There was no looking back. We bought our first book, first computer, your first case gets reported in CTC - the excitement you get. I would say that being a first-generation lawyer is an advantage ... That is how we built, brick by brick. We enjoyed our journey together. Practicing together is the best thing which would have happened to us. We got everything in abundance. We had three sets of parents guiding us. We were extremely fortunate to practice together," he said.
Justice R Vijayakumar expressed his gratitude to the judges, the Collegium and his family. He assured the gathering that he will dedicate himself to the divine duty of dispensation of justice.
Justice Mohammad Shaffiq also thanked his family and seniors.
"I certainly believe that two persons who would have been most joyous on this occasion are my late father, SM Abdul Khader and the late C Natarajan, Senior Advocate. I invoke the memory of my father and my senior. Even on my brightest day I am but a shadow of them ... I think, for 27 years, I had learnt everything from the Bench. From tomorrow, I look forward to learning from the Bar," Justice Shaffiq added, before concluding his address.
With the appointment of four more judges (and factoring in the recently notified transfer of Justice TS Sivagnanam from the Madras High Court to the Calcutta High Court), the working strength of the Madras High Court has risen to 59 against a sanctioned strength of 75 judges.
[Read a live-account of the swearing-in ceremony]