Victoria Gowri sworn in additional HC judge, bets on Constitution

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Victoria Gowri Madras HC

Chennai: Lawyer Lekshmana Chandra Victoria Gowri took oath as additional judge of the Madras High Court on Tuesday, minutes before the Supreme Court rejected a petition challenging her appointment over her alleged hate speech against minorities.

Gowri, in her address, after being sworn in as additional judge by Acting Chief Justice, T Raja asserted that she would dispense justice in realising the dreams of the makers of the Constitution.

She was administered the oath of office at around 10.45 AM while the top court was hearing arguments on why Gowri should not be elevated.

While the Supreme Court refused to entertain the plea seeking to restrain Gowri from taking oath as additional judge, sources close to the petitioners said that the apex court's ruling signalled the end of the matter and there appeared to be no scope to take the legal fight forward.

The sources, who did not want to be named, told PTI that the petitioners are not activists and taking up the matter to SC to oppose Gowri's appointment was an act of duty to safeguard, preserve and protect the independence of judiciary and the values of the Constitution.

The petitioner-lawyers are Anna Mathew, Sudha Ramalingam and D Nagasaila who in their plea referred to the alleged hate speeches made by Gowri against Muslims and Christians.

Gowri, in her speech, cited a quote of Swami Vivekananda and said she is conscious that she is handed over the 'greatest responsibility of being a judge' to work for the cause of the 'unheard and the oppressed voices of the poorest of the poor,' to liberate the marginalised, 'scuttle' inequalities of society and nurture fraternity in the diverse country.

"With all humility, I undertake to dispense justice in realising the dreams of the makers of our Constitution. Thank You. Jai Hind." She expressed gratitude and thanked former Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandrai, former Acting Chief Justice, Justice M Duraiswami (Retired) and Acting Chief Justice, T Raja for reposing faith in her and for recommending her name for the post of judge. She thanked the Supreme Court judges including the Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud.

Gowri said she hailed from a very remote village (West Neiyur) in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu and is a first generation lawyer from a 'very ordinary family.' She thanked all her senior advocates, including Maniraj and Jacob Fletcher. She is an alumnus of Madurai Law College.

"I bow to the noble feet of all the elder brother and sister judges who are on the dais and who are watching from my beloved Madurai Bench.," she said. She also thanked members of the Bar and sought their blessings.

On the row over her elevation, BJP sources declined to comment since it involved 'legalities.' However, requesting anonymity, a leader said that 'past political activity,' is no bar to become a judge.

Her elevation comes against the background of staunch opposition from a section of legal fraternity and political parties.

Congress leader Peter Alphonse, MDMK general secretary Vaiko, the Left leaders, VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan were among those who opposed Gowri's elevation.

They wrote to President Droupadi Murmu and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court D Y Chandrachud against appointing her as judge. Lawyers led by senior counsel N G R Prasad on February 6 made a representation to Madras High Court Acting CJ T Raja to not administer oath of office to Gowri until the top court heard the matter.

A section of lawyers had staged a protest close to the High Court campus against the elevation of Gowri.

Days ago, in separate letters addressed to President Murmu and the SC Collegium, a group of advocates objected to the collegium’s recommendation saying her appointment would undermine the independence of the judiciary.

Gowri, by her own admission, was the general secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party Mahila Morch, the memorandum signed by 22 lawyers including senior advocates N G R Prasad, R Vaigai, Anna Mathew, D Nagasaila and Sudha Ramalingam, said.

"We write with a sense of foreboding, in these troubled times, when the judiciary is facing unprecedented and unwarranted criticism from the executive, as we are apprehensive that appointments such as these may pave the way for undermining the independence of the judiciary,” the memorandum said.

It is extremely critical, at this juncture, to safeguard the institution from being weakened by its own administrative action, it added.

The collegium, comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K M Joseph had on January 17 proposed the names of Gowri and four others for elevation to the High Court.