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Leila seth, first woman chief justice in 3 words


Justice Leila Seth was first women appointed as a chief justice of a state high court. She was also first women judge ( who stood for women)of Delhi high court. Recent demise of her created void in the field of law.By the way let me remind you that at present four high courts were seated by women chief justice but it was not so easy for Seth to break the glass by entering and survive successfully in the profession of law.

#1. Personal touch:

Leila Seth was born in October, 20, 1930 in Lucknow. She was married at 20 ,to Premo Seth, who worked with Bata Shoe Company in Calcutta .She has two sons and a daughter. Seth went to London along with her husband, and decided to study law because attending lectures was not mandatory. Thereforeshe could devote her time to her family. “I had always wanted to be a teacher,” she says. “I had no lawyer in the family and no particular interest in law. But this was something I could do along with my marriage and baby. So I took it up.” To her amazement, she ended up coming first in the Bar exam.

#2. Her journey as a lawyer :

It was 1958. Leila Seth had topped the London Bar exam . she was the first woman to do so  then, she was back to Calcutta . she thought to start her own practice. She went to Sachin Chaudhuri, a senior barrister, and asked him if she could assist him. Chaudhuri told the 28-year-old that a lawyer’s profession was not for women and that she would be better get married.Seth replied that she was married already.Chaudhuri said that in that case, she should have a child.To which Seth said that she did have one.Undeterred, the older man told her, “It’s selfish to have just one child, you should have another.”And Seth murmured that she had had a second child too.After that, says Seth, laughing, Chaudhuri relented. “‘You’re a persistent young woman,’ he said, and accepted me as his assistant.

Autobiography of Leila Seth
Autobiography of Leila Seth

#3. Milestones

She was involved in the efforts which led to the amendment of the Hindu Succession Amendment Act (2005) . This act ensuresdaughters to  have equal rights to joint family property.

Justice Seth sat upon enquiry commissions which examined the effects of the serial Shaktiman on children.many children set themselves on fire or threw themselves off buildings hoping that Shaktiman would come and rescue them.

Justice Seth was also part of an enquiry into the death of businessman Rajan Pillai.

Autobiography of Leila Seth ; On balance

Besides the family, the autobiography gives a detailed and informative account of the legal profession. It particularly provides insights into the gender bias and the excruciatingly slow-paced Indian courts and corruption in judiciary. In her autobiography she clearly stated male dominance in the field. Yet, she said, she enjoyed it a lot. When you win a big case, you feel like triumph. She was first women chief justice of Himachal Pradesh high court.

She died of cardiac seizure and her funeral was not held as she has donated her eyes and other organs for medical research.

Hat’s off to the great lady…



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