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First Woman Judge on the Delhi High Court | First Woman to become Chief Justice of a state High Court
Leila Seth was the first woman to top the Bar examinations in London in 1957. Thereafter she practiced in Patna, Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Delhi. She was the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court and the first woman to become chief justice of a state in India. She was appointed as a judge in 1978 and retired as Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh in 1992.In 1995 she was appointed as a one-member commission to examine the death in custody of Rajan Pillai and to suggest improvements in medical facilities of prisoners. She was a member of the 15th Law Commission of India (1997-2000) and co-authored the report suggesting amendments to the Hindu Succession Act giving equal rights to daughters in joint family property. She was also one of the three members of the 2012 committee (known as the Justice Verma Committee) which was constituted in the aftermath of the horrendous rape in Delhi of the young woman known as Nirbhaya.Her autobiography ‘On Balance’ was published by Penguin to critical acclaim and later translated into Hindi and published by Yatra as ‘Ghar aur Adalat’. In 2014 she authored ‘Talking of Justice: People’s rights in modern India’ which has been well received.
She has also written ‘We, the Children of India’ explaining the preamble of the Indian Constitution to its younger citizens. It has been translated into Hindi, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada and Telegu and also produced in Braille. She feels it is her most important book and should be part of the school curriculum, so that a child’s consciousness is permeated with constitutional morality.She is involved in pro bono work pertaining to health, human rights, women and children’s rights, education, environment and ethics.