13th Aug 2014 - 19th Jul 2020
Justice Banumathi is the second woman Sessions Judge to rise to the Supreme Court. She started as an advocate, after getting enrolled with the Bar in 1981. She practised in Mofussil Courts in Tamil Nadu for seven years.
She then joined the Tamil Nadu Higher Judicial Service as a District Judge in 1988 and worked as District and Sessions Judge in various Districts of Tamil Nadu. She has also headed the one-person commission on the indiscriminate behaviour by Special Task Force (STF) towards the villagers of Coimbatore (1995-1996). In 2003, she was elevated as a Judge of High Court of Madras.
As a Member, and later as President, of the Board of Governors in the State Judicial Academy, Justice Banumathi was instrumental in organising systematic training programmes for judicial officers and staff members. She became the Chairman of Madras High Court Legal Services Committee (2011-12) and the Executive Chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services in 2013, where she had been actively involved in organizing several Lok Adalats.
Justice Banumathi has also authored the book “Hand Book of Civil and Criminal Courts Management and Use of Computers” for the District Judiciary and Hand Books for the guidance of Judicial Ministerial Staff.
She was sworn as the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court in 2013, and was instrumental in improving the infrastructure of the District Judiciary, recruitment and filling up vacancies of Ministerial Staff. Soon after this appointment, she was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2014.
Banumathi’s order banning jallikattu, during her stint at the Madras High Court, led to framing of guidelines to conduct the sport under a safe environment. She also passed the order which led to a total ban on sand mining on Tamiraparani river bed in Tirunelveli, ending indiscriminate sand mining beyond permissible limits by unscrupulous mining contractors.
Justice Banumathi sorted out a huge service crisis in the Tamil Nadu police department by ordering that accelerated promotion given to more than 1,000 police personnel involved in the operation against forest brigand Veerappan was a one-stage affair and that for further promotions the beneficiaries must wait.
In the Supreme Court, Justice Banumathi provided a separate and concurring judgement along with Justices Dipak Misra and Ashok Bhushan, and confirmed the death penalty of the accused in the Nirbhaya case. In a concurring judgement, she stated that the acts of the accused clearly fall within the category of ‘rarest of rare’ crimes.
She penned a judgment fixing 25% of the husband’s salary to be paid as alimony to the wife, as the ‘amount of permanent alimony awarded to the wife must be befitting the status of the parties and the capacity of the spouse to pay maintenance.’