Justice Leila Seth passed away on Friday night, May 5. The first woman judge of the Delhi High Court, she was also the first woman to become Chief Justice of a State High Court on August 5, 1991.
She was part of the three-member Justice JS Verma committee that was set up after the Nirbhaya incident in December 2012.
The committee suggested several changes in the laws related to crimes against women. It scanned through 80,000 suggestions from people and recommended stronger punishment against rape, changing the way rape was defined and incorporating new offences like acid attack, sexual harassment and voyeurism and stalking into the Indian Penal Code.
Here are a few things to know about the formidable Leila Seth and her contribution to women’s rights:
She was born in Lucknow and was the first woman to top the London Bar exam in 1958.
She was introduced to law through an advert she spotted in London. She had accompanied her husband Prem on a posting to London. She topped the exam, when her second son was barely a few months old. English papers showed her carrying two small boys under the heading “Mother In Law”.
She was an IAS officer.
Mother of renowned author Vikram Seth, she has also written several books herself, including the best-selling autobiography On Balance, in which she talks about her years of homelessness, straying into law, and practising in Patna, Calcutta and Delhi.
She was part of the Law Commission of India till 2000 and was responsible for the amendments to the Hindu Succession Act which gave equal rights to daughters in joint family property.
She was appointed as a one-member commission to examine the death in custody of Rajan Pillai and to suggest improvements in the medical facilities of prisoners in 1995.
“Bring up your sons like you bring up your daughters, so that they learn tenderness.”
She was against the death penalty.