DELHI: Chief Guest and Key Note Speaker Justice Indira Banerjee was at the Indian Society of International Law to inaugurate its 20th Summer Course on International Law. Delivering the inaugural speech, she revisited several interesting anecdotes of her times. From not being interested in the profession to becoming one of the esteemed judges of the Apex Court of India, here are excerpts from the stories of Indira Banerjee’s inaugural speech.
Choosing the Road Less Trodden
Coming from a Bengali household where no one was a part of the legal profession, Banerjee too wasn’t inclined toward law. What was it, then, that piqued her interest in the profession? Well, we do know that it wasn’t her instinctive decision to opt for law as a career. In fact, her resolution was based on her meeting with Somnath Chatterjee, a family friend, an affluent politician, and a lawyer at that time. Banerjee was drawn toward the flamboyance of legal chambers, the well-kept legal books, and the plush chambers of advocates. From there, Indira started her journey of being a law student becoming an advocate who was paid her due fees in gold mohars and then going on to become the Chief Justice of Madras High Court and Judge, Supreme Court.
Importance of International Laws
Starting off with a personal anecdote, Justice Indira Banerjee shared that she had returned from Chennai a night ago. Divulging further, she tells us of how her former colleagues ‘almost’ got her ticket canceled. Why did she share this story? Justice Indira Banerjee, on refusing to postpone the inauguration ceremony, emphasized the importance of international law. Talking about several aspects of the subject such as international treaties, refugee laws, human rights laws, and the effect of international conflicts on non-participant states and essential commodities, the Supreme Court judge quoted Hugo Grotius and Jeremy Bentham’s voice on international law. Further, she also enumerated several talking points, including the provisions relating to non-signing of a treaty, enforceability of international treaties, and considering the use of economic and military sanctions with relevant answers to ‘under what circumstances’ and ‘for how long’.
On Being a ‘Woman’ Judge
Talk about Justice Indira Singh being the 8th female judge in the history of the Supreme Court of India and the 2nd female Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, and she’s quick to comment on the problem at hand. Sharing how she was elevated to the position based on her merit and the absence of representation, Justice Banerjee reiterates the fact that she did not have any advantages coming her way because of her gender. She emphasizes the fact and advises all women that if they get some benefits as a woman, it’s their good fortune. However, they shouldn’t expect it and rather compete and get what they want.
Diving deeper into the question of being a ‘female judge’, she asserts her views with Ruth Ginsburg’s famous answer on “When will there be enough?” when being asked about the elevation of female judges to higher courts. A woman of true grit and virtues, Justice Indira Banerjee is the true flag-bearer of empowered and determined women not only in India but across the globe.
The onset of Covid-19 in India forced us all to turn toward a technology-driven system of work. With the legal industry not being far behind, a discussion ensued on how much of technology should be allowed to penetrate the physical walls of the legal fraternity. And while everyone believed the inclusion of technology has several dedicated advantages such as record-keeping, a cut-down on external factors leading to piling cases, and protecting lawyers and judges alike against false allegations regarding the undue process of law, majority opinions were tilted toward establishing a hybrid model of judicial proceedings. The opinion is based on both, the benefits of physical presence during judicial proceedings and the practicality of a virtual approach.
A Woman of Substance, Who Paved Her Paths, On Her Merits.
As the final note, Justice Indira Banerjee is not just a woman in power but also of experience. A single sitting with her could reveal to you several phases of the powerhouse that she is. From being a girl who had no interest in law, to becoming one of the most influential judges in India, Justice Indira Banerjee has had a beautiful journey through law. And for a person of her stature, humbleness is her first name. She’s full of stories from her journey with and around the legal fraternity, beautiful just in the way she even corrects her mistake- a single word spoken ‘wrong’ in her sense.
Justice Indira Banerjee- the 8th ‘female judge’ of India- is a force to reckon with. She’s a leader, a teacher, and perhaps one of the greatest role models of the legal fraternity!
About the Event
The Indian Society of International Studies was founded in 1959 by Shri V.K. Krishna Menon to foster the study and development of other nations. The inauguration ceremony of ISIL’s 20th Summer Course took place on June 6, 2022, in the presence of Justice Indira Banerjee, Judge, Supreme Court of India who was the keynote speaker at the event. Also present was Senior Advocate Pravin H. Parekh, President, ISIL, under whose aegis the entire event was organized.
The author is an avid blogger and likes to write on subject matters related to Law, Politics and matters of Constitutional importance.