Former Judge of the Supreme Court of India
Assumed Office13th Aug, 2014
Retired On19th Jul, 2020
Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High CourtNovember 16th 2013 - August 12th 2014
Judge of the Madras High CourtApril 3rd 2003 - November 15th 2013
District Judge1988 - April 2nd 2003
Justice Banumathi is the second woman Sessions Judge to rise to the Supreme Court. She practised for seven years in Tamil Nadu’s District and Mofussil Courts before joining the judicial service in 1988 as a District Judge. In 1995, she headed the one-person commission on indiscriminate behaviour by the Special Task Force towards Coimbatore’s villagers.
In 2003, she was elevated as a Judge of the Madras High Court. She also presided over the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy’s Board. In 2011, she served as the Chairman of Madras High Court Legal Services Committee. In 2013, she served as the Executive Chairman of the Tamil Nadu State Legal Services. She authored the Hand Book of Civil and Criminal Courts Management and Use of Computers.
In 2013, she was appointed as the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court.
In a significant ruling on the applicability of the Right to Information Act, 2005 to the courts, Justice Banumathi held that the Act cannot override the Gujarat High Court rules, in so far as requesting pleadings is concerned. In effect, third parties seeking pleadings will not be able to file right to information (RTI) requests to obtain pleadings in the Gujarat High Court. Pleadings are written documents, which contain the key claims and arguments of litigants. Justice Banumathi reasoned that as the current High Court rules already have a system for obtaining pleadings, citizens cannot rely on the RTI Act to request them. She dismissed the appellant’s argument that the High Court rules place a higher burden on information applicants than the RTI scheme does. The judgment is likely to set the precedent for all other High Courts and the Supreme Court itself.
In Bir Singh v Delhi Jal Board, the appellant was a migrant who had moved to the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi from his home state and was seeking a reserved seat in the Delhi Jal Board. While his caste was a recognised Scheduled Caste in his home state, it was not in the NCT. The Court ruled in his favour. The majority held that candidates from all States and Union lists could apply to the Delhi Jal Board, as it was administered by the Union. Justice Banumathi dissented, distinguishing between posts for which recruitment was carried out by the Union government and those for which it was carried out by the NCT. She observed that for posts where the recruitment was done by a Union Territory (or the NCT), only SC/STs specified the Presidential Order for that territory may apply.
In the Nirbhaya judgment, Banumathi J authored a separate concurring opinion that prescribed the death penalty for the accused. She stated that the accused’s actions fell within the ‘rarest of rare’ category.
Banumathi J authored the concurring opinion in the five-judge Bench judgment in Modern Dental College. The judgment ruled in favour of the Madhya Pradesh Government, holding that regulation of private unaided colleges does not necessarily violate the fundamental right to free occupation under Article 19(1)(g). The Act under challenge prescribes for a compulsory State-administered common entrance exam, fee fixation and reservations. The petitioners had argued that this amounted to excessive State interference in an autonomous private educational institution. In her concurring opinion, Justice Banumathi observed that as providing education is a positive duty of the State, it should regulate private institutions to ensure they are providing quality education.
In R Thirunavukkarasu v The State Of Tamil Nadu, Banumathi J held that the accelerated promotion given to more than 1,000 police personnel involved in the operation against Veerappan was a one-time promotion and would not carry forward.
Banumathi J was on the two-judge bench that ordered a five-year ban on sand mining and quarrying in the Tamiraparani river stretch. The judgment issued guidelines for sand quarrying operations along all river beds in Tamil Nadu and ordered the establishment of a State Level Monitoring Committee for sand quarrying in river beds.
In K. Muniasamythevar v Deputy Superintendent Of Police Banumathi J held that all types of Jallikattu, bullock cart races and oxen races causing cruelty to animals must be banned by the Tamil Nadu government. She further directed the state police to ensure the prevention of cruelty to animals under the guise of such entertainment.