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India: Salutes to Justice Leila Seth from National Alliance of People’s Movements

7 May 2017

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For Immediate Release

7th May, 2017​

NAPM pays respectful salutes to Jst. Leila Seth

Abolition of Death Penalty and implementation of Jst. Verma Commission recommendations would be a befitting tribute to her life and work.

National Alliance of People’s Movements is deeply saddened to learn of the demise of Justice (Retd.) Lelila Seth, well-known (she disliked the word eminent) jurist and champion of rights of women and marginalized genders. Her 6 decades of work as a legal practitioner including about two decades as a judge was a testimony to the values that she carried easily on her – conviction, compassion and wisdom.

It is indeed remarkable that even as an octogenarian, she accepted responsibility of being on the Jst. J.S Verma Committee constituted by Govt. of India for amendments to criminal law, in the light of the Dec, 2012 Nirbhaya (Jyoti Singh) gang rape and gruesome murder that sparked protests by women, citizens and youth across Delhi and India. Jst. Seth, along with Jst JS Verma, as the Committee Chairperson and Mr. Gopal Subramaniam submitted a comprehensive report to the Union Govt. within a record one-month period and made some far reaching and significant recommendations on rape law as well as on rights of women and marginalized genders, who are subject to sexual crimes. While some recommendations such as an expanded definition of rape was accepted; many other progressive recommendations of the Committee such as review of AFSPA, criminalization of marital rape, compensation to rape victims etc. were not incorporated in the final version of the Criminal Law (Amendment Act) Act, 2013 that was passed by the Parliament.

Jst. Seth’s book, Talking of Justice: People’s Rights in Modern India, published shortly after the Committee submitted its report conveys her dynamic understanding and position on a whole range of contemporary issues including death penalty, marital rape, consent, gender neutrality of rape, juvenile justice, rights of children, women, jail inmates, Uniform Civil Code, administration of justice etc. Her autobiography (On Balance), translated into Hindi as Aurat aur Adalat is also a crucial first person narrative of the thick walls of patriarchy within the judiciary and the sexist challenges a woman, whether as a client or convict, a lawyer or a judge faces within the system. Indian Judiciary needs more such strong and stoic women to render justice to the masses.

As an active member of the Law Commission, her role, leading to recognition of the property rights of daughters under Hindi Succession Act is also well-appreciated. As the first woman Chief Justice of a High Court, she pushed the frontiers further within the judiciary, establishing the fact that women can be equally good or better judges, if only they are given appropriate opportunities at the right time. She has truly been a champion all her life, from the beginning of her legal career when she became the first woman to top the Bar in England.

She was also a strong votary of LGBTQIA+ rights as a jurist and also as a mother who respected the sexual orientation of her son, acclaimed author Vikram Seth. She had a principled and reasoned position against the death penalty. It will indeed be a befitting tribute to this stalwart if, the Apex Court reviews its recent decision to impose death penalty on the four convicts in the Nirbhaya case and the Parliament removes death penalty permanently from the statute book. Jst. Leila Seth will truly be missed for all that she lived and loved. We convey our heart-felt condolences to her immediate and extended family, fraternity and well-wishers.​

Endorsed by: National Team of Advisors, Convenors and Special Invitees of NAPM

  • Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)
  • Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and NAPM
  • Prafulla Samantara, - Lok Shakti Abhiyan & NAPM, Odisha;
  • Lingraj Azad – Samajwadi Jan Parishad - Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti, NAPM, Odisha;
  • Binayak Sen and Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
  • Sandeep Pandey, Socialist Party and NAPM, Uttar Pradesh
  • Sudhir Vombatkere, Senior Activist, NAPM, Karnataka
  • Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai and NAPM, TN;
  • Geetha Ramakrishnan, Unorganised Sector Workers Federation, NAPM, TN;
  • Arul Doss, NAPM Tamil Nadu
  • Arundhati Dhuru, Nandlal Master, Manesh Gupta - NAPM, UP;
  • Richa Singh, Sangatin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, NAPM-UP
  • Vilayodi Venugopal, CR Neelakandan and Prof. Kusumam, NAPM, Kerala
  • Vimal Bhai - Matu Jan Sangathan, NAPM-Uttarakhand & Jabar Singh, NAPM, Uttarakhand;
  • Sister Celia - Domestic Workers Union & NAPM, Karnataka;
  • Rukmini V P, Garment Labour Union, NAPM, Karnataka;
  • Anand Mazgaonkar, Krishnakant - Paryavaran Suraksh Samiti, NAPM Gujarat;
  • Kamayani Swami, Ashish Ranjan – Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan & NAPM Bihar;
  • Mahendra Yadav – Kosi Navnirman Manch, NAPM Bihar;
  • Sister Dorothy, NAPM Bihar
  • Dayamani Barla, Aadivasi-Moolnivasi Astivtva Raksha Samiti, NAPM Jharkhand
  • Dr. Sunilam and Adv. Aradhna Bhargava - Kisan Sangharsh Samiti NAPM Madhya Pradesh
  • Bhupender Singh Rawat – Jan Sangharsh Vahini, NAPM, Delhi
  • Rajendra Ravi, Nanu Prasad, Madhuresh Kumar, Amit Kumar, Himshi Singh, Uma Kapari, Zaved Mazumder, NAPM, Delhi
  • Faisal Khan, Khudai Khidmatgar, NAPM Haryana
  • J S Walia, NAPM Haryana;
  • Kailash Meena, NAPM Rajasthan;
  • Amitava Mitra & Avik Saha, NAPM West Bengal;
  • P. Chennaiah, Andhra Prdaesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarulua Union (APVVU) and NAPM-AP
  • Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI and NAPM, AP
  • Suniti SR, Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe - NAPM, Maharashtra;
  • Gautam Bandopadhyay, NAPM, Chhatisgarh
  • Anjali Bharadwaj, National Campaign for People’s Right to Information and NAPM
  • Kaladas Dahariya, RELAA, Chhatisgarh
  • Bilal Khan, Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, Mumbai,
  • Meera Sanghamitra, NAPM Telangana-AP,