A Crusader for Justice
By Juliana Sridhar

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Dr. Justice S. Vimala aspired to don the black gown due to the respect that the legal profession commanded. She was inspired and motivated to reach out to people and get justice for them from a very young age. Her father Sabanayagam who was the village head of Veerananallur village and mother Kamala Ambigai did not object to her choice of career and permitted her to follow her dreams. She obtained a degree in Chemistry from Seethalakshmi Ramaswamy College in Tiruchy and went on to get her bachelors degree in Law from the Madras Law College. She acquired her Masters degree in Criminal Law and the Law of Torts from the Pondicherry University after her marriage and birth of her son and went on to do her PhD at the Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University. She had the distinction of being the first sitting judge of the Madras High Court to have acquired a doctorate in law.

She enrolled as an advocate in 1983 and had an extensive practice in both Chidambaram and Cuddalore district courts. She was appointed a District Judge in the year 1999. She had the honour of becoming the first woman judge of the Chennai Mahila Court in 2002 and went on to become the first woman Director of the Tamil Nadu State Judicial academy in 2006. It was during her tenure at the Judicial Academy that she delved into the ground realities and the issues that inmates of government homes faced. She prepared a report of the same and submitted it to the High Court.

She was appointed as the Registrar General of the Madras High Court in 2010 and proved her mettle. She was elevated to the Bench as an additional Judge on 20.12.11.  and was later appointed a permanent judge on 21.10.13. Justice Vimala recalls how her husband who is a lawyer and practicing in the Madras High Court quit his practice for a period of 7 years on ethical grounds to prevent her from being transferred to any other High Court. Only after her retirement in January 2019, he resumed his practice. During her tenure as a High Court Judge, all judgments passed by her lordship had a humanitarian touch and a degree of empathy to them and many of her judgments have been reported in law journals.

Justice Vimala has a flair for writing and has written a book titled “Whether winning a case means success in life”. This book received rave reviews and was published by the Tamil Nadu State Commission for Women. She has plans of putting her thoughts on paper and penning a few more books.

The adage that behind every successful man there stands a woman is a well known saying but behind the success of Justice Vimala is her lawyer husband Velmurugan who supported her all throughout her career and spurred her on to reach great heights by making a lot of sacrifices.  It is indeed difficult for women to shine in the legal field without support from their better half and this was the crux of her speech at her official farewell function in January 2019. She requested all husbands to go that extra mile to lend a helping hand to their wives so that they can excel in their career too. She feels saddened by the fact that many women who take up law are unable to continue in the field post marriage due to the difficulty in maintaining a work life balance or other issues.

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She is also perturbed by the spiraling number of divorce cases and feels that instead of marriages being fixed on the basis of horoscopes, people should take into consideration, the temperament and compatibility of the boy and girl. This would bring down the number of cases in family courts.

Justice Vimala’s only son Vivek, is a civil engineer, lawyer, poet and a lyricist and is currently making waves in the film industry. He is associated with bigwigs like A.R. Rahman and the like. Her daughter-in – law Saradha is a government advocate practicing on the criminal side.

After her retirement in January 2019, there was a small break in her career which she made full use of to become a kitchen queen. She was later appointed as a member of the Tamil Nadu State Law Commission. Right now during this pandemic period, she is busy hosting webinars on various pressing legal issues.

Her favourite colour  is white and she likes reading books and listening to music. Her favourite food is the humble idli. She also enjoys cooking and likes to try out new recipes to keep everyone in the family happy and healthy.

Even though, Justice Vimala has hung up her coat and gown, her passion for the legal profession continues and her wish is that justice should be accessible and affordable to each and every citizen.

Juliana Sridhar is a lawyer and columnist.

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