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ANNA CHANDY (1905–1996)

Anna Chandy became India’s first woman judge in a district court in 1948, and in 1959 at the Kerala High Court. She was probably the second woman in the world to become a high court judge, and she held that position till 1967. Born to a Christian family at Elaphi, Travancore, she became one of the early women to hold a post graduate degree in 1926 and entered Law School in 1927. She was called to the Bar in 1929, specialising in criminal law. She founded and edited a journal called Shreemati in which she championed women’s rights.

Travancore was a Princely State and had been the first such state to set up its own democratic legislative assembly, as early as 1888. In 1904 the Maharaja of Travancore inaugurated the Shree Mulam Popular Assembly (Praja Sabha), a non-legislative advisory body. Two thirds of this body were elected and the rest nominated. Between 1932 and 1934 Anna served on it. She became a first grade Zilla Munsif in 1937, probably the first woman to reach that position. In 1943 she became the Additional District Judge and in 1948 District Judge. This paved the way for her appointment to the High Court in 1959. After her retirement in 1967 she sat on the National Law Commission.

In 1971 the Malayala Manorama serialised her autobiography which was subsequently published in Thrissur by Carmel Books in 1973 under the title Atmakatha. Her husband, P.C. Chandy, an inspector general of police, helped and supported her all the way. She was a member of the Travancore Vidhan Parishad.
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