Acceptance speech for Hon. Gita Mittal

My dear Sisters from across the globe
A Warm Namaskar to all of you from New Delhi.

An Award is something least expected when you take the oath of office as a Judge. Judgeship is a mission, a way of life which you impartially discharge with dedication and honesty. If you are successful in ensuring justice, securing inclusion, equality and liberty to even a few marginalised in the community, it feels as if your entire purpose in life stands achieved. This is even though that sense of ‘I have miles to go before I sleep’ never leave you. This is the feeling I had even on 8th December 2020, as I demitted office on superannuation.

This Award, from the IAWJ has therefore completely overwhelmed me. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the IAWJ for the recognition accorded to my work and the honour which has been bestowed on me. I also thank you for giving me the opportunity to share the podium with Justice Margarita Luna Ramos. I also congratulate Dame Silvia Cartwright for being awarded the IAWJ Human Rights Award. 

I came to IAWJ in 2006 as a judge of around two years vintage, inexperienced and still nervous about the responsibilities attached to the office. As we all know – judges are also human. My instant exposure to best and lasting friendships across the globe as well as the incredible work visionary judges were doing, many in regions of extreme deprivation, often in situations of violence, inspired me to join them in the efforts worldwide to create an egalitarian society, one where all living beings have a sense of justice, fulfilment and peace. Through IAWJ, I found role models. I found women I admired, and women who offered me unconditional support. 

From all of you came the sensitisation that while the trinity of Justice, Equality and Liberty knows no statutory definition, it is, regardless, of seminal importance universally. Securing these as basic and inalienable rights by judicial and administrative decisions has been my single minded mission for these sixteen plus years on the Bench. The faith instilled by my Sisters at the Association led me to undertake path-breaking judicial initiatives and interventions in matters of detail but with widespread impact. Procedural and educational initiatives enabled creation of safe spaces in Courts for those who were reaching it to share the most horrific experiences of their lives. I was able to identify opportunities for change and introduce systemic changes which have endured after I left the concerned Court years ago. It was not easy to walk the razor edge and not over step into what is termed as judicial over reach. But your blessings and support enabled me to meaningfully contribute to legislations in the field of sexual violence as well as the environment. I hope that, as a result of my work, I was able to make visible, at least some of those whom the society treats as invisible. My efforts were dedicated to creation of level playing spaces for all, especially for women. I urge my Sisters from across the globe that if you succeed in this, you will have ensured equality and fair treatment for women and the marginalised at every level.

Let your pens speak up for rights, my Sisters – do not compromise with subjugation, with discrimination, with violence of any genre or hue. Let each of you be celebrated for your impartiality, your commitment, your honesty, your humility, your hard work and your fairness. Before concluding I would like to point out how, just as in all other adversities, the Covid-19 pandemic too is having a disproportionate impact on women. Thus, while praying for the wellbeing of all living beings, it is of utmost importance to also make a special prayer that the trauma of all women in difficulty is  relieved at the earliest.

And to my sister judges who continue to serve, this is my message:
“Grow strong, my comrade … that you may stand
Unshaken when I fall; that I may know
The shattered fragments of my song will come
At last to finer melody in you;
That I may tell my heart that you begin
Where passing I leave off, and fathom more.”
(―Will Durant,The Story of Philosophy: The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers )

May the Pandemic end soon and good health restored to the living in every sense.
Thank you.
Gita Mittal
New Delhi, India
8th May, 2021