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From BJP leader &Hindutva activist to Madras HC judge —  who is L Victoria Gowri 

Gowri was sworn in as Madras HC additional judge Tuesday, in an appointment that has been fraught with controversy over her political views and alleged remarks against minorities.

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Chennai: Advocate and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Mahila Morcha national secretary L. Victoria Gowri was sworn in as an additional judge of the Madras High Court Tuesday. The development came on the same day the Supreme Court dismissed a petition against her appointment.

At the oath-taking ceremony, Gowri promised to “work for the cause of the unheard and the oppressed voices of the poorest of the poor”. 

Gowri’s appointment to the position has been fraught with controversies. She was an active member of the BJP until September 2020 when she took over as assistant solicitor general. 

But her detractors accuse her of having made hate speeches and written controversial opinion pieces in the past, and say the appointment has been made in disregard of this history. 

“Recently, the Collegium headed by CJI clarified that before appointment, one’s political beliefs should not stand in the way of consideration,” former Madras High Court K. Chandru told ThePrint. “But having strong personal views and propagating it actively may be a factor which is taken into account for selecting an unbiased person to earn respectability for the post.” 

Several lawyers had cited this reason in their objections when the Supreme Court Collegium headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud recommended her elevation, 

But Gowri, whose family has long been associated with the BJP, also has her share of supporters. When the controversy over her appointment broke out in January, some 40 advocates from the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, where she was serving as an assistant solicitor general, signed a petition in her support. ThePrint has a copy of the petition. 

ThePrint has reached Gowri via calls and text messages for her comments. This article will be updated if and when a response is received. 

Lawyers from the anti-Gowri camp also refused to comment on Tuesday’s developments, with one of them saying only that they had decided not to speak to the media on the subject. 

Her supporters, however, say there was nothing wrong with the appointment. 

“Holding a post in a party is not a bar for being considered to be a high court judge,” advocate J. Anandhavalli, who was one of the first people to sign the petition in Gowri’s favour, told ThePrint. She added that there was “no hatred in her speech as is being portrayed”.

Tamil Nadu BJP president K. Annamalai called the SC decision “momentous and historic”. 

“I was pained by the malicious propaganda released against Victoria Gowri,” he told ThePrint.  

Also Read: What’s Memorandum of Procedure & why it’s at heart of govt-SC tussle over judges’ appointments

‘Chowkidar’ Victoria Gowri

Gowri comes from a prominent Nadar family in Kanyakumari, according to Nagendran. After an LLB from Government Law College, Madurai, she did her postgraduate studies at Mother Theresa Women’s University, Kodaikanal. 

Gowri has been associated with the BJP since her college days. She enrolled as a lawyer in 1995 and started her own firm — VVictory Legal Associatesin Kanyakumari in 1997. 

A relative, speaking on condition of anonymity, told ThePrint: “She is a very good orator and has even written poems. Her family has been associated with the BJP for generations.” 

While Gowri was with the BJP, she did what every party loyalist does best —  praise the work of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Ministry of Home Affairs Amit Shah and talk up the central government’s schemes. 

She was put in charge of the Kerala unit of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha on 8 October 2010 and eventually went on to become the national secretary of the women’s wing. In 2019 — just around the time when the BJP began its Main Bhi Chowkidar Hun campaign in the runup to the 2019 general election — she changed her Twitter handle to ‘Chowkidar Victoria Gowri’. 

Gowri’s Facebook page, which is now locked, has images of her with senior BJP leaders  — including one where she’s tying a rakhi on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s arm. 

Nainar Nagendran, a BJP MLA from Tirunelveli and Gowri’s former colleague, described her as a “down-to-earth person” who has “done a lot for the downtrodden community in her region”.

 “Her association with the BJP is being politicised. In the past, we have seen DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and Communist Party members also being made judges of the high court,” he told ThePrint. 

‘Remarks against minorities’

In a 2019 video, Gowri passionately supported the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act. 

“My brothers and sisters of Islam, all is well,” she said in that video. “India’s 13.2 percent Muslims will always be protected by the BJP in the Centre.”

Her critics meanwhile point out that her past videos belie these words. 

In a video from February 2018 that has now been made private, for instance, she’s purportedly heard calling Christians “white terrorists”  and saying that “Christianity is more dangerous than Islam”. 

Months later, she was purportedly heard saying in an interview that “Bharat’s culture was being hijacked by Christian missionaries” and that this was a “nefarious activity of the Roman Catholics”. Later in the interview, she speaks about a Bharatanatyam performance at an event organised by a Christian organisation. 

Bharatanatyam was hacked to death,” she said. “It should not be danced for Christian songs.” 

Gowri’s other controversial statements include allegations that her hometown Kanyakumari was becoming a “Hindu-minority city with rampant conversions”, in an opinion piece for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) mouthpiece Organiser.  

It’s in the light of these that former Madras HC judge Chandru believes the appointment was made with a “total non-application of mind”. 

“They can’t be blamed because at this stage nothing will be on record. We don’t have public hearings like in the USA,” he said. “But the attestation form (that) got signed by the candidates will have a column about political membership. Whether this candidate had disclosed the same we do not know. The speeches and activities pursuant to the politics must find a place in the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report. (But) under the present climate whether the IB will report is doubtful.” 

But Nagendran remains firm in his support, saying that any attempt to prevent Gowri’s “elevation will be against democracy”.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Rijiju reacts to SC’s big reveal about govt objections to judge appointments — ‘grave concern’


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