In a historic moment for the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Ritu Bahri has been appointed as the acting Chief Justice, marking the first time in its storied history that a woman has held this esteemed position. This groundbreaking announcement came just one day before the retirement of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha, solidifying Justice Bahri’s reputation as a trailblazer in the legal field.
Born on October 11, 1962, in Jalandhar, Justice Ritu Bahri hails from a family deeply rooted in the legal profession. Her great-grandfather, the late Karam Chand Bahri, was a renowned lawyer known for his civil practice. Her grandfather, the late Som Dutt Bahri, not only followed in his footsteps but also served as a Punjab MLA from 1952 to 1957. Justice Bahri’s father, Justice Amrit Lal Bahri, retired as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 1994. It is evident that a strong commitment to justice and the rule of law runs in her blood.
Justice Bahri’s illustrious legal career began when she pursued her law degree from Panjab University in 1985. Her journey through the legal profession has been marked by numerous accomplishments, reflecting her dedication to justice and social welfare. She served as the Haryana Assistant Advocate-General in 1992, Deputy Advocate-General in 1999, and Senior Additional Advocate-General in December 2009. Her ascent through the legal ranks was a testament to her legal acumen and commitment to the law.
What sets Justice Bahri apart is not just her legal expertise but also her deep compassion and humanitarian efforts. During the challenging times brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, she displayed remarkable leadership by providing houses to economically weaker sections and low-income groups of society. Furthermore, she initiated projects such as making newspaper and fabric bags to employ women laborers, enabling them to navigate the “tough times” with dignity and economic stability.
Justice Bahri also recognized the importance of education and social equity. She took it upon herself to bridge the gap between urban school students and their counterparts in villages by sharing books, toys, and snacks, ensuring that every child had access to educational resources and opportunities. Her commitment to justice extends to family matters, as she has taken up the issue of shared parenting between estranged couples, advocating for the welfare of children caught in the midst of parental separation.
As Justice Bahri assumes the role of acting Chief Justice, her appointment symbolizes not only the progress of women in the legal profession but also her unwavering dedication to justice, equality, and humanitarian values. Her unique blend of legal expertise and social consciousness makes her a formidable force in the legal community and a source of inspiration for aspiring lawyers, particularly women.
In a time when diversity and inclusivity are at the forefront of discussions, Justice Ritu Bahri’s appointment as the first woman acting Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court is a landmark moment in the annals of legal history. Her legacy will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the pursuit of justice and equality in the region, and her journey serves as a shining example of what can be achieved through dedication, compassion, and unwavering commitment to the law.