“Without Dalit Identity, I Wouldn’t Be a Supreme Court Judge Today”: Justice Gavai

Supreme Court Justice B.R. Gavai recently emphasized the pivotal role of affirmative action in his ascent to one of the highest judicial positions in India, during a discussion hosted by the New York City Bar Association (NYCB). Justice Gavai, belonging to the Dalit community, candidly stated that had it not been for his social background and the benefits of reservation policies, his journey to the Supreme Court bench might not have been possible.

Highlighting his career trajectory, Justice Gavai pointed out his early promotion to the Supreme Court, crediting the collegium’s intent to ensure representation from marginalized communities. This move came two years prior to what might have been expected in the usual course of promotions, underscoring the judiciary’s effort to maintain diversity. His legal career, which transitioned from lawyering in the Bombay High Court to his judgeship, was significantly influenced by his Dalit identity, especially at a time when the high court had no Dalit judges.

Justice Gavai’s remarks came during an event focused on the role of the judiciary in upholding the rule of law and advancing individual rights in both India and the United States, sparking a cross-cultural dialogue on these critical issues. His personal story served as a testament to the transformative power of affirmative action, not just in his life but as a beacon for societal progress towards inclusivity and equality.

With his retirement slated for November 2025, Justice Gavai continues to serve as an integral member of the Supreme Court collegium.

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