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Does the Judiciary Remain a Man’s World?

Does the Judiciary Remain a Man’s World?

Context: In its 73-year history, the Indian Supreme Court has seen 268 judges, but just 11 women. None have served as Chief Justice. The prospect of Justice B.V. Nagarathna’s brief tenure sparks attention.

How has the representation of women in the judiciary evolved over the years?

  • Justice Fathima Beevi became the first woman Supreme Court judge in October 1989.
  • Justice Sujata V. Manohar was the sole woman judge between 1990 and 2000.
  • After Justice Manohar’s retirement in August 1999, Justice Ruma Pal was appointed in January 2000, with no further appointments in that decade.
  • The 2010s saw better gender diversity, adding 5 women judges: Justices Gyan Sudha Mishra, Ranjana Prakash Desai, R. Banumathi, Indu Malhotra, and Indira Banerjee.
  • In 2021, Justices Hima Kohli, B.V. Nagarathna, and B.M. Trivedi’s appointments set a record for the most women appointed simultaneously.
  • This appointment also marked the Supreme Court’s peak of 4 women judges serving concurrently.
  • The historic count constitutes merely 12% of the current 33 judges, despite women having a rightful claim to 50% of judicial positions.
Gender Diversity at the SC (since 1950)

Status of Women in the Judiciary?

  • High Courts: 11.5% of judges in High Courts are female.
    Only 17 of the 37 women who were recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for appointment as high court judges have actually been given the job as of yet; the other names are still being processed by the national government.
    Collegium has thus far recommended 192 candidates for the high courts.
    A total of 37 of them, or 19%, were women.
  • Subordinate Courts: About 30 percent are women judicial officers in subordinate courts.
  • Advocates: Of the 1.7 million advocates, only 15% are women.
  • Bar Council: Only 2% of the State Bar Councils’ elected officials are women. The Bar Council of India has no female members.

Challenges of women in the judiciary?

  • major barrier to women’s recruitment as district judges are the eligibility criteria to take the entrance exams.
  • Lawyers need to have seven years of continuous legal practice and be in the age bracket of 35-45.
  • This is a disadvantage for women as many are married by this age and have to take career gaps due to childbirth.
  • Further, the long and inflexible work hours in law, combined with familial responsibilities, force many women to drop out of practice and they fail to meet the requirement of continuous practice.
  • Many esteemed lawyers are not elevated to Supreme court Judge, with exception of one such instance i.e. Justice Indira Bannerjee.

Significance of Women  representation in Judiciary

  • Female judicial representation can change gender stereotypes. High numbers and greater visibility of women judges can increase confidence of women victims to seek judicial redress.
  • Broader Perspective: Gender sensitization will provide a diverse perspective to judgments.
    • Women bring to the law a different perspective, one that is built upon their experience. They also have a more nuanced understanding of the differing impacts that certain laws may have on men and women
  • The presence of women as judges and lawyers will substantially improve the justice delivery system.
    • The presence of women on the Bench and in the Bar has more than a symbolic importance.
  • Implementation of Stringent Laws: Laws for heinous crimes are not yet effective, specially for Acid attack and rape. More inclusion of Women in judiciary will impact in proper implementation of such laws.
  • More Empathy: Lack of empathy reflected in some of the judgements could significantly reduce.
  • It will benefit LGBTQ community as well, as women in general are more accepting towards different orientations of people.
    • Gender of a judge does not matter when a citizen goes to court, but with a female judge hearing the person’s comments always makes the citizen (if female) less uncomfortable.

Way Forward

  • A fixed percentage of women judges in the higher judiciary must be maintained and promoted in order for India’s judicial system to evolve into one that is gender-neutral.
  • By raising awareness and emphasizing inclusivity, it is necessary to bring about institutional, social, and behavioral change among India’s population.
  • The legal profession ought to be a symbol of gender equality because it is a gatekeeper of equality and a profession dedicated to upholding rights.
  • A court may be more open to considering itself in a new light and more likely to undergo further modernization and reform if its long-standing demographics are altered.

Read Also: Important Topics for UPPCS-J Interview 2023

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