Women in the Judiciary

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Women in the Judiciary

  • Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana supported 50% representation for women in judiciary.
  • “It is your right. It is not a matter of charity... Enough of this thousands of years of suppression,” the CJI said.
  • The CJI also emphasised on a Karl Marx quote: “Women of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.”

Women in the Judiciary Statistics

  • Women constituted only about 30% of the subordinate judiciary.
  • Women judges constitute 11.5% in High Courts.
  • In the Supreme Court, there are 4 women Justices out of the sitting 33 (12%).
  • Among 1.7 million advocates, only 15% are women.
  • Only 2% of the elected representatives in the State Bar Councils are women
  • There is no woman member in the Bar Council of India.
  • It took almost 40 years for India to have its first woman judge, Justice Fathima Beevi
  • It was after 68 years that the Supreme Court got its first directly appointed woman judge, Justice Indu Malhotra.

Ordeal of Women Lawyers

  • Most women lawyers do not get well-paying clients.
  • Most litigants are also biased against women lawyers. They prefer male lawyers with whom they can socialise well.
  • Many women advocates spend 10-20 years in junior positions.
  • They are mostly sent to courts to get adjournments as judges sympathise with young and women juniors.
  • When there is a requirement of presenting strong arguments, offices send male juniors as judges take them more seriously.
  • Clients in criminal cases also priorities male lawyers. Hence, it is hard for first-generation women lawyers to get independent cases.
  • Most of them who intend to survive in the profession spend their entire careers as juniors in someone else’s office.

Why we need Women Judges?

  • A gender diversity is a huge step towards a bias-free judiciary.
  • Having just one woman on a three-judge panel will influence the entire panel’s decision-making in gender discrimination cases.
  • Having more number of women judges in courts will encourage more women to approach the judiciary to report gender-based violence and crimes.
  • Women judges from diverse backgrounds will bring value addition to judgements.
  • Personal values, experiences and many other non-legal factors influence judicial decisions.
  • Hence women's perspective is very much important.
  • A more socially diverse judicial benches will strengthen the judiciary. This will build public trust in the judiciary and increase access to justice.

Way Forward

  • An action plan should be adopted to include adequate number of prospective women candidates, with especial focus on the fact that they come from marginalised groups.
  • A special diversity program should be initiated to encourage and motivate women lawyers.
  • The number of female students choosing law as a career may increase but there won’t be women judges to inspire them to sustain in the profession.
  • Database should be established and analysed to know the number of women judges in the lower judiciary and tribunals and also to determine year-wise number of senior designates by all High Courts.
  • All law schools should have gender sensitisation included in the curriculum either as a specialisation or as an elective.
  • The All India Bar Examination does not have questions related to gender sensitisation.
  • The Bar Council of India should inculcate these topics.
  • The minimum age for recruitment as district judge should be removed.
  • This can prevent young female advocates from opting out of practice in favour of other services or corporate jobs.
  • Salary and allowances of lower judiciary should be rationalised