Women in the Judiciary

#GS2 #Judiciary #

Context

  • 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 carrier 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.
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