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- Mains – GS 2 (Governance)
Context: Recently for the third time in the history of the Supreme Court that a bench comprising only women judges was hearing cases. The first time the Supreme Court had an all-woman bench was in 2013 & the second occasion came in 2018.
Women Judges in Supreme Court:
- The apex court had its first woman judge in 1989, when Justice M Fatima Beevi was appointed after her retirement as a judge of Kerala High Court.
- Since its inception, India has seen only 11 women judges in the Supreme Court and no women CJI for that matter.
- The apex court currently has only three women judges: Justices Kohli, B V Nagarathna, and Trivedi.
- Justice Nagarathna is set to go on to be the country’s first woman Chief Justice in 2027.
Present Status of Women in Indian Judiciary:
- High Courts:
- In High Courts, women judges constitute 11.5%.
- Out of a total of 37 women candidates recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium for appointment as high court judges, only 17 have been appointed so far, while the rest of the names are pending with the central government.
- For the high courts, Collegium has recommended 192 candidates so far.
- Out of these, 37, that is 19 percent, were women.
- Subordinate Courts:
- About 30 percent are women judicial officers in the subordinate courts.
- Of the 1.7 million advocates, only 15% are women.
- Bar Council:
- Only 2% of the elected representatives in the State Bar Councils are women.
- There is no woman member in the Bar Council of India.
Reasons for Low Women Representatives in Judiciary:
- Patriarchy in Society: The primary reason for underrepresentation of women in judiciary is deeply ingrained patriarchy in society.
- Women often have to face hostile atmospheres within courtrooms. Harassment, lack of respect from members of the bar and bench, the silencing of their opinions, are some of the other traumatic experiences often recounted by many women lawyers.
- Opaque Collegium System Functioning: More women tend to enter the lower judiciary at the entry level because of the method of recruitment through an entrance examination.
- However, the higher judiciary has a collegium system, which has tended to be opaquer and, therefore, more likely to reflect bias.
- No Women Reservation: Many states have a reservation policy for women in the lower judiciary, which is missing in the High Courts and Supreme Court.
- States such as Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Rajasthan have benefited from such reservation as they now have 40-50% women judicial officers.
- Familial Responsibilities: Factors of age and family responsibilities also affect the elevation of women judges from the subordinate judicial services to the higher courts.
- Lack of Judicial Infrastructure: The lack of Judicial Infrastructure is another barrier to women in the profession.
- Small courtrooms which are crowded and cramped, absence of restrooms, and childcare facilities are all barriers.
- Not Enough Women in Litigation: Since lawyers elevated from the bar to the bench form a significant proportion of judges in the high courts and Supreme Court, it is worth noting that the number of women advocates is still low, reducing the pool from which women judges can be selected.
Significance of Women’s participation in Judiciary:
- Need for diversification: Diversification brings positive institutional changes, and the judiciary needs to be more diverse.
- Balanced justice delivery system: The presence of women as judges and lawyers will substantially improve the justice delivery system.
- Balanced and empathetic approach: Improving the representation of women in the judiciary could go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases related to sexual violence.
- The issue of gender sensitization has been raised many times, especially in cases where male judges failed to show empathy for the female victims.
- Legitimacy: The judiciary will not be trusted if it is viewed as a bastion of elitism, exclusivity and privilege.
- Therefore, the presence of women is essential for the legitimacy of the judiciary.
Suggestive measures to be adopted to include more women judges in the Judiciary:
Suggestions by the previous Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana:
- 50% representation: Previous CJI also voiced his support for 50% representation for women in judiciary.
- Legal Education: He has highlighted the need to increase gender diversity in legal education.
- There should be a fixed number of seats, reserved for women candidates, in all colleges and universities providing law courses.
- states such as Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Odisha and Rajasthan have benefited from such reservation as they now have 40-50% women judicial officers.
- Availing basic facilities: He said the need for basic facilities, especially for women, need to be addressed immediately.
- Need of separate entity: He repeatedly pressed for the need to form a separate entity — National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation — to introduce inclusive designs for court complexes and create a more welcoming environment in them.
Apart from these, the following points to be noted to increase women representation in the Judiciary:
- There is a need to maintain and promote Gender Diversity in Higher Judiciary with a fixed percentage of its members as women judges that will lead to the evolution of a gender-neutral judicial system of India.
- There is a need to bring about institutional, social and behavioural change among India’s populace by systematising and giving emphasis on inclusivity.
- Changing the long-established demographics of a court can make the institution more amenable to consider itself in a new light, and potentially lead to further modernization and reform.
- More in corporate than in decision making: Women are outnumbering men in law school classrooms and are increasingly joining the corporate sector, but their underrepresentation in such decision-making institutions is deplorable.
Source: Indian Express
Previous Year Questions
Q.1) Consider the following statements:
- Pursuant to the report of H.N. Sanyal Committee, the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971 was passed.
- The Constitution of India empowers the Supreme Court and the High Courts to punish for contempt of themselves.
- The Constitution of India defines Civil Contempt and Criminal Contempt.
- In India, the Parliament is vested with the powers to make laws on Contempt of Court.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 and 2 only
- 1, 2 and 4 only
- 3 and 4 only
- 3 only
Q.2) Consider the following statements:
- The- motion to impeach a Judge of the Supreme Court of India cannot be rejected by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha as per the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.
- The Constitution of India defines and gives details of what Constitutes ‘incapacity and proved misbehaviour’ of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
- The details of the process of impeachment of the Judges of the Supreme Court of India are given in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.
- If the motion for the impeachment of a Judge is taken up for voting, the law requires the motion to be backed by each House of the Parliament and supported by a majority of total membership of that House and by not less than two-thirds of total members of that House present and voting.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (2019)
- 1 and 2
- 3 only
- 3 and 4 only
- 1, 3 and 4