Women in Judiciary

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    • The third time in the history of the Supreme Court that a bench comprising only women judges was hearing cases.

    More about the news

    • All-woman bench of Apex Court:
      • Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud has set up the bench comprising Justices Hima Kohli and Bela M Trivedi.
      • 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.

    Status of Women in Indian Judiciary

    • Data of representation:
      • 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.
      • Advocates:
        • 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.

    Challenges in Women’s participation

    • Stereotypes & lack of infrastructure:
      • As pointed out by the previous Chief Justice Ramana, the lack of infrastructure, gender stereotypes and social attitudes have plagued the entry and progress of women in the legal profession.
      • “Clients’ preference for male advocates, uncomfortable environment within courtrooms, lack of infrastructure, crowded courtrooms, lack of washrooms for women etc. — all these deter women from entering the profession.
        • The survey found out that out of 6,000 trial courts, nearly 22% have no toilets for women
    • Male dominating appointment structure:
      • Presently, many women candidates deserve to be appointed as a Judge, but the main problem lies with the male-dominant collegium structure of the Supreme Court. 
    • Hostile Atmosphere in Courtroom:
      • The hostile and sexist environment at the apex courts makes it extremely difficult for female litigators to grow as professionals. 
    • Domestic responsibilities:
      • Many women advocates had been offered judgeship in the past, but all have declined to hold the office, citing their domestic responsibilities.

    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.

    Suggestions & way ahead:

    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Enhancing transparency:
      • There is a requirement to enhance transparency in the judicial system. 
      • This will create more opportunities for women to prove their mettle and create a level playing field.

    Source: IE