Reservation for Women in the Judiciary

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    In News

    • Recently, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) backed 50% representation for women in the judiciary.

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    • The CJI called for “urgent correction” of the gender imbalance in the judiciary.
    • The CJI further added that it’s not a small issue. It’s an issue of thousands of years of suppression. It’s a matter of right.
    • Invoking Karl Marx’s “workers of the world” call, the CJI said: “Women of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.”

    Women’ Stats in Judiciary

    • Low Participation: Women constitute only-
      • about 30 percent of the lower judiciary, 
      • 11.5 percent of the High Courts, 
      • 12 percent of the Supreme Court.
    • Right now there are just 4 women Judges in the Supreme Court – Justices Indira Banerjee, Hima Kohli, B V Nagarathna and Bela M Trivedi. 
    • Of India’s 1.7 million advocates, only 15 percent are women.
    • Only 2 percent of the elected representatives in the State Bar Councils are women. 
    • There are no women members in the Bar Council of India.

    (Image Courtesy: TOI )

    Benefits of Women Reservation

    • Broader Perspective: Gender sensitization will provide a diverse perspective to judgments.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • It will benefit LGBTQ community as well, as women in general are more accepting towards different orientations of people. 
    • The High Courts (HCs) that are headed by women have higher representation of female judges than those headed by men. 

    Challenges

    • Gender stereotypes that force women to bear the responsibilities of the family.
    • The preference of clients for male advocates.
    • An uncomfortable environment within courts.
    • Vacancy filling takes place at very slow pace and collegium generally don’t prefer women judges
    • Biological discrimination takes place when making appointments in private firms as well as Government places.
    • Lack of Infrastructure and Washrooms: Out of 6,000 trial courts, nearly 22 per cent have no toilet for women. 
    • Recently many cases are rising which lack professionalism on the part of senior advocates towards junior female advocates.

    Global Scenario

    • India is not an isolated case when it comes to a huge gender imbalance in its top court. 
    • Many developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland and international bodies are also grappling with the same issue.

     

    (Image Courtesy: IE  )

    Suggestions

    • Infrastructure: The National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation will ensure inclusive design of Court complexes.
    • 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.
    • Legal Vacancies: Increase the number of seats in the judiciary so that participation rate and presence both can increase.
    • Atmosphere: Making  work environment safer and proper implementation of Vishakha Guidelines even at lower levels (small firms).

    Conclusion 

    • Simply inducting a woman CJI would not absolve the judiciary from the responsibility and accountability it holds. 
    • Reorientation and ground- level changes are required to convert the rosy picture into reality. 

    Source: IE