We Have Only 2 Women Judges In Supreme Courts And 78 In High Courts Across India. The Representation Of Women In Law Needs To Improve
In almost every professional field, women have to struggle to demand equality and strive in their career. Call it sexism that feeds on patriarchy or male domination in most of the professions, women have to put up a fight to make a mark in their respective fields. The situation is exceptionally bad in areas that comes with certain kind of authoritarian power like politics, business and law, traditionally considered masculine roles, or so we have been lead to believe. And perhaps this is why we have barely any women in our courts. Even if they manage to make it in these male-dominated professions, women are often undervalued, unrecognised and unappreciated.
Talking about women’s participation in legal power, out of 30 sitting judges in the supreme court (including Chief Justice of India), only 2 are women, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee. The position of women judges in high court isn’t any better. Among 1113 sitting judges across various high courts in India, only 78 are women. This was recently informed by the Minister of Law And Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad in response to the question by Lok Sabha. “As on September 1, 2020, there are 2 women judges in the Supreme Court and 78 women judges in various High Courts,” he told the parliament on Wednesday.
It makes you reflect upon the minuscule representation of women in the courts of law. If the number as low as 80 women judges in the supreme court and high court disappoints you, get this, we are yet to have the first female Chief Justice of India. That’s right, since the 70 years of the Republic of India, we have had 47 CJIs till now, all male. Why no woman was ever appointed as the CJI? And, as it seems, it is not even happening any time soon since five male judges are already expected to succeed the current CJI until 2025. We definitely need more women in law and a better representation of women in higher positions in India. I mean, given the lack of access to education for girls, deep-rooted sexism, rise in cases of child brides and crimes against women, we could really use more women in power in the judiciary.
80 female judges out of 1,113 in Indian High Courts and Supreme Court: Law Minister responds in Lok Sabha on reservation for Women https://t.co/iJQprvL4LS
— Prof Ben Saul (@profbensaul) September 16, 2020
In case you didn’t know, until 1932, women weren’t even ‘allowed’ to practice law in India. It was the first woman lawyer Cornelia Sorabji who fought for her profession and the Legal Practitioners’ (Women) Act, XXIII of 1923 was passed. Years later, while 37 percent of lawyers in Indian are women, there is still an underrepresentation of women in senior positions. This is where reservation of women for the position of judges could be favourable, but unfortunately, the law has no such provision.
The parliament raised a query about implementing reservation criteria for women on the bench and the ministry responded, “Appointment of Judges of the High Court is made under Article 217 and 224 of the Constitution of India. These Articles do not provide for reservation for any caste or class of person including women.” It further added, “The Government has, however, been requesting the Chief Justices of the High Courts that while sending proposals for appointment of Judges, due consideration be given to suitable candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and Women.” But it is pretty evident how much the request is being paid heed to. It’s 2020 and we still have only 7.9 percent women judges as compared to male judges in our courts.
Only '7.2%' of sanctioned strength of #Judges across all #highcourt, #SupremeCourt are #women? 😳
While SC has 2 female judges, 6 HCs have 0 – #Manipur, #Meghalaya, #Patna, #Telangana, #Tripura, #Uttarakhand
— Maadhyam (@_maadhyam_) September 17, 2020
Also Read: This 77-Year-Old Woman Wants To Study Law And She Has Moved The Supreme Court To Challenge The Age Rule.
Women lawyers are as competent and learned as men then what’s stopping the judiciary to consider women for the higher positions? Shouldn’t we have a balanced gender ratio in the judiciary? Forget low representation, some states don’t have any women judges in the high courts at all. These are the high courts of Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Telangana, Tripura and Uttarakhand. Madras High Court has the highest number of women judges in India, which is 9 among 75 total judges. That’s barely satisfactory, but at least it is a better representation than most of the other high courts. And, these are the high courts and the apex court we are talking about. The proportion of women among lower court judges was not even considered.
Last year, when Indira Banerjee was appointed as the Supreme Court Judge, we had 3 women judges in the apex court for the first time in India. That was monumental but she retired in July this year after three decades of service, leaving the judiciary with two female justices once again. We certainly need women judges, not only in the Supreme Court and High courts but also the subordinate courts across India. Also, how long will it take for a woman to be finally considered for the position of the Chief Justice of India? We’d really like to know. Mr President, you listening?