“Women should demand 50 percentage reservation in the judiciary not as charity, but as a matter of right,” said CJI N.V. Ramana. After so many years, Indian legal system is privileged to have a CJI who is voicing it out loud and clear.
The gender disparity in Indian judiciary is indeed noticeable.
The current situation of 4 sitting women judges being the highest in these 74years since freedom.
Furthermore, India is expecting it’s first ever female Chief Justice in the year 2027 makes it appealing to address the issue.
- Since 1950 till this time, out of 256 Supreme Court judges, there were only 11 women judges.
- As per the Supreme Court (Number of Judges) Amendment Act, 2019 the number of judges in SC shall be 34 (33+1) including the CJI.
- Presently in the year 2021, out of 34 Supreme Court Judges we have 4 women judges which contribute approximately only 11%.
- Out of 662.9 Million female population of India only 4 women could reach to the SC this year, which is disappointing yet a proud historic moment.
- If we look into the statistics in High Courts, the participation of women in judiciary is dismaying, it is approximately 11% only.
- Whereas, in lower courts it is almost 28% which is better than those of top courts.
How are judges appointed to the Supreme Court?
The appointment of Supreme Court judges are guided by the Section-124 of The Constitution of India.
As per Section 124(3), to become a judge in the SC of India, one must possess following criteria:-
- He must have 5years of experience as a judge in High Court, or
- He must have 10years of experience as an advocate in High Court or
- Through the opinion of the President, a distinguished jurists.
The provision also says that the appointment of judges to be done by the President in consultation with the Supreme Court collegium (Five senior judges including the CJI).
The Supreme Court collegium helps in recommending names of judges for elevation and transfer from High Court to Supreme Court and between High Courts.
The seniormost judge of the Supreme Court is appointed as the CJI provided he is fit to hold the office.
That is why India is expecting its first ever CJI as Hon’ble B.V. Nagarathna J. is the next in the seniority list.
Why do we need more women judges?
The number of women who could make it to the top become the voice for many voiceless awaiting justice.
- Gender Equality: Equality by all means u/s article 14. In the words of Ms Kalita, a member of an association of women advocates, to the BBC news “If we represent the half of the population, then why don’t we have half the seats in judiciary too?”
- Gender sensitivity: Some issues need a sensitive approach. For an example: recently in one hyped rape case hearing when a CJI asked the rape accused to marry the rape victim. Also there are instances where we have seen the judges asking to compromise in a rape case. Rape cases are the stigma to the victim. The lack of empathy in judgements will reduce and may be a prospective of a female judge in sexual assault cases would be more considerate.
- Women Empowerment: We, the other women get inspired seeing the growing women. Seeing the first women CJI will be glorifying and it shall be taken as the beginning point for a culture of misogyny to end.
The first and foremost the most unused clause that is 124(3)(c) which says that The President can appoint a distinguished jurist as a Supreme Court judge. Our President shall make use of this clause.
There are many eminent female advocates practicing in High Courts shall be given a chance to represent. It can be possible by accepting appointments directly from the bar.
A change in our legal system. Our Supreme Court collegium is often a collegium of senior male judges. The prevailing male dominating culture has to change and the system needs to look beyond it.
We need to develop a culture from now onwards to see the changes in our society in near future. It will lead us to achieve gender parity, in judiciary too.
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