Women in judiciary
● The recent appointment of nine new judges to the Supreme Court including three women judges has taken the tally of women judges to an all-time high of four women judges in the Supreme Court.
● There has never been a female Chief Justice of India. There have been only eight women, judges of a total of 247appointed in the Supreme Court between 1950 and 2020.
Improving the representation of women in the judiciary could go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach to the justice system. Comment.
Reasons for Inadequate representation of women in judiciary:
● The appointment of high court judges is made under Article 217 and those of the Supreme Court under Article 124 of the Constitution of India. These Articles do not provide any reservationfor any caste, class or person, including women.
● According to a report in 2019, about 15 per cent of courts in India do not have a women’s toilet. Another report showed that only about 40 per cent of 555 district courtsin India have functional women’s toiletswhile 100 districts do not have toilet facilities for women.
● India has been a male-dominated society and has not allowed women to play a role that they can play in different walks of life, including the judiciary.
● Further, the long and inflexible work hours in law, combined with familial responsibilities, force many women to drop out of practiceand they fail to meet the requirement of continuous practice.
Need to improve gender representation in Judiciary:
● The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had historically been excluded has been a positive step in the direction of judiciaries being perceived as being more transparent, inclusive, and representative of the people whose lives they affect.
● Women judges enhance the legitimacy of courts, sending a powerful signal that they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice.
● They also contribute significantly to the quality of decision-making, and thus to the quality of justice itself.
● Improvement of the representation of women could also go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence and domestic violence.
● The presence of women judges signals equality of opportunity for women in the legal profession and an appointments process that is fair, non-discriminatory and based on merit.
Measures to improve the gender representation:
● Greater representation in the Bar Councils will ultimately percolate to the representation in the Bench.
● Diversity Index can be adopted to improve the representation.
● Implementing the idea of All India Judicial Services with gender based reservation would also go a long way.
● Promoting law education among women would also inspire more women to take up the legal profession.
The need of the hour is gender representation should be considered while appointing a judge after a consideration of merit. Unless women are empowered, justice cannot be done to them. The possibility of appointing ad-hoc judges in line with Article 224-A of the Constitution should also be explored to fill the gap.