The Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association has petitioned India’s apex court, urging that credible women lawyers practising in the Supreme Court and the high courts be appointed as judges in the high judiciary. Moreover, the intervention plea also turns the spotlight on the dismal number of women judges in constitutional courts.
The petition, drafted by Advocate-on-record Sneha Kalita has raised concerns over the inadequate representation of women judges in HCs across the country. According to media reports, only eight women judges have been appointed in the SC, out of a total of 247 judges that were inducted between 1950 and 2020. Justice Indira Banerjee from West Bengal is currently the only sitting woman judge in the SC.
“The representation of women judges in HCs is dismal. Also, for the practising women lawyers from the bar, be it in the Supreme Court or otherwise, there must be some provision or a certain ratio to elevate them to the position of HC judges. Some of these women advocates work with the topmost lawyers of the country, and have the most diversified experience. I also believe when you speak of rape, sexual harassment or any other women-related issues, women are definitely more compassionate; I say this with experience,” shares Kalita in a telephonic conversation with MAKERS India.
Furthermore, against the sanctioned strength of 1,080 HC judges, only 661 were in place, out of which there are only 73 women judges, says Kalita.
“There are several meritorious senior women advocates, who aren’t being appointed directly. Why is that? There has to be some kind of parity in the higher judiciary. This is the case here, so you can’t even imagine the state in the lower judiciary,” adds Kalita.
There are no women judges in the HCs in Manipur, Tripura, Bihar, Meghalaya, and Uttarakhand, she reveals.
“In the US, there are 6,056 women state judges out of a total of 17,778 judges, while the International Court of Justice has three women out of the 15 appointed judges. Adequate representation of women judges in HCs will ensure a more empathetic and balanced view, especially when it comes to gender-based cases,” Kalita says.
Currently, the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges in the high courts and the SC has no provision regarding the poor representation of women in the higher judiciary.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)