Sridevi Reddy Gade
As we celebrate March 8 as International Women’s Day, this entire month sees many events and meetings to mark the occasion. Right from the Prime Minister to CMs and ministers and dignitaries at every level shower praises on women and tell us that they should move forward. This is commendable. Year after year, we hear the same speeches, but not much is changing n the ground, to give women their 50 per cent share in all speahers.
Here, I would like to take a look at the representation of women in Supreme Court and High Courts in our country in particular and in judiciary in general. Of the sanctioned strength of 36 judges in SC, we have only 3 women justices – Justices BV Nagarathna, Bela M Trivedi and Hima Kohli. And what? We need to wait till Sept 2027, when Justice Nagarathna becomes Chief Justice of India CJI). By then, Independent India turns 80.
We must thank former CJI Justice NV Ramana for taking initiative to increase the strength of women in higher judiciary. Of course, Government of India too has done its bits to quicken the appointments to SC and various High Courts. We also must thank present CJI Justice DY Chandrachud for continuing the momentum. Justice Chandrachud recently formed an all-women bench in SC, good move indeed.
Only 96 women among 1,106 HC judges
As still wonder when will we get women judges not less than half of the apex court’s strength, another reality pinches more – there are only 96 (as of now) women judges out of 1,106 the total in 25 High Courts in India. This amounts to less than 12 per cent of the total. The situation is not better in the lower judiciary too. According to official figures, of the around 3.3 lakh judges and judicial officers in the lower courts in India, we have only 6 per cent of women.
As per some studies, there are 17 lakh lawyers in the country, but only below 5 per cent of them are women. Of course, the figures point to a rosy picture as the situation is improving over the years. But this is not enough. As India just celebrated 76 years of Independence, the representation of women in judiciary is quite unsatisfactory. This is a shame as we claim to become a global major power (Vishwa Guru) and race to celebrate our centenary in 2047.
Social, economic factors
Of course, this gender disparity cannot be achieved overnight. There are several social and economic factors behind women lagging behind in judiciary. There is a discrimination against women taking up legal field as their career, more so for their elevation as judges. We all know, legal profession is male dominated and with no stable incomes. Can you count how many are top lawyers in the country? Not many.
It is the job of the collegium of SC to select more women judges to the top court and HCs and the Centre should appoint them without further delay. Before that, we want to see women judges in Supreme Court Collegium itself. That will help women pick up more women judges. Legal education too should be made available to women in more numbers and parents too should encourage their daughters to join this noble profession
Happy International Women’d Day!
(Sridevi Reddy Gade is a Hyderabad based lawyer and a columnist to Excel India)