[Answered] Discuss the desirability of greater representation to women in the higher judiciary to ensure diversity, equity and inclusiveness

Recently, CJI has called for 50% representation of women in the judiciary. He has also supported the demand to increase gender diversity in legal education 

Status of representation of Women in Higher Judiciary 

  1. There has never been a women Chief Justice of India.  
  2. SC was established in 1950. First female SC judge was appointed in 1989. 
  3. Of the 256 Supreme Court judges appointed in the past 71 years, only 11 (or 4.2%) have been women. The representation of women is more in lower judiciary due to recruitment through an open entrance examination. However, the higher judiciary has opaque collegium system, which more likely reflect bias against women 
  4. Only out of 25 High Courts in the country has a woman Chief Justice (CJ Hima Kohli at Telangana High Court). Only 73 out of 661 High Court judges, which is roughly 11.04% are women. In five High Courts, namely, Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura and Uttarakhand, there is not even a single woman judge.  

Desirability of greater representation to women in the higher judiciary 

  1. It will ensure diversity of perspectives is fairly considered. For example – more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence. It will instill greater public trust in the judiciary. 
  2. Improvements in women’s representation in the judiciary remain intrinsic to constitutional ideals of gender equality and social justice. 
  3. Women’s greater participation in higher judiciary will provide impetus to fighting gender stereotypes and can pave the way for women’s greater representation, in others decisions, making positions, such as in legislative and executive branches of the government. 
  4. The entry of women judges into spaces from which they had historically been excluded is seen as a positive step in the direction of judiciaries being perceived as being more transparent, inclusive, and representative of the people whose lives they affect. By their mere presence, women judges enhance the legitimacy of courts, sending a powerful signal that they are open and accessible to those who seek recourse to justice. 

Suggestions to increase women’s participation in the higher judiciary 

  1. lack of infrastructure in courts, gender stereotypes and societal attitudes that have created hurdles for women to enter the legal profession. For example – a survey noted that out of nearly 6,000 trial courts, 22% have no toilets for women. This needs to change. 
  2. Making the process of Judicial appointment more transparent, inclusive and involve representation from government and opposition rather than the current scenario of ‘judges appointing judges’ (Collegium system). 
  3. Adopt better practices from countries like Britain where the government created an Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity to investigate the barriers to women and in the judiciary and propose suitable remedies and recommendations.  
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