List of Contents
Synopsis: While the bench is making slow yet definitive progress with regard to women’s representation, the Bar needs to do much more.
Chief Justice of India raised his concern over women’s count in the judiciary. He observed that at least 50% of women should be there at all levels of the judiciary.
Justice D Y Chandrachud, in his 2012 speech, noted that, as of 2012, only 5 out of the 294 senior advocates in the SC were women, which counts to only 2%. However, the status of women is much better in corporate offices and law firms.
What are the reasons behind the low count of women in litigation?
Pay scale: In a study conducted by Sonal Makhija and Swagata Raha, it was found that clients choose female lawyers so that they can pay lesser amounts in fees. Independent women legal practitioners are forced into accepting a much lower remuneration, thereby making it a difficult profession to sustain in.
Flexibility: Litigation offers greater flexibility as one can decide a number of working hours and there is also an option of choosing fewer clients. This flexibility further pushes women out of the litigation space by trivialising them. So, they are rarely seen in the courtrooms and so fewer women in the litigation race.
No Reservation: There is a reservation for women in other sectors like colleges, public offices. But, there is no such requirement for the positions of government pleader or a public prosecutor.
Lack of facilities: Court complexes are often lacking in various services like lack of creches, usable restrooms, non-recognition of maternity leaves etc.
Limited areas: Most of the women are restricted to a particular area, like practicing family law or women’s rights law. There is a common perception that women are better mediators because of their emotional aspect and cannot understand clients from a financial and economic angle.
Less publicity: There is less coverage of women who score big in court battles. Eg Shally Bhasin, Ruby Ahuja and Misha, score big in the protracted court battle between Essar Steel India Ltd and ArcelorMittal. But, their stories are rarely publicized.
|Read more: Issue of Gender Gap in Judiciary – Explained, Pointwise|
What should be done to improve the women’s count in litigation?
Proper surveys should be done to improve the representation of women across the bench.
Media houses should take initiative to properly feature, give coverage and acknowledge women in the litigation process.
The court should be equipped with basic facilities and the working conditions of women should be improved.
Source: This post is based on the article “How woman lawyers are kept out of litigation” published in Indian Express on 20th October 2021.