PERSPECTIVE| WOMEN IN JUDICIARY
19th May, 2023
WOMEN IN JUDICIARY
- Women’s representation in the judiciary has come a long way but remains far from being equal.
FACTS RELATED TO REPRESENATION OF WOMEN IN JUDICIARY GLOBALLY
- In recent decades, the number of women in the judiciary has significantly increased worldwide.
- In many countries around half of law students are women, and 2014 data shows that women in OECD countries make up more than 54% of professional judges.
- But women are still vastly underrepresented in top-ranking judicial positions including on High Court benches and other senior roles in the legal profession.
- Women only hold 33.6% of judgeships in Supreme Courts.
- This trend is mirrored in the proportion of presidential positions women occupy. On average, women hold 9% of presidencies in courts of lower courts, 28% in courts of appeal, and 18.6% in high courts.
- Regardless of government policies, leadership and independent monitoring of outcomes are essential components to ensure a more diverse judiciary.
Status in other countries:
Must Read Article on this Topic https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/women-in-judiciary.
STATUS OF WOMEN IN JUDICIARY IN INDIA
Constitutional position 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 reservation for any caste, class or person, including women.
- But from time to time, the Government of India and the Supreme Court itself have been insisting on giving weightage and consideration to deserving candidates among women also, while making recommendations for the appointment as judges.
- In spite of that, the representation of women in higher judiciary is poor.
Issues in entry of women in judiciary:
- A major barrier to women’s recruitment as district judges are the eligibility criteria to take the entrance exams.
- Lawyers need to have seven years of continuous legal practice and be in the age bracket of 35-45.
- This is a disadvantage for women as many are married by this age.
- Further, the long and inflexible work hours in law, combined with familial responsibilities, force many women to drop out of practice and they fail to meet the requirement of continuous practice.
Need to bridge the gap in judiciary:
- Inclusive Judiciary: It will make judiciary more inclusive and wider representative of the society. Women are more accessible thus will enhance the reach of judiciary.
- Increased Public trust: 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.
- Sensitivity towards marginalised section: It will bring ethics of care along with ethics of rationality thus ensuring wider social justice along with economic justice.
- Flip to Women empowerment: More women as judges would hail as role model to other females thus provide an overall lift to the women empowerment.
- Constitutional Provision: Article 15, 15(3), 16, 39(a) seeks to achieve the gender justice in society. By giving great participation to women in judiciary, a move towards gender justice can be achieved.
Significance of women representation in judiciary:
- Integration and visibility are important to help build the narrative which includes the gender perspective.
- Women in the judiciary bring with them the gender perspective.
- Bringing different perspectives and diverse reasoning on the bench creates greater public trust and confidence because it is more reflective of the composition of society.
- Increased judicial diversity enriches and strengthens the ability of judicial reasoning to encompass and respond to varied social contexts and experiences.
- Another aspect of building on the gender perspective for inclusivity and visibility is the use of a gender-neutral language.
- Diversity on the bench would definitely bring in alternative and inclusive perspectives to statutory interpretations.
The Road Ahead
- Creation of ALL India Services: It will provide a single platform for competition leading to higher participation of women. In the long term, higher participation at lower judiciary will only ensure the more judges in higher judiciary.
- Subsidised Coaching: Women should be encouraged to take being judges as career option. State can run subsidised coaching as it does for UPSC to enhance women participation.
- Consideration of women: While in the collegium meeting, judiciary must keep the interest of women in mind while selecting the judges.
- We must also try and incorporate a lesson from England in this context. It was only in 2003 that Britain got its first female judge in its highest court.
- More women lawyers: Judiciary must provide higher designation to more women lawyers. Currently, there are only 17 women senior counsel designates in the Supreme Court, as opposed to 403 men.
- Collection of Data: Supreme Court must direct collection of data to determine the number of women judges in the lower judiciary and tribunals and also to determine year-wise number of senior designates by all High Courts.
- India too can look at creating such a body, and strike the problem of low judicial representation of women at its root.
- While there has inarguably been an increase in the representation of women in India’s judicial system, the pace of such change has proved to be slower than what societal progress requires. Instead of calling for a reservation policy which is set up for failure, we must pay deeper attention to such underlying factors and root for bringing such systemic changes which are bound to succeed.