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‘Only 8 women SC judges in 70 years’: Plea seeks greater representation in higher judiciary

Application by women's lawyer body urges Supreme Court to ensure appointment of more meritorious women as judges, encourage their active participation in decision-making system.

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New Delhi: An association representing women lawyers has approached the Supreme Court, with a plea to increase women representation in higher judiciary, particularly in the 25 high courts as well as the apex court. 

This will not just promote and support the welfare of women at large, but will also protect the dignity of women and encourage their active participation in the decision-making system, reads the intervention application filed by the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association. 

The application has been filed in a pending matter, in which the apex court had sought the views of all high courts on the possibility of appointing ad-hoc judges in line with Article 224-A of the Constitution. Article 224-A deals with the appointment of judges. 

During the hearing on 26 March, a bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had asked the Centre to respond, within a reasonable time frame, to its collegium recommendations and told Attorney General K.K. Venugopal to make a statement regarding the status of the proposals cleared by the collegium, but awaiting a final notification at the government’s end. 

The matter is likely to come up for hearing on 8 April. 

Also read: Supreme Court suggests using ad-hoc judges to fill high court vacancies, tackle pending cases

‘Need adequate women representation’

Making its case before the apex court, the body of women lawyers emphasised on the need to have adequate representation of women in Indian judiciary for “societal progress and gender equality”.

The petition goes on to demonstrate the dismal representation of women in India’s higher judiciary. 

Women in India were granted the right to take up legal profession after the Legal Practitioners’ (Women) Act of 1923 was passed to abolish the bar on them from practicing, it notes. 

The petition adds that since Independence, there have been only eight women judges of a total 247 appointed in Supreme Court between 1950 and 2020. As of now, there is only one sitting woman judge in the Supreme Court, Justice Indira Banerjee, while Justice Hima Kohli is the only woman judge amongst the 25 chief justices who head high courts. 

According to the application, of the 1,080 sanctioned strength of judges, there are 661 posts that are occupied. Of this, only 73 are women judges, a mere 11.04 per cent. 

Furthermore, there is no single woman high court judge in five high courts — Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura and Uttarakhand — the application states.

“It is pertinent in the present constrained circumstances with inadequate gender representation in the higher judiciary, that after giving due weightage on merit, the number of women judges in the Supreme Court as well as the High Court should be increased so that they are adequately represented,” it adds.  

The association also drew support from Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, who had in apex court submissions in a molestation case, said that he had “rightfully pointed” that “improving the representation of women could also go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence”. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

Also read: CJI Bobde writes to Modi govt seeking info on gay lawyer’s elevation as judge within 4 weeks



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