Context: The India Justice Report (IJR), 2022 has revealed that there are more women judges at the district court level than at the High Court level.
Decoding the News
- About 35% of the total number of judges at the district court are women while it is only 13% in the High Courts across the country.
- The representation of women judges in subordinate courts is steadily rising while in High Courts it has continued to remain low.
- State-wise distribution in sub-ordinate courts: The share of women judges across states is uneven. At 70%, Goa has the highest percentage of women judges at subordinate courts, followed by Meghalaya and Nagaland at 63% each.
- State-wise distribution in High courts: Sikkim High Court, which has a total strength of just three judges, has highest national average at 33.3% of women judges.
- However, High Court of states such as Bihar, Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Uttarakhand do not have any women judges.
- Women judges in Supreme Court: Till now, there have been only 11 women judges on the Supreme Court, and no women Chief Justices.
Reasons for Low Strength of Women in Judiciary
- Patriarchal mindset: A section of society still believes that women are not capable enough to handle critical positions such as judges. This acts as a glass ceiling for women.
- Familial responsibilities: Family responsibility is a crucial factor that affects the elevation of women judges from the subordinate judicial services to the higher courts.
- Nepotism and favoritism: The existing Collegium system is highly opaque and there are high chances of nepotism and favoritism while selecting judges for higher judiciary.
- Lack of child care facilities: Lower courts in India do not have proper facilities for childcare facilities, which discourage women judges.
- The loss of crucial experience during their motherhood affects their promotion as well as seniority.
- Smaller pool of lawyers: The number of women practicing law is very small in comparison to men. This reduces the pool from which women judges can be selected.
Need for Increased Representation for Women
- Different perspective: Presence of women in judiciary will bring a new perspective to justice delivery system, which currently is dominated by male perspective.
- Empathy on women issues: Male judges may be competent enough but they do not have nuanced understanding of the differing impact on women.
- Symbol of diversity: Presence of different sections of society in higher judiciary sends a strong signal of inclusivity, which has been bedrock of Indian society.
- Enhanced sensitivity: Women judges usually have higher sensitivity in comparison to their male counterparts. This is very important while handling issues related to children and women.
- Reservation in legal education: Women representation can be boosted by reserving seats for women in legal institutions. This will enable more women to pursue career in law.
- Reservation in higher judiciary: Certain positions can be reserved for women in higher judiciary, similar to the one accorded to SC/ST, OBCs and minorities.
- Social and behavioral changes: There is a need to bring about behavioral changes among India’s populace by sensitizing them about inclusivity.
- Attracting women talent: Majority of women law graduates enter corporate sector. There is a need for a policy to attract top women law graduates towards judicial service.