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Women in Judiciary

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.
Reasons for Low Strength of Women in Judiciary
Reasons for Low Strength of Women in Judiciary

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.

Way Forward

  • 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.

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