5 Hard Hitting Statements On Gender Bias By Justice BV Nagarathna

In a riveting lecture, Justice BV Nagarathna highlighted the judiciary's vital role in empowering Indian women. Emphasising gender equality, she stressed societal support & the crucial role of both genders in fostering balanced marriages.

Oshi Saxena
New Update

During a recent lecture organised by the Justice Sunanda Bhandare Foundation, Justice BV Nagarathna, a distinguished Supreme Court judge, shed light on the pivotal role the judiciary plays in empowering Indian women. The discourse centred around broader societal dynamics and the need for collaboration between men and women to foster true empowerment.


Let's delve into the key insights shared by Justice Nagarathna, examining the intricate facets of gender equality, legal scrutiny, and the transformative role of the judiciary.

Pillars of Marriage: A Call For Equality

Justice Nagarathna emphasized the significance of perceiving men and women as equal pillars in the institution of marriage. The judge highlighted how a condescending attitude towards women within families is a root cause of cracks, often resulting in domestic violence and infidelity.

"Both men and women must realise that they are pillars of the institution of marriage. Different pillars serve different, but equally important, purposes. A condescending attitude towards women in the family is the cause of the cracks, and domestic violence and infidelity are the outcomes of the emerging cracks. Men should remove the condescending attitude towards women," asserted Justice Nagarathna, highlighting the need for mutual respect and shared responsibilities within marital relationships.

Family As The Backbone Of Women's Success


Challenging the conventional notion that behind every successful man is a woman, Justice Nagarathna proposed a paradigm shift, stating that behind a successful woman should be a supportive family.

"Behind a successful woman should be a family. If it is the mother's responsibility to provide necessary psychological and emotional support for a child's learning and education in all realms, it is equally the father's responsibility in that regard.”

She elucidated the shared responsibilities of both parents in providing the necessary psychological and emotional support for a child's learning and education.

Three Core Tangents: Judiciary's Impact On Gender Justice

Justice Nagarathna outlined three core tangents in the judiciary's role in shaping gender justice in India:

  1. Constitutional Scrutiny: The judiciary subjects gender-biased laws and policies to constitutional scrutiny, ensuring alignment with constitutional principles.

  2. Amplifying Special Laws: By accentuating the constitutional intent, the judiciary amplifies special laws and policies enacted for women, becoming an affirmative action enabler.

  3. Creative Remedies: The judiciary crafts creative remedies to redress systemic injustice and exploitation of women, actively initiating societal roles and transformation.


Affirmative Action

Highlighting the biased treatment of women from birth to death, Justice Nagarathna stressed the importance of the judiciary acting as an affirmative action enabler.

“The biased treatment of women commences from the womb till the tomb, however the legislature has come up with the pre-conception and pre-natal diagnostic technique act called the PCPNDT Act but how far act is really implemented is really the question.”

She critically examined the implementation of the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (PCPNDT) Act, questioning its effectiveness in curbing gender-based discrimination.

Strengthening Constitutional Objectives

Justice Nagarathna advocated for the judiciary to strengthen the hands of other state organs in achieving constitutional objectives, particularly ensuring equality for women from birth. She illustrated this point with a case from Karnataka, where she struck down provisions limiting women's representation in local bodies, citing them as discriminatory.


“In Karnataka, there is a very salutary provision which says that not less than 50% of the representatives in the local bodies must be women. Very good, but what did they do? They added two provisos, the first proviso is when it comes to adyaksha of the zila panchayat, taluk panchayat etc, they said that two women simultaneously cannot hold the post of Adyaksha and Upadyaksha. I found that strange because if two men could, why not two women simultaneously...then there was another proviso, one woman upadkyasha or adyaksha cannot succeed another , I found that also strange, though those provisions were not challenged, the challenge was with regards to the reservation as such. I nevertheless struck down those provisos and said they were against Article 14 and where it says that when 50% should be women, you again give it by one hand and take it from the other.”

Women, Marriage, And The Power Of Financial Independence

Speaking on women and marriage, the judge emphasized the importance of sustaining the happiness, comfort, and well-being of women for the overall health of the family. She deconstructed gender norms in the domestic environment, highlighting the significance of financial independence and education in promoting gender equality.

Justice Nagarathna asserted that the most enduring economic protection within households is the financial independence of women. She addressed the challenges women face in career progression due to a lack of sharing household duties and responsibilities. The judge also emphasized that education and financial independence empower women, preventing abuse and discord within marriages. 

“There is no gainsaying the fact that the most enduring economic protection within households is the financial independence of women. I often say that women can get into the formal workforce but are often hindered from getting up in the profession just as in the legal profession, due to lack of sharing of household duties and responsibilities, bringing up of children and performance of domestic chores. It is when men fail to realise that education and financial independence for women make them empowered and they cannot be dominated upon, the cracks develop in marriage, leading to abuse, mudslinging and separation this widely affects their children who are victims of marital discord."

She encouraged a balance where education fosters tolerance and resilience within families, discouraging ego, vanity, or condescension.

In her words, "society should know how to treat empowered women," she encapsulates how societal support and collaboration between men and women can play in uplifting women and facilitating the realization of their aspirations. 

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