Following the appointment of two new judges in the Supreme Court of India last week, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court Indira Jaising tweeted about the lack of female representation at the top court. While Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud recently emphasised that “the future of the legal profession belongs to women,” the current reality says otherwise.
As Senior Advocate Indira Jaising pointed out in her tweet, out of the nine judges appointed to the Supreme Court this year, not one of them is a woman. This leaves us with the question of whether the fair and equal representation of women in the judiciary will continue to remain a far-fetched dream given the current scenario.
Equal Representation In Judiciary
According to data collected by Bar & Bench, the legal profession continues to be men’s domain at present. Out of the 3,149 senior advocates across the Supreme Court and all the High Courts, only 106 are women, which is a mere 3.4 per cent representation.
A closer look at the statistics from the Supreme Court and 25 high courts across the country reveals that the Supreme Court has only 19 female senior advocates to date out of its total strength of 488. The High Courts of Chennai, Mumbai, and Kolkata also have a very low representation of women—ten, eight, and four, respectively.
Sharing an exclusive quote with SheThePeople, Supreme Court Advocate Thulasi said, “Yes, representation is certainly a problem. According to a 2021 report by The Print, out of 627 High Court Judges, only 66 are women. In the disciplinary bodies, bar councils, and bar associations as well, representation is abysmal.”
She further explained that there were other problems too, such as widespread discrimination against women in various forms, gender bias in hiring, and gender stereotyping and harassment at the workplace. “These are also major challenges that deter women from continuing in the profession,” she added.
At present, out of the 34 judges in the Supreme Court, only three of them are women: Hima Kohli, B.V. Nagarathna, and Bela M. Trivedi. Given that they are all not very far from retirement, shouldn’t a fair number of female judges be appointed to the Supreme Court in the present collegium? Now that nine judges have been appointed this year, it’s a house full, as senior advocate Indira Jaising stated in her tweet. Given the scenario, the near future of equal representation of women in the judiciary seems bleak, and CJI DY Chandrachud’s vision seems far from reality.
Why Is Equal Representation in Judiciary Significant?
However, we need higher representation of women in the judiciary for various significant reasons. It’s always better to have women sitting at the top court, having the power to change the system in a patriarchal society like ours. The very presence of more women in the judiciary will aid in increasing women’s and minority communities’ belief in the system. More women in the judiciary mean the stereotypes are crumbling, and this will send a message across the nation that the narrative is changing. Women and minority communities will be encouraged to seek legal recourse without second thoughts when members of their community are in power.
Having more female representation at the country’s top court will help the law view various situations from a different perspective, more specifically from a woman’s lens. This will help pave the way for the judiciary to have a more nuanced understanding of how society works differently for men and women. The judiciary will develop a more empathetic and equitable approach, especially in sensitive cases involving women and other minority communities. Further, the recognition will motivate the future generation to take up the legal profession, thus breaking the stigma that law is a male-dominated profession.
Suggested Reading: “Zero Tolerance On Inappropriate Behaviour Towards Woman,” Chief Justice Chandrachud
Views expressed by the author are their own