Context:

Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana read out the oath of allegiance to the Constitution to nine new judges of the Supreme Court, reducing the vacancies in the top court to just one.

Relevance:

GS-II: Polity and Constitution (Judiciary, Constitutional Provisions)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the new judges who have taken oath
  2. Representation of Women in the Judiciary
  3. Significance of representation of Women in the Judiciary
  4. Way Forwards

About the new judges who have taken oath

  • A collegium of Supreme Court recommended the names of these nine judges on August 17, 2021 for appointment as judges of the Apex court. President Ram Nath Kovind then signed the warrants of their appointment.
  • With the addition of 9 judges, total strength of the Supreme Court would increase to 33 out of the sanctioned strength of 34, including the CJI.
  • For the first time in the history of Supreme Court, nine judges have taken oath of office in one go.
  • Three out of these nine new judges namely, Justice Vikram Nath, Justice BV Nagarathna and Justice PS Narasimha, are in line to become the CJI.
  • The apex court has appointed very few women judges since its inception. In over 71 years, only eight women judges have been appointed till date. First women judge was M Fathima Beevi, appointed in 1989. Justice Indira Banerjee is the lone serving woman judge in the supreme court after her elevation on August 7, 2018.

Representation of Women in the Judiciary

  • According to the Supreme Court’s list of senior advocates, only 4 per cent are women (16 against 400 men).
  • While Maharashtra has the highest number of women lawyers, senior women advocates at the Bombay High Court account for only 3.8 per cent. When the number of designated senior women lawyers is disproportionately low, the chances of more women becoming judges also remain minimal.
  • The 2019 report from the law ministry’s justice department validates this, recording the number of women judges sitting across the country’s 24 high courts, excluding Telangana’s, as mere 73 (or 10.8 per cent) out of the total 670 judges.
  • Currently, no data is centrally maintained on the number of women in tribunals or lower courts.

Significance of representation of Women in the Judiciary

  • A gender diverse bench reflects a bias-free judiciary. Many empirical studies show that having even one woman on a three-judge panel has an effect on the entire panel’s decision-making in gender discrimination cases.
  • Having women judges encourage more women to approach the system of law to report violence and crimes happening to them on a daily basis.
  • The presence of women judges from diverse backgrounds will bring structural changes in the decision-making process. Studies prove that personal values, experiences and many other non-legal factors influence judicial decisions.
  • If women in the judiciary hail from similar backgrounds as those of men, holding mainstream ideas and beliefs, the gender diversity has little to no payoff. Besides, the more socially diverse the judicial benches are, the stronger the judiciary is. This will improve public trust in the judiciary and increase access to justice.

Way Forwards

  • There is a need of an effective affirmative action workplan to have an adequate number of prospective women candidates, with especial focus on the fact that they come from marginalised groups. In addition, the criterion for designation of senior counsels should also be focused upon.
  • A special diversity programme is required to adopt to encourage and motivate women lawyers, the number of female students taking up law may increase but there won’t be women judges to inspire them to sustain in the profession.
  • Collection of data should be initiated to determine the number of women judges in the lower judiciary and tribunals and also to determine year-wise number of senior designates by all High Courts.
  • Certain law schools have the subject either as a specialisation or as an elective. Equally, the All India Bar Examination does not contain even a single question or section relating to gender sensitisation. The Bar Council of India may take necessary steps in this regard.
  • Removing the minimum age for recruitment as district judge can help young female advocates from opting out of practice in favour of other services or corporate jobs. Governments should also rationalise salary and allowances of lower judiciary.

-Source: The Hindu

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