NEW DELHI: Is judiciary, like most other institutions in the country, also a man’s preserve? If one looks at the number of women judges in higher judiciary, that seems to be the case. The Supreme Court has just one woman judge while the 24 high courts also have a poor representation of women. There are only 69 women judges in HCs making the total percentage of women judges in HCs a mere 10 percent. The low representation of women in the higher judiciary indicates gender discrimination in the institution in whose uprightness everyone in the country swears by.
The statistics were revealed by the government in the Parliament on Wednesday. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, minister of state for law and Justice PP Chaudhary disclosed the figures, saying there is no provision for any reservation in the appointment of judges. He, however, added that the government has requested the Chief Justices of the High Courts that to give due consideration to suitable candidates from amongst women. According to the latest government data, female judges are outnumbered by male judges in the Supreme Court as well as all 24 high courts of the country.
As on June 28 this year, there is only one woman judge among 27 in the apex court. Justice R Banumathi, who has elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court three years ago and has been practising law since 1981, is only the sixth woman to become an SC judge since independence. Of the total 665 judges in HCs across the country, there are only 69 women judges and eight HCs do not even have a single woman judge.
Bombay High Court has the best sex ratio with 11 of 74 judges being a woman. The Delhi High court has the second highest number of women judges as 10 of its 38 judges are women judicial officers. The states which have zero representation from women in the higher judiciary are Chhatisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Jharkhand, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Uttarakhand. The Allahabad High Court has 82 judges, the most of any court, but only six are women.
The poor representation of women in higher judiciary is all the more striking because four major HCs in the country are currently led by women judges. These women are Justice Manjula Chellur who is the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Justice Gita Mittal who is the Acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice Indira Banerjee who is the Chief Justice of Madras High Court and Justice Nishita Nirmal Mhatre who is the acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court.
Pertinently, a writ petition was also filed in the Supreme Court on the issue in 2015. Filed by the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA), the matter--for consideration of meritorious women for adequate representation in appointment as high court judges/ Supreme Court judges—is still pending in Supreme Court. Hearing the matter, Supreme Court chief justice JS Khehar had once observed, “The ratio of female judges to male judges must be in the same ratio.”