NEW DELHI: Judiciary is open to the idea of having more women as judges but reservation is not envisaged for this purpose in the higher judiciary, the government said today.
Responding to a question in the Rajya Sabha, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said while the government has a limited role in appointing members to the higher judiciary, but “we are not helpless” and the Centre will keep sensitising the judiciary in regard to appointing more women.
Prasad said there was no provision for reservation in the higher judiciary and hence it is not envisaged. However, the government keeps sensitising about the need for representation of minorities, SCs, STs and women.
The Minister said there was a need to make “more” gender representation in the higher judiciary and it was not fair to say that Supreme Court judges are against gender justice.
“I have been minister thrice ...and I have interacted with them (senior judges), they are quite open to the idea,” he said, adding that he would convey the concerns to senior judges on the issue.
He, however, said “there is a collegium system, where we have limited role. But as law minister, I continue to sensitise (about gender justice) in the appointment process.”
Prasad was responding to a question raised by Congress member K Rahman Khan, who also sought to know if Parliament and the government are helpless on this issue.
The Minister made it clear that the government “was not helpless” and he was aware of the supremacy and sovereignty of Parliament.
He informed the House that there were 4704 women judiciary officers out of 16,443 in the subordinate courts in the country. Of these, 1,473 were appointed in the last three years, he added.
“About High Court, your point is well taken. There are 66 women judges in the entire High Courts in the country and only one Supreme Court judge. This point is very well taken,” he said.
The Minister also said there was a very good number of women lawyers in the higher judiciary.
He said the appointment of judges for higher judiciary was made under Articles 124 and 217 of the Constitution. These articles do not provide reservation for any caste or class of persons.
“Therefore, no caste or class-wise data of judges is maintained. The government has, however, requested the Chief Justices of the High Courts that while sending proposals of appointment of judges, due consideration be given to suitable candidates belonging to other backward classes, SCs, STs, minorities and from amongst women,” Prasad said.
The administrative control over the members of district and subordinate judiciary in the states vests with the concerned High Courts. Therefore, the central government does not maintain statistics relating to appointment of women officers in the states, he said.
While reservation for woman in the subordinate judiciary is provided in some states in consultation with the concerned High courts, there is no provision of reservation in the higher judiciary.
He said as law minister, it was his duty to express the concerns of the Parliament to the judiciary.
The Minister also said there are 4846 vacancies in the subordinate judiciary and urged that the judiciary should take it up on a priority basis.
Responding to another question about appointing women judges especially in Mahila courts, the minister said while the suggestion was important, it has to be kept in mind that some of the most sterling judgements about women’s rights had come from male judges.
The fairness of the justice system should be kept intact, he said.