NEW DELHI: Women have cracked glass ceilings in several fields in India but the judiciary largely remains an all boys’ club – only 27.8 per cent of its judges are female.
Translated into actual figures, that makes one woman judge out of 25 in the Supreme Court, 70 women judges out of 692 in high courts and 4,409 women judges out of 15,806 in subordinate courts. There are no women judges in at least nine high courts. The dismal picture of gender imbalance has been brought out in a survey published by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.
With Justice R Banumathi being the sole woman judge in the SC, only 4 per cent of its total current strength is female. No female judge has been appointed in the apex court since August 2014.
Likewise, women judges account for only 10 per cent of the total strength in high courts. There are only 62 female judges compared to 611 male ones in 24 high courts.
Bombay High Court has the highest number of women judges at 10, followed by Delhi and Punjab and Haryana High Courts, with nine women judges each. The nine HCs that do not have even a single woman judge are Chhattisgarh, Gauhati, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura.
As for the lower judiciary, only 27.6 per cent of its current strength is female. At least seven states—Bihar, Jharkhand, Gujarat, J&K, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh—have a lower representation of women in subordinate courts than the national average.
Bihar is an interesting case where women’s participation in the lower judiciary remains the lowest in the country at 11.52 per cent despite the government giving them the highest reservation of 35 per cent.
“The legal community is a closed club. Women often do better work but rarely get noticed. That’s because men have better access to judges, which gives them a greater chance of being in their good books,” said SC advocate Rekha Agarwal.