NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday said that time has come when a woman should be Chief Justice of India and stressed that there is no attitudinal change.
The top court said that it always has the interest of women in mind and its every collegium considers women for appointment as judges in higher judiciary.
Not a single woman judge has figured in the list of 48 Chief Justice of India including the CJI designate NV Ramana, since it came into existence on January 26, 1950.
The top court was hearing a plea of women lawyers' body seeking consideration of "meritorious" lot among them for appointment as judges in high courts.
A special bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant said, "Why higher judiciary. We think time has come when a woman should be Chief Justice of India".
Advocate Sneha Kalita, appearing for Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA), told the bench that the percentage of representation of women in higher judiciary is "abysmally low" at 11.04 per cent.
The bench told Kalita, "We try to ensure that there is adequate representation of women in appointments to higher judiciary. I must say that every collegium considers the name of women for appointment".
The CJI said, "Chief Justices of High Courts have told me that there is a problem that when women lawyers are asked for appointment as judges, they often deny it saying that they have domestic responsibility or they have to take care of the studies of their children".
The bench said, "We have the interest of women in mind. There is no attitudinal change in it. Hopefully, they (women) will be appointed".
Advocate Shobha Gupta, also appearing for lawyers' body, said that notice be issued in the intervention application. However, the bench said that it will not issue notice in the matter.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, who is also president of Supreme Court Bar Association said, "I am not saying lawyers are not considered for judgeship. They are indeed considered but the problem is that there is no system in place".
The bench said that lawyers are indeed considered for appointment based on various parameters for judgeship.
The intervention application also gave the chart of women judges presently posted in various high courts in the country and sought apex court's permission to be made a party in a pending matter related to filling up of vacancies in the higher judiciary.
"From the chart it is reflected that, from the 1,080 of sanctioned strength of judges (including both Permanent and Additional Judges) we have 661 number of judges out of which, only 73 number are women judges which accounts for a 11.04 of women judges," the plea said.
It said "since independence till date, there have been only eight (08) women judges appointed in the Supreme Court out of a total 247 judges appointed from 1950 till as on date (2020)".
The lawyers' body named all the eight judges, appointed so far in the apex court and said currently Justice Indira Banerjee is the only woman sitting judge in the Supreme Court.
It has sought a direction to "consider meritorious women lawyers practicing in Supreme Court and High Courts for appointment of judges in High Courts."