NEW DELHI: All eyes will now be on a collegium headed by the designated Chief Justice of India, N V Ramana, when he takes over from the present CJI S A Bobde on April 24, as to whether he will end the gender disparity visible in the top court along with the high courts and trial courts across the country.
After CJI Bobde recently made remarks that women lawyers are turning down judgeship citing family responsibilities, many women lawyers associations have come forward and said they are willing to take the responsibility if offered. Under these circumstances, the decision made by the new collegium is crucial to fix the gender imbalance in the judiciary.
Since Independence, the country never had a woman CJI and only eight women judges have reached the Supreme Court. At present, Justice Indira Banerjee is the lone women judge in the top court. Across 26 high courts, there are only 82 women judges out of 1,079 judges. Madras tops the list with 13, followed by Punjab and Haryana High Court that has 11 women judges.
Delhi and Bombay High Courts have eight women judges each, while there is one each in Gauhati, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Sikkim. Sources said the collegium is already considering the names of a few women judges. Name of senior Judge B V Nagarathna from the Karnataka High Court is doing the rounds and if she is elevated now, she will be in line to become the first woman CJI in 2027.
Similarly, Telangana HC Justice Hima Kohli’s name is also being discussed. If appointed now she would have a tenure till 2024 or else she will retire in September this year. Though there are no fixed rules for the appointment of a judge to the top court, seniority and regional representation are usually the major criteria.