NEW DELHI: India is not the only country with huge gender imbalance in its top court. Developed countries such as the UK and Ireland, and some international bodies are also grappling with the same trend.The Supreme Court of India, which has a working strength of 27 judges, has only one woman justice. Similarly, in the UK, only one woman in the 12-judge apex court. Only last month, Brenda Hale was named as the first female president of the UK Supreme Court. She will be sworn in coming October.India’s Supreme Court since its inception has seen only six women judges. The first was Justice Fathima Beevi, who was appointed in 1989 around six months after her retirement from the Kerala High Court.
Last month, the Ministry of Law and Justice had raised the issue of gender imbalance with Chief Justice J S Khehar and suggested to appoint more women in the higher judiciary. While reservation are provided for women in subordinate judiciary in some states, it eludes the higher echelons.According to the ministry, there are 4,704 women among 16,443 judicial officers in subordinate courts in the country. Though at the entry level in law schools and in the profession, the gender ratio is 50:50, it slips for women with each step upwards.Not just at the level of judges, women comprise only a handful of senior advocates.
The female under-representation in the High Courts of Delhi and Bombay is alarming—only 8 per cent and 6 per cent of women are senior counsels, respectively.Bar councils pose a grim picture of women representation. Of 247 members, only seven are women. No Chairperson or Vice Chairperson of Bar Council of India till date has ever been a woman. Of the 12 bar councils in the country, eight do not have a female member.