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Q 62- Improving women's representation in the judiciary can lead to a more balanced and compassionate approach to justice, particularly in cases of sexual violence. Discuss. (250 words)
Paper & Topic: GS II à Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary—Ministries and Departments of the Government
- In India, women have an extremely low presence in the judiciary.
- Only roughly 30% of the subordinate judiciary is made up of them.
- Women make up 11.5 percent of High Court judges, and there are now four women Justices on the Supreme Court out of 33 total.
- That means only 12% of the population is represented, which is a huge under-representation.
- In India's judiciary, women have a special status:
- Only eleven women have served on the Supreme Court in its 71-year history, the first of whom was Justice Fathima Beevi, who was appointed to the bench after a 39-year hiatus from the date of the SC's founding.
- A female Chief Justice has never been appointed. Across the upper judiciary, this figure is consistently low.
- In the High Courts and the Supreme Court, there are just 80 women judges out of a total of 1,113 judges.
- Only four of the 80 female judges are on the Supreme Court, with the remaining 78 serving in various High Courts, accounting for only 7.2 percent of the total number of judges.
- There are no women judges serving in the High Courts of Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura, Telangana, and Uttarakhand.
- Justice Indira Bannerjee is expected to retire in September, bringing the total number of female judges to three.
- Obstacles to women entering the judiciary:
- The qualifying requirements for taking the entrance exams are a major obstacle to women being appointed as district judges.
- Lawyers must have seven years of continuous legal experience and be between the ages of 35 and 45.
- This is a disadvantage for women because many of them are married by this age and have to take time off work to care for their children.
- Furthermore, long and inflexible work hours in the legal profession, combined with family responsibilities, compel many women to leave the profession and fail to achieve the criteria of continuing practice.
- With the exception of Justice Indira Bannerjee, many outstanding lawyers are not elevated to Supreme Court Judge.
- Diversity and gender representation in the Supreme Court have a number of advantages like:
- The inclusion of female judges in spaces where they had previously been excluded has been a positive step toward judicial systems being seen as more transparent, inclusive, and representative.
- Women judges increase the credibility of courts just by being present, giving a strong message that they are open and accessible to anyone seeking justice.
- They have the potential to offer considerably more to justice than just improving its appearance: they can improve the quality of decision-making, and consequently the quality of justice.
- A gender perspective improves the fairness of the adjudication by illustrating how laws and judgements can be founded on gender stereotypes, or how they may have differing effects on women and men.
- While granted bail to a man accused of sexual assault, a Madhya Pradesh High Court judge added a condition that he visit the victim's home and tie a Rakhi around his wrist. Such irrational judgments can be avoided.
- Women judges apply their life experiences to their judicial decisions, experiences that tend to give them a more holistic and empathic perspective.
- Improving women's representation could contribute to a more balanced and compassionate approach to incidents of sexual violence.
- Given that the Supreme Court Collegium has practically sole authority over nomination, this proposal must come from the Supreme Court itself.
- At least 50 percent female representation in all leadership positions must be the aim.
- NV Ramana, India's Chief Justice, has also suggested that women have a 50 percent reservation in the judiciary because it is their right.