The National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) will end the long wait to have more women as judges in the higher judiciary, thereby also serving a crucial social purpose, the government told the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Blaming it on “lack of sensitisation”, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told a Constitution Bench headed by Justice J S Khehar that the new system of appointing judges would open a window of opportunity for women to be appointed as judges in the Supreme Court and high courts.
The Collegium system, he said, failed to ensure adequate representation to women on the bench.
“We currently have only one judge in the Supreme Court. We always have one or two women judges here. In the high courts also, you will see one or two judges. There is an obvious male dominance in higher judiciary. I ask why? It is not that they are not available or not competent. It is because of lack of sensitivity,” said Rohatgi.
Defending the composition of the six-member NJAC wherein one of the two eminent persons will be either a woman or from a socially backward class, Rohatgi said the government was committed to accord due representation to them.
“That is why the Parliament has passed a law making it a broad-based body, including the Chief Justice of India, two senior-most judges, Union Law Minister and two eminent persons who would devise an empirical formula for making such appointments,” he told the bench.
Rohatgi said factors like societal prejudices and bias are not taken into account to understand why a woman lawyer gets to argue less number of cases or why they are paid less than their male counterparts.
“The situation must change now. There is a social purpose behind promoting women, who also has aspirations but are often overlooked due to certain prejudices…,” he argued.
The bench then asked why the NJAC Act does not prescribe a certain number of women, SC/STs, OBCs and minorities in the selection, to which Rohatgi responded: “Let the NJAC start functioning and all this would be structured.”