President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday voiced his concern over the “unacceptably low” representation of women, OBCs, SC/STs in the higher judiciary and called for steps to improve the prevailing situation.
“There is unacceptably low representation of traditionally weaker sections such as OBCs, SCs and STs especially in the higher judiciary,” President Kovind said while speaking at the inaugural function of a two-day meet organised jointly by the Law Commission of India and NITI Aayog on the National Law Day.
Asking the country’s judiciary to ensure that it walks in pace with other institutions and to become ‘truly representative’ of people from diverse trajectories, President Kovind said, “Like our other public institutions, our judiciary too has to be judicious in being representative of the diversity of our country, and the depth and breadth of our society.
“Of the 17,000 judges in our subordinate courts, High Courts and the Supreme Court, only about 4,700 – roughly one in four – are women,” he said.
Pointing out that it was the higher judiciary’s duty to “groom” district and sessions judges and raise their skill so that more and more of them can be elevated to High Courts, President Kovind said “We need to take long-term measures to remedy this situation.” The President observed that it will enhance trust in lower courts and their judgments and serve to declog High Courts.
However, President Kovind clarified that the long-term solutions would be “without in any manner compromising on quality” of the judges and the judicial system.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Justice Dipak Misra, in an attempt to shield the judicial institutions from President’s remarks, explained that the “Protections of the fundamental rights of every citizen was a sacrosanct duty of the judiciary conferred by the Constitution”.
“These are only protection of fundamental rights. We don’t make policy. We interpret policy. That is our job,” the chief justice said while undermining concerns raised over judicial activism or judicial over-reach by P.P. Choudhary, Minister of State for Law and Justice.
Citing B.R. Ambedkar on maintaining “delicate balance” between three organs of the State, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan argued for a re-look at the collegium system of appointing judges to the higher judiciary.
The Lok Sabha speaker said that the collegium system that is working since two decades needs to be reviewed whether there was any shortcoming in its functioning or there was a need for transparency in its working.
(With inputs from IANS)