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Sunday, May 09, 2021

SA Bobde: ‘Time has come for a woman Chief Justice of India’

Not a single woman judge has figured in the list of 48 Chief Justice of India including the CJI designate NV Ramana, since it came into existence on January 26, 1950.

Written by Apurva Vishwanath | New Delhi |
Updated: April 16, 2021 4:31:46 am
Supreme CourtThe top court was hearing a plea of women lawyers’ body seeking consideration of "meritorious" lot among them for appointment as judges in high courts.

CHIEF JUSTICE of India S A Bobde said on Thursday that the collegium only needs to find capable candidates but does not need a change in attitude to ensure greater representation of women in the judiciary.

“Time has come for a woman Chief Justice of India,” he said while hearing a plea filed by Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association seeking the court’s intervention to consider more women for appointment as judges in high courts.

“Chief Justices of high courts have stated that many women advocates, when invited to become judges, declined the offer citing domestic responsibilities about children studying in Class 12 etc,” the CJI said. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who is also part of the bench, supported the views.

The bench, however, did not issue notice to the government on the plea, saying it did not “want to complicate things”.

However, the CJI’s observations prompted strong responses from women in the bar.

“There are many men who refuse judgeship because they have a successful practice and do not want to take a cut in their earnings. But has that stopped the collegium from seeking more men and making them judges?” asked Bombay-based advocate Veena Gowda.

“We are ready and more than happy to take this responsibility and serve the institution,” the Delhi High Court Women Lawyers’ Forum tweeted in response to the CJI’s observations.

Delhi-based advocate-on-record Anindita Pujari said while the reason may be true in some cases given structural inequalities, the collegium must take corrective measures to make the bench more inclusive. “Maybe as a transitional measure, the collegium must look at the age bracket for women subjectively. Marriage, maternity are breaks in careers of women lawyers and by the time they have a settled practice some high courts consider them too old for elevation,” she said.

“It is not a system where you can apply, so how do women tell the collegium which is often all-male that they are ready? Women genuinely do not have the same social circle that enables them to be noticed and considered so the onus is on collegium to cast a wider net and find more women,” another senior advocate practising in Delhi said.

Bangalore-based senior advocate Jayna Kothari said the court must be even more concerned if the reason for lack of women on the bench is women being unable to cope with domestic responsibilities. “If that is the reason for not having enough women judges, then the judiciary must ask them how they can be given more institutional support,” she said.

Currently, there are 81 female judges in the 25 High Courts across the country against 1,078 male judges. The Supreme Court has just one female judge against 28 male judges.

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