Of the total 16,600 judges in district and subordinate courts across the country, less than 4,500 are women, as per reports. Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, a legal think-tank, released data which showed that out of 16,660 judges in lower courts, only 4,487 were women, or 27%. The figure was 11% in high courts and 9% in the Supreme Court.

“Marked Bias”

Former Law Commission chairman Justice A P Shah, speaking at a conference on judicial diversity, said that there was a “marked bias” in selection between a man and woman of equal merit for judgeship. He said that almost all the time a man is selected. The conference was organised by Vidhi Centre.

Justice Shah retired as chief justice of Delhi HC. He mentioned how he once recommended a woman advocate for elevation to HC judgeship, but she was rejected for being “rude”. He added that similar behaviour from a man would not have mattered to the selection body.

“The discourse on judiciary today is dominated by questions of case pendency, backlog and delay. Representation of judiciary as an institution remains somewhere in background, surfacing when a ‘minority’ candidate’s name is suggested for appointment,” he said. Everyone agreed how diversity, as a policy issue, never received attention from the higher judiciary.

Long way to go

On August 3, Sindhu Sharma was announced as the first woman to be appointed as the judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. In a notification issued on August 3, Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, Indira Banerjee, was appointed as a Supreme Court judge. With this appointment, Banerjee became the eighth woman judge of the apex court. However, there’s still a lot to be done in achieving equality in positions as powerful as these.

In March, a parliamentary panel, showing concern over the minimal percentage of women judges in the country, sought reservation for women in law universities and subordinate judiciary.

Also: Madras HC Only One In India With 12 Women Judges

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