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Women lawyers move SC for more female judges in HCs
Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN | Apr 7, 2021, 06:22 IST
NEW DELHI: Nearly 100 years after women were allowed to become lawyers, an association of women advocates moved the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking fair representation of women among high court judges and cited their abysmally low presence in constitutional courts.
The SC Women Lawyers Association, through advocate Sneha Kalita, said in the last 71 years of the SC’s functioning, only eight of the 247 judges were women. At present, Justice Indira Banerjee is the lone woman judge in the SC. The first one was Fathima Beevi, appointed in 1987.
Seeking to intervene in a pending case in which the SC is taking stock of delay in completion of the process for appointment of HC judges, the association said as against the sanctioned strength of 1,080 HC judges, only 661 were in place, including 73 women, who constituted 11% of HC judges. While Madras HC has 13 women judges, the highest among the HCs, there are no women judges in HCs in the states of Manipur, Meghalaya, Bihar, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
The association said in the US, women state judges numbered 6,056 of the total 17,778 judges (34%) and the International Court of Justice had three women among its 15 judges. Quoting a TOI report of December 6, it said even attorney general KK Venugopal recommended appointment of more women judges and said the ideal position would be to have women occupy 50% of total judges’ posts. He had said that improving the representation of women in judiciary would go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence. The association said its chief Mahalakshmi Pavani had recently written a letter to CJI SA Bobde highlighting the need for adequate representation of women in constitutional courts as a measure towards gender justice and equal participation of women in the key task of justice dispensation.
The applicant said the SC collegium should tap the talent pool of women advocates practising in the SC and HCs and select them as judges of HCs. At present, a person is appointed as a judge of the HC of a state which she/he hails from. But if the association’s suggestion is accepted, then a woman lawyer practising in the SC could be selected for appointment as a judge of the high court.