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Yash Tiwari
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The number of women judges in the Superior Judiciary is not matching the contribution made by Indian women to society. Out of 767 judges, only 107 are women Judges: that is about 14.85 percent of total strength. This is not reflective of India’s population that constitutes 48 % female and 52 % male according to Census 2011. One of the reforms recommended for the judiciary is the recruitment of more women judges to the superior judiciary and the removal of reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. It is contended that all judges are recruited based on merit without any reservation and after rigorous training at one or more benches, they are appointed as permanent judges. Nevertheless, there has been tremendous progress in this direction in the lower judiciary at the district and subordinate levels. However, there is even less representation of women in the high courts and Supreme Court.

The need for women judges in the higher judiciary is felt acutely today because it is only in comparatively recent times that women’s access to professional education has been equalized. Stepping out of the conventional confines of the law, I tried to analyze whether preventing discrimination is a right granted to women and men under the Constitution of India, how it can be enforced, and what sort of measures are proposed by the government to improve the condition of women in this country. Once, women were kept away from the higher judiciary due to false notions of prudishness and supposedly inherent inadequacies. Men were portrayed by their opponents as too masculine to understand the nature of emotions and sentiments that were tolerable to women.

The Supreme Court of India has 348 judges out of a sanctioned strength of 1,058 (35%). Women are abysmally represented only six out of 34 judges (17%). The position is worse at the high court level. Data from the National Judicial Data Grid shows that of the 13,072 judges in high courts, 2,493 or around 19% were women. Any discussion on the issue of deprivation and marginalization of women in the higher judiciary should unquestionably begin with the fact, that despite stating equality, the first woman Chief Justice of India was not even appointed till 2007. Women in India constitute more than half of the population. Yet their representation in the higher judiciary is abysmally less. The appointment of a woman judge as CJI fills this breach, but with a historical perspective, it has to be considered as a token gesture that should not be allowed to become a permanent feature when there is no justifiable reason for such a situation.

The existing situation in the judiciary is coinciding with the legal system. The law is a representation of the will of the people, it reflects not only men but also the women of our society. Besides upholding its importance, it assumes great significance to find solutions to complicated problems. It seems a boon to have proper representation of women as well as men in the higher judiciary, as it gives legitimacy to a court’s decision making and also would weed out gender discrimination from the legal system. Therefore, it is necessary to make efforts to ensure at least a respectable representation of women in the judiciary and there must be deliberate and conscious effort to increase their number, by providing adequate opportunities for women to appear in the courts, including the Supreme Court. Notably, increasing the number of women judges will also have an impact on increasing public confidence in the judiciary.