CJI Ramana Calls for 50 Percent Reservations in Judiciary

NEW DELHI: The Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice NV Ramana, on Sunday, has called for equal representation in judiciary. Speaking in the gathering organized by the women lawyers, he said “A representation of 50 percent women in the judiciary is not a matter of charity but of right, adding that he is “forcing the executive for applying necessary correctives.”

“Enough of suppression of thousands of years. It is high time we have 50% representation of women in judiciary. It is your right. Such reservation in subordinate courts depends on the policy of the state government and the concerned high court.

Justice Ramana’s statement came weeks after the collegium headed by him paved the way for a woman judge to head the apex court in 2027. Higher judiciary in the country, which includes the Supreme Court and the high courts, currently has no policy of reservations for women.

Out of the sanctioned strength of 34, the Supreme Court currently has four women judges — justices Indira Banerjee, Hima Kohli, BV Nagarathna and Bela M Trivedi — which is the highest ever in the top court’s history. Other than justice Banerjee, three judges were appointed on August 31, taking the total number of women judges appointed in the top court to 11.

Women constitute only about 30% of the lower judiciary, justice Ramana pointed out. “In high courts, women judges constitute 11.5%. Here in the Supreme Court, we currently have 4 women justices out of the sitting 33.

That makes it just 12%. Of the 1.7 million advocates, only 15% are women. Only 2% of the elected representatives in the state bar councils are women. (There is) no woman member in the Bar Council of India,” the chief justice said.

Women face various obstacles to enter the profession and gender stereotypes force them to bear the brunt of family burdens, he said.

Justice Ramana stressed on inclusion of women judges and lawyers will substantially improve the quality of justice delivery and that he will wholeheartedly support initiatives that will further the cause of eliminating gender disparity in the profession.

Out of 677 sitting judges in the Supreme Court and the high courts, only 81 are women, law ministry data show, which translates into only 12 percent representation.

Among the 25 high courts, only the Madras high court has women judges in the double digits. Out of the working strength of 58 judges, the Madras high court has 13 women, which is more than 22% representation.

At least five high courts — Manipur, Meghalaya, Bihar, Tripura and Uttarakhand — do not have a single woman judge, while seven other high courts have just one woman judge each. The sanctioned strength of judges across 25 high courts in India is 1,098. Of these, 465 posts (more than 42% of the total strength) were vacant as of September.