Gentle, Yes; Fragile, No: Why Such Few Female Judges In The Supreme Court? #CloseTheGap

Posted on March 9, 2013 in CLOSE THE GAP

By Lata Jha:

Yes, they are all about warmth and heart. But that doesn’t stop them from taking tough decisions. If life were to be measured in terms of the rationale and sensibility people applied to both, minor everyday occurrences and issues that matter in the long run, women as a whole would rank very high. And I’m sure all of us would agree, considering we’ve grown up watching our mothers shape our lives. Not that I’m saying both require the same skills, but I think law, like life, calls for a lot of reasoning, the ability to tell black from white, and still leave space for the grey areas. Analysis, in a nutshell. Which, I’m sure most well-read, well-educated people are capable of. And even if we cease to talk in terms of gender, I’m sure experience and age make for fairly sound reasoning powers. Which is why the fact that the percentage of female judges in the Supreme Court of India has been so abysmally low is saddening.

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For many years now, female lawyers, activists and other conscientious citizens have reiterated the need for better representation of women in bar councils and courts. While some state governments have taken steps to increase the number of women in the lower judiciary, the number of women judges in the high courts and supreme courts are small. “In the Madras High Court where there are a total of 60 judges there are only 7 women among them. In the Supreme Court, there are only two women judges.” Fair and symmetrical representation for women in the higher judiciary is urgently needed.

I do not understand if this is, thanks to the chauvinistic perception that females cannot deal with gruesome crimes like rape and murder or that they lack basic analytical powers. Because we all know they make for some of the most sought after lawyers around us. Women also prove to be great decision makers at home. We’ve seen our mothers’ battle expenses, childish demands, annoying domestic help while balancing all of it with work and other commitments. Like law, this also calls for patience and common sense; that every Indian woman learns to develop in abundance.

“Justice Fathima Beevi was the first woman judge of the Supreme Court of India whose tenure lasted from 6th of October 1989 to 29th of April , 1992. The second woman judge was Justice Sujata V Manohar, from November 8, 1994 to August 27, 1999. The third was Justice Ruma Pal who became a Supreme Court judge in 2000. However, no female judge has yet been appointed as Chief Justice of India. Currently, the Delhi High Court has the highest representation of women in the judiciary, with 8 women judges, while the Bombay High Court comes a close second with 7 women judges.” (Source)

A couple of years ago, the Supreme Court got a woman judge, Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra, former Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court. This was after a gap of four years.

The long and commendable strides that women have taken in various walks of life stand as glaring evidence that they deserve better appreciation and more respect in our courts as well. Gentleness does not mean incompetence. It just means more strength and resilience. If only we learnt to go beyond the exterior.

Lata Jha

Campaigns Coordinator at Youth Ki Awaaz. A second year student of Journalism at Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Grappling with college assignments, surviving the crazy Delhi traffic and scurrying away to catch any film that might release in the weekend, obscure as it may be, learning to live and cope without the familiarity and comfort of her home town, Patna.

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