Women account for 7 percent of judges in 25 high courts: Government tells Lok Sabha

While six high courts don’t have any woman judge, there are only 76 lady judges against the sanctioned strength of 1079 judges in 25 high courts across the country

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Ashutosh Sharma

Women barely constitute 7 percent of the total sanctioned strength of judges in all the 25 high courts across the country, the government informed Lok Sabha on Wednesday, February 6.

Replying to a question put up by three Members of Parliament, George Baker, Anil Shirole and Parbhubhai Nagarbhai Vasava, Minister of State for Law and Justice PP Chaudhary said that there are only 76 women judges against the current sanctioned strength of 1079 judges.

The minister in a written reply told the House that at least six high courts including High Court of Himachal Pradesh, High Court of Manipur, High Court of Meghalaya, High Court of Telangana, High Court of Tripura and High Court of Uttarakhand, had no women judges as on January 31, 2019.

Reacting to the ministry’s reply, senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General, Indira Jaising said on Twitter: “Shocking neglect of gender diversity in courts, this seven decades after independence.”

Courtesy: <b>Ministry Of Law And Justice</b>
Courtesy: Ministry Of Law And Justice

Maintaining that the appointment of Judges of the High Court is made under Article 217 and 224 of the Constitution of India, the government in its reply stated that “These Articles do not provide for reservation for any caste or class of person including women.”

On the concerns about steps being taken by the government to give adequate representation to women in high courts, the reply further read that “the government has been requesting the Chief Justices of the high courts that while sending proposals for appointment of judges, due consideration be given to suitable candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities and women”.

The Ministry Of Law And Justice, however, parried the question regarding reasons behind inadequate representation of women in the high courts.

Pertinently, CJI Ranjan Gogoi had recently said that as many as 392 posts of high court judges were lying vacant in the country but the high courts were yet to make recommendations for 270 posts.

As of now, Governors and Chief Ministers are given six weeks to recommend proposal received from the Chief Justice of a High Court to appoint a candidate as a judge.

Unnecessary delay in recruitment of judges should be avoided at any cost, a parliamentary panel had recommended to the government early in January this year.

Ironically, the women are also grossly underrepresented in the Supreme Court. Currently, the top court has only three women judges, Justices R Banumathi, Justice Indu Malhotra, and Justice Indira Banerjee, against the sanctioned strength of 31 judges including the Chief Justice of India.

Remarkably, Justice Banerjee—who was appointed in August last year—became the eighth woman judge that the apex court has ever had.

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