Mumbai: The Supreme Court and various high courts regularly hear petitions lamenting that a particular section of society is inadequately
represented in service or in education.
Ironically, one field in which women are grossly under-represented in India is the higher judiciary itself — of 617 high court judges in the country, only 45 are women. And currently, there isn’t a single woman judge in the Supreme Court.
The strongest contingent of women judges in India is in the Bombay High Court, which has seven of them on the bench (roughly a tenth of the total number of judges).
In contrast, six of the country’s 21 high courts — Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Uttarakhand — have no women judges at all.
‘‘The statistics don’t surprise me. Women face gender discrimination in all walks of society,’’ said Neelima Chandiramani, principal of K C Law College. ‘‘Mumbai, though, has always been better than other parts of the country for women in the legal profession. Here you see more women practising at the Bar than anywhere else. Thus it has a pool from which women are elevated to the high court.’’
The Supreme Court itself has seen only three women justices in the 59 years since it was set up. The last woman judge in the Supreme Court, Ruma Pal, retired in 2006.
A parliamentary committee report tabled in October 2008 said that women, among other weaker sections of society, were ‘‘inadequately represented’’ in high courts and the Supreme Court. However, the government also says its hands are tied by the Constitution on the issue.
Appointment of judges to the Supreme Court and high courts is made under Article 124 and 217 of the Constitution of India, respectively, which do not provide for reservation for any caste or class of persons.