Women lawyers should raise their voices “with anger” for 50 per cent reservation in the judiciary, which they are entitled to, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana said Sunday as he called for “urgent correction” of the gender imbalance.
“…With anger you have to shout, demand that you need 50 per cent reservation. It’s not a small issue. It’s (an) issue of thousands of years of suppression. You are entitled. It’s a matter of right.
Nobody is going to give charity. It’s unfortunate, some things we realise very late. With the help of all of you, after some time, we may realise and reach this goal in the apex court as well as other courts,” the CJI said at a felicitation ceremony organised by the Lady Advocates of the Supreme Court of India.
Invoking Karl Marx’s “workers of the world” call, the CJI said: “Women of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains.”
CJI Ramana said women constitute only about 30 per cent of the lower judiciary, 11.5 per cent of the High Courts, and 12 per cent of the Supreme Court. Of India’s 1.7 million advocates, only 15 per cent are women, they make up only 2 per cent of the elected representatives in the State Bar Councils, and there are no women members in the Bar Council of India, he said.
“This needs urgent correction,” he added.
The CJI spoke about the difficulties women face while entering the legal profession, including gender stereotypes that force them to bear the responsibilities of the family, the preference of clients for male advocates and an uncomfortable environment within courts — including a lack of infrastructure and washrooms, and crowded courtrooms.
Elaborating on infrastructural issues, CJI Ramana said out of 6,000 trial courts, nearly 22 per cent have no toilet for women. “The National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation I have proposed will ensure inclusive design of Court complexes. We need to create a more welcoming environment,” he said.
The Chief Justice also favoured increasing gender diversity in legal education. “I strongly support the demand for a certain percentage of reservation for women in all law schools in the country,” he said.
“We hope more women will join the profession and achieve the goal of 50 per cent shortly.”
On the Supreme Court resuming physical functioning, CJI Ramana said he was hopeful of this happening after the Dussehra vacation. The top court is closed for the festival from October 11-16.
The court is being cautious because of medical advice, he said, hoping there would be no more waves of the pandemic.
He said as far as physical functioning is considered, judges have no problem as they sit in protected enclosures. They are, however, concerned about the well-being of the lawyers and their support staff.
Ever since the lockdown last year, the Supreme Court has been hearing cases virtually. Though it started a hybrid format recently, the response has been lukewarm.