- There's a high demand of women lawyers, especially in the corporate sector
- There's a 61% increase in women enrolments for law courses in last 4 years
- In 2016, R Banumati was the only woman judge in the Supreme Court
What is the current situation of women judges in India? According Lok Sabha data, no more than 10 per cent of judges in the higher courts are women.
The number of women enrolling in law courses has seen a rise of 61 per cent in the last four years with an increase in demand for women lawyers, especially in the corporate sector.
There was only one woman judge among 24 in the Supreme Court in December 2016. R Banumathi, who was elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court three years ago, has been practising law since 1981.
There are 69 women judges of the 652 judges across 24 high courts, according to the Lok Sabha data.
The Bombay High Court has the most women judges, 12 of 62, of any court, followed by the Delhi High Court with 11 of 39. Both these courts also have women chief justices.
Eight of 24 high courts in India do not have any women judge.
The Allahabad High Court has 85 judges, the most of any court, but only seven are women.
Meanwhile, the increase in enrolment of women in law courses with an increase from 2.3 million in 2011 to 3.8 million in 2015, according to data released by the government. In the same time period, for men this increase is only 38 per cent.
Moreover, the highest increase in the enrolment of women has been in Bachelor of Laws (LLB) courses with 88 per cent increase from 45,056 in 2011 to 84,880 in 2015. In the same time period, male enrolment in LLB courses has seen an increase of 49 per cent from 98,836 to 194,409. Not only this, there has been an increase in the demand for women lawyers, especially in the corporate sector, according to this newspaper article.
Since 1950, there have been only six women judges of 229 in the Supreme Court and higher courts in India, according to a December 2016 news report.
A writ petition has been filed has been in the Supreme Court on March 2015 by the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) for the consideration of Meritorious Women for Adequate Representation in appointment as high court judges/ Supreme Court judges.
The Supreme Court Judge Jutice JS Khehar suggested, “We would first like to know what the ratio of female advocates to male advocates is. That is very important. The ratio of female judges to male judges must be in the same ratio.”
To which the senior the senior advocate Mahalakshmi Pavani of the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association replied, “Please do not compare the number of women lawyers at bar and juxtapose it with the ratio of women and men judges. Women were allowed to practice in court only in 1922. Women face a lot of problems in practising in court. Despite that, they are coming out in large numbers to practise.”
A diverse judicial system is necessary if women are to get access to justice, according to an International Commission of Jurists statement.
The Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association further mentioned that “Higher judiciary should have adequate representation of women judges after giving due weightage to their merit. In the largest democracy where the female to male ratio is a concern, women still need to be protected from foeticide, assault, domestic violence, trafficking, right to property. Thus, larger representation of women will further advance the cause of justice”.