Noting that the top court consists of two only women judges, out of the sanctioned strength of 34, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the Supreme Court that there is a need to improve the representation of women in the judiciary.
He said this would help develop a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence and other sensitive issues. Besides, there has never been a female Chief Justice of India.
Venugopal made these comments in response to a plea filed by advocate Aparna Bhat, questioning a bail condition imposed by the Madhya Pradesh High Court in a recent case, wherein an accused, in a case of molestation, was asked to get a Rakhi tied by the victim, as a condition for enlargement on bail.
Venugopal told the bench of Justices Justice AM Khanwilkar and S. Ravindra Bhat that greater representation of women must be ensured at all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.
He said that judges, who belong to 'old school' might be patriarchal in outlook, should be sensitised so that they pass orders without objectifying women in cases of sexual violence, The Indian Express reported. He also emphasised on the fact that currently, no course on gender is taught in law schools compulsorily.
Giving the account of the number of women judges, Venugopal mirrored that there were only 80 female judges out of the 1,113 judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts across India, which accounts for only 7.2 per cent of the total judges.
He pointed out that six High Courts, including Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura, Telangana, and Uttarakhand had no sitting woman judge. Besides, there is only one woman judge in six high of the country. The Punjab and Harayana High Court, on the other hand, has the maximum number of female judges (11 out of 85), followed by Madras High Court with nine out of 75 judges.
He also noted that no data is maintained on the number of women in lower courts or tribunals, also highlighting the fact that only 17 women senior counsel designates in the top court, compared to 403 men.
"A recent study found that women only hold 33.6 per cent of judgeships in Supreme Courts. This trend is mirrored in the proportion of presidential positions women occupy. On average, women hold 45.9 per cent of presidencies in courts of lower courts, 28 per cent in courts of appeal, and 18.6 per cent in high courts," Venugopal's statement as quoted by The News Minute.
Referring to the Madhya Pradesh HC order, Attorney General said that such orders made it clear that there is need for urgent intervention of the top court, to declare such remarks as unacceptable at first, as it has the potential to cause harm to the victim.
In addition, there is a need to reiterate that judicial orders should comply with judicial standards, the AG added.