Title

× Close
gender inequality

Four women judges in the Kerala High Court is a record, but is this enough?

The representation of women in the higher judiciary remains low, with experts blaming it on gender bias and lack of incentives.

On October 5, Justice V Shircy was appointed an additional judge in the Kerala High Court, taking its count of sitting women judges to four, the highest in its history.

The three others are Justice PV Asha, Justice Anu Sivaraman and Justice Mary Joseph.

Shircy, who earlier served as a principal and sessions judge, and Joseph, who was a district judge, joined the High Court from the bench. Asha and Sivaraman were government pleaders and came from the bar.

The latest appointment has taken the percentage of women judges in the Kerala High Court to 10.5% but this is still lower than their percentage in other High Courts – 25.6% in Delhi, 15.2% in Punjab and Haryana, and 12.5% in Bombay.

“In 2014, I was the only woman judge in the Kerala High Court,” said Asha. “The next year, we got two more. And now with Shircy’s appointment, the representation of women has increased to four.”

However, Asha said it should not have taken such a long time to appoint more women to the higher judiciary.

She added, “There is no dearth of efficient women judges in Kerala. At present, women’s representation in the lower judiciary is 28.6%. So I am confident that the number of women judges will increase in future.”

While women judges struggle to make it to the higher judiciary, some have a more difficult time than others. Sivaraman said women from the bar faced more difficulties to become judges compared to their counterparts from the bench.

“Women judges in the lower courts can hope to become judges in the higher courts, but those from the bar have to stay in the demanding profession for long to make the cut,” she said.

Sivaraman said the legal profession should be made more attractive for women, and suggested that providing crèches and offering financial support to set up their own offices would help.

She added, “Many competent women have been overlooked for appointment as judges for different reasons. I think the number of women judges would increase if the system provided a level playing field in the selection process.”

Equal opportunity

Retired judge Fathima Beevi – who was the first woman to be appointed a judge in the Supreme Court – said she wanted to see more women in the higher judiciary. “It is good to know the Kerala High Court now has four sitting women judges, but I don’t think it is a big number,” she said. “The Supreme Court should appoint more women judges.”

Beevi agreed with Asha’s contention that there was no dearth of competent women judges in the state. “The selection panel should concentrate only on merit to pick the right candidates,” she said. “If we wish to see more women opt for the legal profession, then they should not face discrimination during the selection of judges.”

The Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association has raised the issue of women's representation with the apex court. It has said that the collegium – a body of senior Supreme Court judges in change of appointments to the higher judiciary – must shed its gender bias in recommending the names of advocates for appointment as judges of the apex court.

“There are just 62 women judges compared to 611 male judges in High Courts in the entire country,” said Prerna Kumari, general secretary of the lawyers’ group.

According to a media report that appeared late last year, nine of the 24 state High Courts did not have a single woman judge while three had only one woman judge. In the Supreme Court, it added, Justice R Banumathi was the sole woman among 29 judges.

Kumari hoped other High Courts in India would take a cue from Kerala and appoint more women judges. She said, “There should be greater representation of women judges in our legal system. And there should be a balance between bar and bench while selecting the judges.”

Pointing out that there was a spike in the number of women lawyers in the lower and higher judiciary, and that many of them were associating themselves with central judicial panels or working as amici curiae, she hoped the number of women judges would rise too.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BULLETIN BY 

Making transportation more sustainable even with fuel-based automobiles

These innovations can reduce the pollution caused by vehicles.

According to the WHO’s Ambient Air Pollution Database released in 2016, ten of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India, with Gwalior and Ahmedabad occupying the second and third positions. Pollution levels are usually expressed in the levels of particulate matter (PM) in the air. This refers to microscopic matter that is a mixture of smoke, metals, chemicals and dust suspended in the atmosphere that can affect human health. Particulate matter is easily inhaled, and can cause allergies and diseases such as asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Indian cities have some of the highest levels of PM10 (particles smaller than 10 micrometres in diameter) and PM2.5 particles (particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres in diameter). The finer the particulate matter, the deeper into your lungs it can penetrate causing more adverse effects. According to WHO, the safe limits for PM2.5 is 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Emissions resulting from transportation is regarded as one of the major contributors to pollution levels, especially particulate matter. A study conducted by the Centre for Ecological Sciences of the Indian Institute of Science estimated that the transport sector constitutes 32% of Delhi’s emissions. It makes up 43% of Chennai’s emissions, and around 17% of Mumbai’s emissions.

Controlling emissions is a major task for cities and auto companies. The Indian government, to this end, has set emission standards for automobiles called the Bharat Stage emission standard, which mirrors European standards. This emission standard was first instituted in 1991 and has been regularly updated to follow European developments with a time lag of about 5 years. Bharat Stage IV emission norms have been the standard in 2010 in 13 major cities. To tackle air pollution that has intensified since then, the Indian government announced that Bharat Stage V norms would be skipped completely, and Stage VI norms would be adopted directly in 2020.

But sustainability in transport requires not only finding techniques to reduce the emissions from public and private transport but also developing components that are environment friendly. Car and auto component manufacturers have begun optimising products to be gentler on the environment and require lesser resources to manufacture, operate and maintain.

There are two important aspects of reducing emissions. The first is designing vehicles to consume less fuel. The second is making the emissions cleaner by reducing the toxic elements.

In auto exteriors, the focus is on developing light-weight but strong composite materials to replace metal. A McKinsey study estimates that plastic and carbon fibre can reduce weight by about 20% and 50% respectively. A lighter body reduces the engine effort and results in better fuel economy. Additionally, fuel efficiency can be increased by reducing the need for air conditioning which puts additional load on the vehicle engine thereby increasing fuel consumption. Automotive coatings (paints) and sheets provide better insulation, keep the vehicle cool and reduce the use of air conditioning.

Most emissions are the result of inefficient engines. Perhaps the most significant innovations in making automobiles and mass transport systems more eco-friendly are being done in the engine. Innovations include products like fuel additives, which improve engine performance, resist corrosion and reduce fuel consumption while offering a great driving experience, and catalytic converters that reduce toxic emissions by converting them to less harmful output such as carbon dioxide, Nitrogen and water. Some of these catalytic converters are now capable of eliminating over 90 percent of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides.

All of these are significant measures to bring the negative impacts of vehicular pollution under control. With over 2 million vehicles being produced in India in 2015 alone and the moving to BS VI emission standards, constant innovation is imperative.

Beyond this, in commercial as well as passenger vehicles, companies are innovating with components and processes to enable higher resource efficiency. Long-lasting paint coatings, made of eco-friendly materials that need to be refreshed less often are being developed. Companies are also innovating with an integrated coating process that enables carmakers to cut out an entire step of coating without compromising the colour result or the properties of the coating, saving time, materials and energy. Efforts are being made to make the interiors more sustainable. Parts like the instrument panel, dashboard, door side panels, seats, and locks can all be created with material like polyurethane plastic that is not only comfortable, durable and safe but also easily recyclable. Manufacturers are increasingly adopting polyurethane plastic like BASF’s Elastollan® for these very reasons.

From pioneering the development of catalytic converters in 1975 to innovating with integrated process technology for coatings, BASF has always been at the forefront of innovation when it comes to making transport solutions more sustainable. The company has already developed the technology to handle the move of emissions standards from BS IV to BS VI.

For the future, given the expected rise in the adoption of electric cars—an estimated 5~8 percent of car production is expected to be pure electric or plug-in electric vehicles by 2020—BASF is also developing materials that enable electric car batteries to last longer and achieve higher energy density, making electronic mobility more feasible. To learn more about how BASF is making transport more sustainable, see here.

Watch the video to see how automotive designers experimented with cutting edge materials from BASF to create an innovative concept car.

Play

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of BASF and not by the Scroll editorial team.

× Close