Chief Justice of India NV Ramana on Sunday called for 50% representation of women in the judiciary and supported the demand to increase gender diversity in legal education, Bar and Bench reported.
“Enough of suppression of thousands of years,” the chief justice said. “It is high time we have 50% representation of women in judiciary. It is your right. It is not a matter of charity.”
Addressing women judges and advocates of the Supreme Court at an event organised to felicitate him and the nine newly appointed top court judges, Ramana pointed out that women constitute only about 30% of the lower judiciary.
“In High Courts, women judges constitute 11.5%,” he added. “Here in the Supreme Court, we currently have four women justices out of the sitting 33. That makes it just 12%. Of the 1.7 million advocates, only 15% are women. Only 2% of the elected representatives in the State Bar Councils are women. No woman member in the Bar Council of India.”
The chief justice said these matters need “urgent correction” and exhorted women to “shout with anger and demand 50% reservation” for themselves in judiciary, Live Law reported.
He also paraphrased German philosopher Karl Marx and said, “Women of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.”
Ramana spoke about lack of infrastructure in courts, gender stereotypes and societal attitudes that have created hurdles for women to enter the legal profession. Citing a survey, he added that out of nearly 6,000 trial courts, 22% have no toilets for women.
“The National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation I have proposed will ensure inclusive design of court complexes,” the chief justice said. “We need to create a more welcoming environment.”
Justice BV Nagarathna, who was among three women sworn in as judges of the Supreme Court on September 1, praised Ramana’s comments, NDTV reported. She could become the first woman chief justice of India in 2027. She is likely to hold the post for over a month.
She said ensuring women’s participation in the judiciary will also promote gender equality in other areas. “Women’s visibility as judicial officers can pave the way for women’s greater representation, in others decisions, making positions, such as in legislative and executive branches of the government,” Nagarathna said.
She also called for a standing ovation for Ramana, who ensured the appointment of three women judges to the Supreme Court in one go. Nagarathna described the decision as a “monumental achievement”.