President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday showered praise on the judiciary for “pursuing the cherished goal of gender justice”, reported PTI. The president was speaking at the International Judicial Conference 2020 on the topic of ‘Judiciary and the Changing World’.
Citing examples of recent judgements, he said the Supreme Court was always proactive and progressive. “From issuing guidelines on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace two decades ago to providing directives for granting equal status to women in the Army this month, the Supreme Court of India has led progressive social transformation,” he said.
On February 17, the Supreme Court ordered the Centre to grant permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Army, respecting the 2010 order of the Delhi High Court in this regard. The court ruled that permanent commission must be given irrespective of the tenure of the women officers.
The order castigated the government for submitting a note portraying women as physiologically unfit for answering the “call beyond duty” of the Army. It said that the Centre’s note perpetuated sex stereotypes. “Arguments by the Centre founded on physical strength of men and women and grounds of motherhood, family etc violates equality,” the judgement said. “To cast aspersions on ability of women and their role and achievements in Army is an insult not only to women but also to Indian Army.”
In 1997, India’s women celebrated a landmark moment when the Supreme Court formulated the Vishaka guidelines that made it mandatory for institutions across the country to put in place measures to prevent and redress sexual harassment in the workplace. The Vishakha guidelines laid the foundation for the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Kovind said the move to make judgements of the Supreme Court available in nine vernacular languages was “extraordinary”. “The Supreme Court of India also deserves admiration for carrying out many radical reforms that made justice more accessible to common people,” he added.
He said verdicts of the Supreme Court have strengthened the legal and constitutional framework. “The recent move towards introducing an alternative dispute resolution mechanism is expected to reduce the burden on the court to a considerable extent,” he said. “Dispute resolution through mediation and conciliation would help resolve the problem amicably in an effective manner instead of resorting to a lengthy litigation process.”