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50 per cent reservation in the judiciary for women judges, right and not a charity: CJI Ramana

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Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Sunday advocated 50 per cent reservation in the judiciary for women judges, arguing it was a “right” and “not a charity”.Justice Ramana also urged reservation of seats for women at all law schools and colleges as a way of increasing the number of women legal professionals in the country.

Such changes would require legislative enactment, which requires government initiative and political will. Justice Ramana dropped a hint saying he was “forcing the executive to take certain decisions”.

The Chief Justice was speaking at a felicitation organised by the Supreme Court Women Bar Association for the nine new judges recently elevated to the apex court.

He said he would slightly modify Karl Marx’s rallying cry to say: “Women of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.”

Justice Ramana observed: “Granting 50 per cent reservation for women is not a small issue, because for thousands of years there has been suppression of women in the country. You are entitled to 50 per cent reservation as a matter of right and not as a charity.”

He added: “I don’t know whether I will be here or somewhere else, but when we achieve this goal I will be really happy Justice Ramana said that after touring several parts of the country and interacting with stakeholders, he had realised that women were grossly underrepresented in the judiciary

He said women made up less that 30 per cent of the judges in the trial courts, 11.5 per cent in the high courts, and 11 per cent in the Supreme Court — that too after the recent induction of three women judges.

The Supreme Court now has 4 women among its 33 judges (12 per cent).

Of the 1.7 million lawyers in the country, only 15 per cent are women, the Chief Justice said. Women account for an abysmal two per cent of the office-bearers at the various state Bar councils, the Chief Justice added.

Justice Ramana regretted the lack of toilet and other infrastructural facilities for women lawyers. He said he had obtained data that showed that of the country’s 60,000 court halls, 22 per cent lacked toilet facilities for women.

Justice Ramana said: “These are the ground realities. We have to tackle the issues immediately. I am forcing the executive to take certain decisions and correct it.”

The women lawyers at the event gave a standing ovation to Justice Ramana for “creating history” through the elevation of nine new judges to the Supreme Court, including three women, at one go. One of the new women judges, Justice V. Nagarathna, will become the first woman Chief Justice of India in 2027.

Mahalakshmi Pavani, president of the women lawyers’ association, urged the Chief Justice to ensure that deserving women lawyers from the Supreme Court were elevated to the various high courts, particular in states that lacked enough women judges.

She also underlined the need for facilities such as bar rooms, washrooms and enough seats for women lawyers in the various courts and their corridors.

Court reopening

Justice Ramana said the Supreme Court was keen on the resumption of physical court proceedings, as were the younger lawyers, but some senior lawyers were against it.

He said he would try to get the courts reopened after the Dussehra vacation next month.

He added that the Supreme Court wanted the courts reopened only with proper stands of procedure, particularly with a possible third wave of the pandemic looming

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