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Allow Women Reservation In Bar Councils :Women Lawyers Write To Law Minister Kiren Rijiju

Sharmeen Hakim
15 July 2021 4:23 PM GMT
Allow Women Reservation In Bar Councils :Women Lawyers Write To Law Minister Kiren Rijiju
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A group comprising 300 women lawyers from Mumbai has written to the newly appointed Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju seeking reservation for female advocates in the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils. In an email representation, the Interactive Session of Women Advocates has said that there isn't a single female member in the Bar Council of India at present. Even...

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A group comprising 300 women lawyers from Mumbai has written to the newly appointed Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju seeking reservation for female advocates in the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils.

In an email representation, the Interactive Session of Women Advocates has said that there isn't a single female member in the Bar Council of India at present. Even the State Bar Councils have negligible female representation, it states.

According to data from various State Bar Council websites, the representation points out that there are no female members in at least 10 State Bar Councils, while 7 State Bar Councils have just one female member, and only the State Bar Council of Bihar has two female members. The Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa has 20 members – all men.

The group has proposed an amendment to the Advocates Act, 1961 that governs the Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils.

"We request that an amendment be made to the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961 wherein reservation can be made for representation of woman advocates as members of the State Bar Council," it says.

It also proposes a proviso to section 3(2)(b) of the Act by which there should be at least one female member where less than 5000 advocates are enrolled with a State's Bar Council, and two female members for every 10,000 advocates. Accordingly, there should be three women members in a State Bar Council where the number of advocates enrolled exceeds 10,000.

As for the Bar Council of India, under section 4 (1) (c) of the Advocates Act, 1961, it consists of "one member elected by each State Bar Council from amongst its members".

The representation suggests adding a proviso to section 4 (1) (c) of the Advocates Act by which "at least three members of the Bar Council of India under sub clause (c) above shall be women to be elected by the State Bar Councils on a rotational basis."

Citing the preamble of the Constitution of India in which principles of gender equality have been enshrined, the group says that the legal profession continues to remain "male dominated" and issues relating to women advocates are "seldom considered."

It adds that women are unable to contribute to the functions of the Bar Councils due to lack of representation.

"While the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils have various functions such as promotion and supporting law reform, conducting seminars and organising talks on legal topics by eminent jurists and publishing journals and papers of legal interest, in absence of women advocates not being members of the Bar Council of India and the State Bar Councils, women advocates continue to be deprived of opportunities to contribute to the legal profession in a meaningful way."

Quoting sections 7 (1) (d) and 6(1)(d) of the Advocates Act, by which the Bar Council of India and State Bar Councils are entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the rights and interests of the advocates, the representation states.

"... It is necessary to have an in-depth understanding of the issues faced by the advocates including women advocates who face certain issues distinct from their male colleagues."

"In the absence of any woman representation in the Bar Council of India and a State Bar Council, there is a severe impediment in addressing concerns pertaining to women advocates; thereby there being no avenue for woman advocates to raise issues with regard to their welfare," it adds.

The representation cites Supreme Court judgment in Aparna Bhat and others vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and another  where the court issued directions on gender sensitisation of the bar and the bench.

"The Bar Council of India ought to take up the issue of gender sensitisation not only in the law courses but also at the bar by itself and through the State Bar Councils," the representation states.

It adds that women advocates are consistently "denied a place in the decision making high table."

"The representation of women advocates in the higher judiciary, senior designation and amongst arguing counsels is still negligible and shows that claims of gender equality in the legal profession are far from the truth despite the increasing number of women law graduates."

It further states that women constitute only around 10% of the higher judiciary in the country.

Citing the example of the Bombay High Court, the group says that out of 63 judges only 8 are women.

The document was sent through Senior Advocate Rajani Iyer along with Advocates Anita Shekhar-Castellino, Sharmila Deshmukh and Sonal.

 


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