25 March 2023 5:03 PM GMT
While speaking about the low representation of women in the legal profession, Chief Justice of India Dr. DY Chandrachud pointed out that stereotypes against women made it difficult for them to get recruited. He pointed out that in Tamil Nadu alone, for every 50,000 male enrolments, there were only 5000 female enrolments. These statistics were similar all over the country. The CJI was speaking...
While speaking about the low representation of women in the legal profession, Chief Justice of India Dr. DY Chandrachud pointed out that stereotypes against women made it difficult for them to get recruited. He pointed out that in Tamil Nadu alone, for every 50,000 male enrolments, there were only 5000 female enrolments. These statistics were similar all over the country.
The CJI was speaking at the event to lay the foundation stone for additional court buildings in the District Court campus at Madurai and Inauguration of the District and Sessions Court and Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Mayiladuthurai.
According to Chief Justice Chandrachud, one of the reasons for such low representation was the pre-existing stereotypes which prevented law chambers from recruiting young women lawyers. The first reason was that chambers assumed women would not be able to put in long hours of work due to their familial responsibility.
We should understand that childbearing and child care is a choice and women should not be punished for taking up that responsibility. A young male lawyer might also choose to be involved in child & family care. But as society we force the responsibility on women and use it to deny them opportunity. If women want to balance family and career, it is our duty to provide institutional support.
One way of providing such institutional support was by setting up creche facilities inside the court complexes across the country. Citing the example of the Delhi High Court, the CJI urged all High Court in the country to follow suit and provide support to women trying to balance their careers and family.
Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the second stereotype that usually existed with respect to the employment of women was regarding allegations of sexual harassment. He pointed out how people assumed it was safer for male employers to not have women in their office.
Another stereotype is that it's safer for male employers to not have women in office. Such stereotyping denies opportunity and ridicules the innumerable stories of sexual harassment at workplace. We must strive to constantly and consciously unlearn these biases.
Citing examples of recent recruitments to the district judiciary, the CJI pointed out that the face was changing as almost 50% of the new recruits were women. He also emphasized that it was important to create equal opportunities to women so that they do not fall by the wayside because of undertaking multiple responsibilities.
Payment To Junior Lawyers
Another important issue that the CJI highlighted was with respect to payments made to junior lawyers. The CJI observed that poor entry-level pay disproportionately affects the members of the marginalized communities like the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe and also affects women.
Justice Chandrachud pointed out that by giving low pay, a barrier is created and the young graduates were forced to take up other employment unrelated to their field of study just to make ends meet.
He also urged the senior members of the bar to shed their paternalistic approach and ensure proper payments to the young associates. He added that the present generation was sharp, hardworking and hungry for work and had the potential to bring a fresh approach to the table.
The usual defense for such low pay is that the first few years of a young associate's career is a learning stage where the senior mentors them. I would request the senior members of the bar to shed this paternalistic approach. Today's youngsters are sharp, hardworking and hungry for work. Interact with them about their approach towards law. You will be spellbound by the fresh approach that young lawyers bring to the table
While discussing the issue of language barriers, Justice Chandrachud encouraged young lawyers to not be demotivated due to difficulty in communicating in English. He also requested the judges of the High Court to encourage young lawyers and not let language be an impediment to effective representation.
I am cognizant of the language barrier. English is not our first language. We think in our mother tongue. However I implore all young lawyers who are facing difficulty in communicating in English to not be demotivated. I would also request judges to encourage young lawyers and not let language be an impediment for representation.
Translating Judgements To Regional Languages
Justice Chandrachud also talked about the steps taken to translate judgments to official languages recognised by the Constitution. He underlined that all possible steps were taken to localise the justice delivery system and to bring it closer to the public.
These translations would not only bringing courts closer to the citizen but would also help lawyers, not conversant with English language to keep up with the developments in law.
He also said that these translated judgments were available in the free of cost to all which would help even such lawyers who were otherwise unable to pay the high subscription prices of law publishers.
To ensure correctness of translation, Justice Chandrachud said that he had requested all High Courts to constitute a team of retired district judges who'll verify the correctness of the translation. He added that the Tamil Nadu government could take it up as a mission to translate not only the Supreme Court judgments but also judgments of the High Courts into the regional language.