CJI DY Chandrachud Announces Plan To Release Glossary Of Inappropriate Gendered Terms Used in Legal Discourse
Plans for releasing a legal glossary of inappropriate gendered terms used in legal discourse and creating a large space reserved for women lawyers in the Supreme Court annexe building are in the pipeline, revealed Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Wednesday, while speaking at an event organised by the Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee of the top court for a belated celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8).
Besides highlighting both good and promising developments in the legal profession, such as the increasing number of women in judicial services and transactional law, as well as unpleasant aspects that need to be addressed -including the presence of systemic barriers, and incidents of inappropriate behaviour, sexual and otherwise, targeting women- the Chief Justice made these two important announcements while delivering the keynote address.
Plan to release a legal glossary of inappropriate gendered terms used in legal discourse
The first plan that CJI Chandrachud revealed was that of releasing a legal glossary of inappropriate gendered terms used in legal discourse. This, he said, was a mission he undertook a few years ago and is now nearing fruition. He expressed the hope that it would shed light on why and how women are discriminated against not just in society and the legal profession, but also in the language employed. He recalled:
“For instance, I have come across judgments which have referred to a woman as a ‘concubine’ when she is in a relationship. Women have been called 'keeps' in judgements where there were applications for quashing of FIRs under the Domestic Violence Act and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code.”
Importantly, the judge explained that the underlying purpose of compiling these inappropriate terms was not to belittle any judge, but to facilitate an understanding of “our problems within the mind”, that is, preconceived notions and biases, which the recourse to these terms belied. “Unless we are open about these facets, it will be difficult for us to evolve as a society.”
The legal glossary, Chief Justice Chandrachud disclosed, was prepared by a committee chaired by Calcutta High Court judge Moushumi Bhattacharya. Other people involved in the process included Delhi High Court Judge Justice Prathiba M. Singh, former judges Prabha Sridevan and Gita Mittal, and Jhuma Sen, Advocate, Calcutta High Court and Supreme Court, also an adjunct faculty member at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences in Kolkata. This glossary is nearing completion and will be unveiled in the very near future, Justice Chandrachud promised.
Large space to be reserved for women lawyers in the Supreme Court annexe building
The chief justice also happily announced that the top court has come up with a proposal for reconstructing its annexe building, which would include a large space for women lawyers. This, along with other initiatives, he said, would create a better working space for women in the Supreme Court. “The Supreme Court, built in the early years after independence, is now woefully short of our needs,” he lamented. “The main building is a heritage building,” he added, “But it is bursting at its seams.” This garnered a few laughs from the audience that was packed like sardines in the small lounge.
The building committee, along with invited member Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and in conjunction with the Central Public Works Department had prepared a walkthrough proposal on what a futuristic Supreme Court building should look like, Justice Chandrachud revealed. “Since we can now replace the annexe and create a modern building not for today, but for posterity, I asked them to go back to the drawing board with the input that a large space on the ground floor must be reserved for the women’s bar association.”
“I am not sure that I can say with a sense of confidence that I will go unscathed if I say that the largest space should be for the women’s bar association,” Justice Chandrachud said, “But I am sure that the largest space will be occupied by the women’s bar association 50 or 75 years down the line.”
Also Read - Must Ensure Zero Tolerance For Inappropriate Behaviour Towards Women, Sexist Language & Unsavoury Jokes : CJI DY Chandrachud