With the Supreme Court Collegium making its recommendations for judicial appointments in several High Courts recently, the skewed gender ratio in the Indian judiciary has once again come under scrutiny. A couple of years ago, the India Justice Report had uncovered a rather dismal picture of the same, calling out the 'highly inadequate' representation of women, particularly in the higher judiciary than in subordinate ones.
Since the Collegium notified certain proposals for judicial appointments earlier this month, this seems an appropriate time to inspect the representation of women Judges in the High Courts. In this exercise, it was found that the Madras High Court was leading with 13 women judges on its bench, closely followed by the Delhi High Court which has 12 female Judges(including the newly notified appointments). The Telangana High Court comes third with 10 women judges while the High Courts of Kerala and Punjab & Haryana share the fourth position with 7 women judges.
Nevertheless, the situation is not so encouraging when one looks at the entire picture. While a majority of the High Courts have attempted to accommodate at least one female judge on the Bench, unfortunately, 5 out of 25 High Courts in the country have no female representation at all in the judiciary.
That being said, it cannot be denied that there is a glimpse of hope for the proponents of equal participation of women in the judiciary, with the current Chief Justice of India N.V Ramana vigorously advocating for the cause. In September 2021, the CJI had proclaimed that women must demand 50% reservation, not as charity but as a matter of right. He reiterated his commitment to diversity at the Bench a few months later, hinting that he will take this matter up with the Collegium.
This trend is mirrored in the recent initiatives undertaken in the country in favour of women in the judiciary. Recent collegium recommendations have seen more women representation. Last year, with the appointment of 2 more women, the Supreme Court's women strength rose to 4, its highest ever. On March 8 this year, the Supreme Court commemorated the first-ever 'International Day of Women Judges', to celebrate the idea of entry of women into a largely male-dominated institution. Recently, the Kerala High Court also made history on International Women's Day by constituting a full bench comprising only women judges.
Several Judges have also voiced their views in favour of further female representation in the higher judiciary in recent times, with Justice Hima Kohli opining that 'women judges validate the judicial system and their inclusion in large numbers is a palpable realisation of the constitutional codes.' Justice Indira Bannerjee supplemented this position by adding that 'gender stereotyping norms play a role in preventing women from participating in Judiciary. There are complaints also of gender discrimination, and harassment of women judges.'
The path to attaining equal representation of women in the higher judiciary may be difficult but it does not seem far-fetched anymore.
There are 94 women judges in High Court out of 713 judges(13.18 %). This is a slight improvement from the figure of 73 women out of 661 High Court judges(roughly 11%) as on April 2021.
High Courts With Their Respective Number of Women Judges:
- Madras High Court - 13 (Justices V.M. Velumani, J. Nisha Banu, Anita Sumanth, V. Bhavani Subbaroyan, R.Tharani, R.Hemalatha, P.T.Asha, S. Ananthi, S. Kannammal, R.N. Manjula, T.V. Thamilselvi, S. Srimathy, N. Mala)
- Delhi High Court - 12 (Justices Mukta Gupta, Anu Malhotra, Rekha Palli, Prathiba M. Singh, Jyoti Singh, Asha Menon, Neena Bansal Krishna, Poonam A. Bamba, Swarana Kanta Sharma, Tara Vitasta Ganju, Mini Pushkarna, Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora)
- Telangana High Court- 10 (Justices G. Sri Devi, Lalitha Kanneganti, P. Sree Sudha, Dr. Justice Chillakur Sumalatha, G. Radha Rani, P. Madhavi Devi, Surepalli Nanda, Juvvadi Sridevi, Gunnu Anupama Chakravarthy, Maturi Girija Priyadarsini)
- Kerala High Court - 7 (Justices Anu Sivaraman, Mary Joseph, Shircy V.,M. R. Anitha, Sophy Thomas, C. S. Sudha, Shoba Annamma Eapen)
- Punjab & Haryana High Court- 7 (Justices Ritu Bahri, Lisa Gill, Jaishree Thakur, Manjari Nehru Kaul, Alka Sarin, Meenakshi l. Mehta, Archana Puri)
- Karnataka High Court - 6 (Justices S.Sujatha, K.S.Mudagal, Jyoti Mulimani, Makkimane Ganeshaiah Uma, J. M. Khazi, K S Hemalekha)
- Bombay High Court - 6 (Justices Sadhana S. Jadhav, Revati Mohite Dere, Anuja Prabhudessai, Bharati Dangre, V. V. Kankanwadi, M. S. Jawalkar)
- Gujarat High Court - 6 (Justices S. G. Gokani, Sangeeta K. Vishen, Gita Gopi, Vaibhavi D. Nanavati, Mauna M. Bhatt, Nisha M. Thakore)
- Allahabad High Court - 5 (Justices Sunita Agarwal, Sangeeta Chandra, Manju Rani Chauhan, Saroj Yadav, Sadhna Rani Thakur)
- Calcutta High Court - 4 (Justices Moushumi Bhattacharya, Shampa Sarkar, Amrita Sinha, Suvra Ghosh)
- Andhra Pradesh High Court - 3 (Justices J. Uma Devi, K.Vijaya Lakshmi, Lalitha Kanneganti)
- Madhya Pradesh High Court - 3 (Justices Nandita Dubey, Anjuli Palo, Sunita Yadav)
- Gauhati High Court - 3 (Justices Rumi Kumari Phukan, Malasri Nandi, Marli Vankung)
- Himachal Pradesh High Court - 2 (Justices Sabina, Jyotsna Rewal Dua)
- Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court - 2 (Justices Sindhu Sharma, Moksha Khajuria Kazmi)
- Orissa High Court -1 (Justice Savitri Ratho)
- Rajasthan High Court - 1 (Justice Rekha Borana)
- Sikkim High Court - 1 (Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai)
- Chhattisgarh High Court- 1 (Justice Rajani Dubey)
- Jharkhand High Court - 1 (Justice Anubha Rawat Choudhary)
- Manipur High Court - None
- Meghalaya High Court - None
- Patna High Court - None out of 27 Judges
- Tripura High Court - None
- Uttarakhand High Court - None