A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde on Thursday noted that it's high time for a woman Chief Justice of India, but women lawyers refuse to come on the bench citing family responsibilities. The bench was hearing an application filed by the Supreme Court Women Lawyers Association (SCWLA) through Advocate Sneha Kalita for elevating experienced women lawyers from the top court as High Court judges in an attempt to increase the number of women in the judiciary, which they deem an important factor for societal progress and gender equality.
Chief Justice Bobde said, "We think the time has come for woman Chief Justice of India. Kalita submitted the memorandum of procedure (MoP), but does not have a whisper on women judges' appointment."
The bench also comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Surya Kant replied, "Chief Justices of High Courts stated that when lawyers are asked to come on the bench, they deny saying that they have domestic responsibility or their children are in class 11 or 12."
Reiterating that "we have the interest of women in mind only and that, we need only capable candidates," the Chief Justice added that they would deliberate on what to say in the matter but did not issue a notice.
SCWLA, in their application, noted that the share of women as judges in the higher judiciary is abysmally low at 11.04 per cent. Referring to a chart on women judges across High Courts, it said, "From the chart, it is reflected that, from the 1,080 of sanctioned strength of judges (including both Permanent and Additional Judges) we have 661 number of judges out of which, only 73 are women judges which accounts for a 11.04 of women judges."
The plea further sought an order/direction to the Secretary, Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, and the government of India to expedite the process of inclusion and appointment of women judges to respective SC and HC benches.