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CJI says women lawyers not stepping forward to become judges citing domestic responsibilities

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Chief Justice of India SA Bobde on Thursday claimed that the collegium routinely considers the names of women lawyers from the Supreme Court bar for appointment as judges, but they reject these offers citing domestic responsibilities.

“We consider women lawyers all the time,” he said, during a hearing on Thursday on an application to consider women lawyers from the top court for every judicial appointment.

The petition had argued that there was only 11% representation of women in the higher judiciary, that is in the high courts and the Supreme Court.

Reacting to the plea, the CJI cited his personal experience as a member of the collegium to claim that women often turn down the offer to be appointed as judges citing domestic responsibilities.

“Some say: ‘I have a kid in Class X’, others cite some other domestic problem,” the CJI quipped.

He said that the system doesn’t need an “attitudinal change”. “We are conscious about appointing women lawyers.” The top court currently has only one lady judge, Justice Indira Bannerjee, after Justice R Banumathi demitted office.

The top court also has inadequate representation of minorities and Dalits.

The apex court is expected to ensure fair representation to all sections of society although there is no formal reservation for any class in the constitutional courts.

“We keep these considerations in mind,” CJI Bobde said.

The CJI also contended that many eligible and deserving lawyers don’t wish to become judges because of the nature of allegations levelled against judges these days. “Some of the complaints are shockingly false,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

The CJI made these observations during a hearing on whether High Court chief justices could invoke special provisions in the Constitution to appoint retired judges as ad hoc judges for a fixed tenure to clear the judicial backlog. The Supreme Court is considering empowering high court chief justices to co-opt retired judges as ad hoc judges to push out this backlog out of the system. They would be appointed for a fixed term at the CJ’s discretion. Their salaries and allowances would be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India.

Some high courts have been functioning with 40% vacancies. But there are others which are functioning at full strength but have a backlog of lakhs of cases, the SC said.

The court reserved orders on the parameters that would govern such appointments. The government has opposed appointment of ad hoc judges without first filling up the existing strength of a high court.

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