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Increasing the number of trial court judges is more important than selecting a few for SC | India News


A 71-year-old Supreme Court said goodbye to its seventh judge, Judge Indu Malhotra, on Saturday. Judge Indira Banerjee is the eighth, who will retire in September next year.
Like SC’s first judge, M Fathima Beevi, Malhotra had less than three years in office. While Malhotra was the first female lawyer to become a South Carolina judge, Beevi was removed from retirement to become a South Carolina judge in October 1989. She retired from Kerala HC as a judge in April 1989.
Five years after retiring as South Carolina’s first Muslim judge, Beevi was appointed Governor of Tamil Nadu in January 1997. But she had to resign in 2001 when her controversial decision to appoint J Jayalalithaa as Prime Minister, despite her conviction and the consequent disqualification from contesting elections, was repealed by the SC.
Between Beevi and Malhotra, there were five SC judges in Judges Sujata V Manohar, Ruma Pal, Gyan Sudha Misra, Ranjana Prakash Desai and R Banumathi. Having covered the courts of all female judges except Beevi, it can be said from experience that Manohar and Pal, and to some extent Malhotra, left their marks in the annals of the highest court.
Pal was the best of all. In it, India lost the opportunity to have its first female Supreme Court president. He had an inescapable presence on the court. It wore a severe exterior but had a soft core. He was not afraid to routinely pierce the arguments of big-name lawyers about floating gas balloons. He had even reprimanded a rudely outspoken brother judge on the stand.
Above all Justice Pal was brave. She was the first judge to criticize the Collegium’s “opaque” system for appointing judges. Their views became part of the famous SC ruling in 2015 that overturned the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC), which had greatly harmed the Narendra Modi government.
Only Manohar and Pal became senior enough in the SC to be part of the SC Collegium, which selects the judges for the HC and SC.
The minuscule number of women judges in the CS and SC has been the cog in the discourse for decades that highlights their underrepresentation in the judiciary. The fact that there are around 80 women among the 1,000-odd judges in 25 superior courts does not help to change the discourse.
Among the eight female judges of SC, only two came from the interior of India. Beevi began her career as Munsif in the subordinate judicial service of Kerala in 1958. Banumathi was appointed a District Judge in 1988, after eight years of practice in the Mofussil courts in Tirupattur, Krishnagiri and Harur in Tamil Nadu. All the other judges had served in the great superior courts of the metropolis.
Just three months ago, Attorney General KK Venugopal had a passionate argument for increasing the number of women in the judiciary while addressing the SC in a case that complained against trial and HC judges who often made insensitive comments against women in his orders.
Venugopal had said: “Improving the representation of women in the judiciary could also contribute greatly to a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases of sexual violence … This initiative must come from the SC itself, considering that the power of appointment rests almost exclusively with the SC Collegium. The goal should be to achieve at least 50% representation of women in all leadership positions ”.
Judge DY Chandrachud supported the improvement of the number of women in the judiciary by saying that a single female judge in South Carolina is a worrying situation.
The change must occur at the grassroots level, the talent pool from which Superior Court judges are selected. It is easy to spot a talent among women defenders whose numbers are high in large health centers such as Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Madras. But, it is time for the HC and SC to seek out talented women among the pool of judicial officers.
Most trial court judges retire at the district judge level. Few are appointed as HC judges, but they obtain a term of three to five years, insufficient to reach the area of ​​consideration for appointment as SC judges. As a result, most judicial officials, who are appointed as HC judges, find no motivation to make a notable contribution to the justice administration system.
In this bleak climate for women in the judiciary, an encouraging development is taking place: a steady increase in the number of female trial court judges, thanks to the 33% reserve for them. Given the trend, it is possible that women could form 50% of trial court judges in the next decade.
In the coming days, the HC and SC colleges must seek out talents from the pool of judicial officers, with an eye on women, and select them as HC judges at the age of 45 or so, challenging the current trend of their selection a few years ago. years. before retirement.
Only then would more female HC judges appear in the consideration zone, although in a decade, for selection as SC judges and the country will find more women competing with men for a place in the holy halls of the supreme court.

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