Fewer than one-third of judges in the lower judiciary — district courts and below — in 17 of 34 states and Union Territories are women, according to a February 2018 analysis by Vidhi Center For Legal Policy, a New Delhi-based legal think tank.
Women comprise 48.5 per cent of the general population. The domination of men in the lower judiciary might reduce courts’ legitimacy as representative of the societies they serve.
The inclusion of women in the judiciary enables courts to understand the real-world implications of their rulings and reduces barriers to women’s access to justice, such as stigma associated with reporting violence and abuse, the report said. It could also signal “equality of opportunity for women in the legal profession and an appointments process that is merit-based, fair, and non-discriminatory”.
The analysis used names of judges as reported on court websites between March and July 2017. The Supreme Court and high courts are the ‘higher judiciary’, while district courts and below are the ‘lower’ or ‘subordinate’ judiciary.
Women are under-represented even at higher levels of the judiciary. Since the Supreme Court was established in 1950, it has had only six women judges, and currently has one woman judge out of 25. Across 24 high courts, a little more than 10 per cent judges are women, with not even a single woman judge in eight High Courts, the report found.