Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Does the Indian Judiciary have a ‘Patriarchy Problem’?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Justice Fathima Beevi

Mains level: Women in Judiciary

Central Idea

  • India’s judiciary has long grappled with gender disparity, and the recent passing of Justice Fathima Beevi, the country’s first female Supreme Court judge, has brought attention to this issue.
  • Despite incremental progress, women continue to be underrepresented in both the Supreme Court and High Courts, highlighting the need for comprehensive reform.

About Justice Fathima Beevi

  • Justice Fathima Beevi, India’s first woman Supreme Court judge, passed away at the age of 96 in Kollam, Kerala.
  • She made history as the first Muslim woman judge of the Supreme Court, as well as the first woman Supreme Court Justice in Asia.

Gender Disparity in Indian Judiciary

[A] Supreme Court

  • Current Scenario: Of the 34 incumbent Supreme Court justices, only three are women: Justices Hima Kohli, Bela Trivedi, and BV Nagarathna.
  • Historical Perspective: India has had a total of 11 women judges in the Supreme Court’s history, since Justice Beevi’s appointment in 1989.
  • Low Representation: This translates to approximately 4% representation of women judges out of a total of 268 judges in the apex court’s history.
  • Recent Appointments: The current collegium, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, has made 14 appointments but is yet to appoint a woman judge to the Supreme Court.

[B] High Court

  • High Court Scenario: As of March 2022, India has 25 high courts with 1,114 sanctioned judge positions.
  • Working Judges: However, only 785 judges are currently working, with 329 positions remaining vacant.
  • Female Judges: Out of the working judges, only 107 are women, constituting 13% of the total.
  • Women Chief Justices: Only one of the country’s 25 high courts currently has a woman chief justice.

Efforts to Address Gender Disparity

  • Legal Perspective: The Union Law Minister stated that the Constitution’s Articles 124, 217, and 224 do not provide for caste or class-based reservations in higher judiciary appointments.
  • Recommendation for Diversity: Nevertheless, the Centre encouraged high court chief justices to consider suitable candidates who are women, minorities, scheduled castes, or tribes to ensure social diversity in the appointment process.

Challenges in Lower Judiciary and District Courts

  • Higher Representation: Women constitute approximately 27% of judges in the lower judiciary, but gender disparities persist in higher appointments such as district judges and high courts.
  • Regional Disparities: A study revealed that only a few smaller states like Goa, Meghalaya, and Sikkim had over 60% women judges, while others remained below 40%.
  • Reservation: Some states have introduced quotas for women in the lower judiciary, providing between 30% and 35% reservation for direct appointments.

Way forward

  • In April 2021, Chief Justice SA Bobde emphasized that capable candidates were required for greater women representation, rather than an attitudinal change.
  • His statement sparked controversy as female advocates challenged the assumption that women refused judgeships solely due to domestic responsibilities.
  • Advocates argued that men also decline judgeships for various reasons without hindering their appointment.


  • The gender disparity in India’s judiciary remains a persistent challenge, with slow progress towards equal representation.
  • It is imperative to address this issue comprehensively, from the highest courts to the lower judiciary, by promoting diversity and equal opportunities, ultimately strengthening the justice system and upholding gender equality.

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