Chief Justice NV Ramana on Sunday called for 50 per cent representation for women in the judiciary and supported the demand for similar measures in law colleges across the country.
Addressing women advocates of the Supreme Court (who had organised a felicitation ceremony for him and the nine newly appointed judges), the Chief Justice said, "it is your right..."
"We need 50 per cent representation for women in judiciary... It is an issue of thousands of years of oppression. In lower levels of the judiciary less than 30 per cent of judges are women... in High Courts it is 11.5 per cent... in Supreme Court only 11-12 per cent are women," he said.
"Of 1.7 million advocates in the country... only 15 per cent are women. Only two per cent elected representatives in state bar councils are women. I raised the issue of why the Bar Council of the India National Committee does not have even a single woman representative..." he continued.
These issues need urgent correction, the Chief Justice remarked.
"I want to remind all of you of what Karl Marx said... 'workers of the World unite, you have nothing to lose, but your chains'. I will modify this: "women of the World unite. You have nothing to lose, but your chains," he said.
He also highlighted "challenges unfriendly to women lawyers", including uncomfortable working environments, the lack of infrastructure like female washrooms and creches for working mothers.
The Chief Justice's remarks were highlighted and appreciated by Justice BV Nagarathna, who was among three women sworn in as judges of the top court on September 1.
Justice Nagarathna, who will be India's first woman Chief Justice in 2027 (for one month) said advancing women's participation in the judiciary also promoted gender equality in other areas.
"Female judicial appointments, particularly at senior levels, can shift gender stereotypes, thereby changing attitudes and perceptions as to appropriate roles of men and women. Women's visibility as judicial officers can also pave the way for greater representation in other decision-making positions.... such as legislative and executive branches of the government," she said at today's event.
"To women advocates I say... continuously strive to do better. I think the time has come to break the glass ceiling and for women to strive ahead," she said.
This is the second time this month that the Chief Justice has raised the issue of women's representation in the country's judicial system.
At an event organised by the Bar Council of India he said: "After 75 years of Independence... expect at least 50 per cent representation for women at all levels... with great difficulty we have now achieved 11 per cent in the Supreme Court."
"Some states, because of representation, may reveal higher representation, but the reality remains the legal profession still has to welcome women into its fold," he had said.
On September 1 three women were sworn in as Supreme Court judges in what many touted as a "historic" moment; that took the number of women judges to four
That is still only a fraction of the sanctioned strength of 34, including the Chief Justice.
The truth is very few women have been sworn in as a Supreme Court judge since its inception. Over the last 70-odd years there have only been eight, starting with M Fathima Beevi in 1989.
At present there is only Justice Indira Banerjee, Justice BV Nagarathna, Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice Hima Kohli, with Justice Nagarathna set to become India's first woman Chief Justice in 2027 for an all-too brief period of one month.