Judicial appointment of women at senior levels can shift gender stereotypes: Justice Nagarathna


PTI, Sep 26, 2021, 8:38 PM IST

New Delhi: Supreme Court Judge B V Nagarathna on Sunday said advancing women participation in the judiciary promotes the role of gender equality in broader ways and female judicial appointments, particularly at senior levels, can shift gender stereotypes, thereby changing attitude and perceptions of appropriate roles of men and women.

Justice Nagarathna, who is set to become the first woman Chief Justice of India in 2027, said, ”Women visibility as judicial officers can pave the way for greater representation of women in other decision-making positions such as legislative and executive branches of the government.” She was speaking at a function organized by the Lady Advocates of the Supreme Court for felicitation of nine newly appointed judges of the top court, which includes three women judges.

Justice Nagarathna said, “I say, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has shown the way as to why in other branches women cannot break the glass ceiling whether in the legislature or in the executive branches.” “I may not speak in detail but I can only say that advancing women participation in the judiciary promotes the role of gender equality in broader ways. Female judicial appointments particularly at senior levels can shift gender stereotypes, thereby changing attitude and perceptions of appropriate roles of men and women,” she said.

Terming the appointment of nine judges at one go as a “monumental achievement” for the top court, she said, “Higher number and greater visibility of women judges can increase the willingness of women to seek justice and enforce their rights.” Justice Nagarathna said that the instant appointment should not be the only event and it should continue as “we the women members will scout for talent from all over India so that they get elevated not only at relevant high courts but also to the Supreme Court”.

Advising young women advocates, she said that her advice to them is that they should involve themselves in all branches of law and continuously strive to do better.

“I think, the time has come to break the glass ceiling and for women to strive ahead. I have come to believe that each one of us has a personal calling which is unique as our fingerprint and the best way to succeed is to discover what it is our passion and to find the way to offer it to others in the form of service”, she said.

Justice Nagarathana said that there are three phenomena which women lawyers should look at “when we are concerned about women in the bar and on the bench that is the very entry of women into the legal fraternity, secondly, the retention of women in the bar, which is a very important thing and critical aspect, and thirdly, the advancement of women later on to the higher echelons”.

Another top court judge Justice Bela M Trivedi, who was appointed along with Justice Nagarathna, said that recently at a function in Gujarat she had said that judges do not have a gender when they are on the dais. But “I do have a soft corner for women more particularly working women”, Justice Trivedi said.

“I do have a soft corner not because I consider them as weaker gender but because I respect their commitment. I respect their inner strength. You know I used to say if you want to be free from your outer domination, you need to discover your inner strength”, she said.

Justice Trivedi in Sanskrit told young women lawyers that nobody would enlighten their path and they would have to themselves light their path.

“Be a light of yourself,” she said.

Justice Hima Kohli, who was also sworn in as judge of the top court along with justices Nagarathna and Trivedi, said that they would try to live up to the expectations and follow the rule of law to do justice and give it that sensitivity which sometimes women tend to give to situations looking at from their perspective.

“I am not talking from a gender point of view but as a unisex point of view. So that a kind of focus that a woman can have and a view on a matter which does not sometimes occur to a male and I am not saying my male colleagues are not sensitive. It is amazing to see that many of our colleagues which I have sat with, will give a different perspective to women-oriented issues which may not occur to me,” Justice Kohli said. “I will be the first one to admit it but it’s very heartening to see that men are equally sensitive,” she said.

On August 31, the top court had held the swearing-in ceremony of nine Supreme Court judges, including three women, in one go which has been unprecedented and would go into the annals of the 71-year-long history of the apex court.

With the swearing-in of three women judges, Justices Nagarathna, Trivedi, and Kohli which happened for the first time in the apex court’s history, the top court now has as many as four women judges on its bench simultaneously, another first to its credit.

Besides the three women judges, CJI NV Ramana had also administered oath to Justices Abhay Shreeniwas Oka, Vikram Nath, Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari, Justices C T Ravikumar, M M Sundresh, and P S Narasimha, who was a senior advocate and former Additional Solicitor General.

 

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