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Have-nots still have little place in top judiciary: Prez

New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind said on Saturday that the nation should be concerned about the "unacceptably low" representation of women, OBCs and SC/STs in the higher judiciary and expressed the urgent need for measures to correct this sorry state of affairs. Inaugurating a two-day meet organised jointly by the Law Commission and Niti Aayog to mark National Law Day, he lamented, "There is unacceptably low representation of the traditionally weaker sections such as OBCs, SCs and STs especially in the higher judiciary" and pointed out that only one in four judges is a woman.
Asking the judiciary to walk in pace with other public institutions in being truly representatives of society's diversity, Kovind said, "Like our other public institutions, our judiciary too has to be judicious in being representative of the diversity of our country, and the depth and breadth of our society…. Of the 17,000 judges in our subordinate courts, High Courts and the Supreme Court, only about 4,700 — roughly one in four — are women. We need to take long-term measures to remedy this situation."
"India has acquired a reputation of an expensive legal system" coupled with delays and constraints of the "affordability of fees", he noted. "While we take pride in our courts and their independence, it is a paradox that poor often shy away from a legal battle, worried about duration and costs ... while the well off sometimes use the judicial process and its intricacies to delay resolution to issues they simply do not want to be resolved."
Stressing that it is the higher judiciary's "sacred duty" to "groom" district and sessions judges and raise their skills so that more and more of them can be elevated to High Courts, the President said, "This will also enhance trust in our lower courts and their judgments and serve to declog the High Courts." But he added that the long-term solutions must be "without in any manner compromising on quality" of judges and the judicial system.
Kovind also called for simplifying laws and repealing outdated laws to decongest the statute books and promote ease of governance.
(With agency inputs)
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