On an equal pedestal
Going forward with his reformative stance, Chief Justice of India CV Ramana remarked that women should have 50 per cent reservation in the judiciary while addressing the felicitation ceremony organized by the Lady Advocates of the Supreme Court of India. The CJI rightly pointed out that women won't get their share as a part of a charity, and that they must raise their voice with anger. But the problem with the appointment of women in the judiciary at various levels is not just the matter of raising the demands. Law schools in India have seen a fair number of enrolment of women aspirants but the same is not reflected in judicial practice. It is clearly not the lack of competence or aspiration that keeps women at bay with the judiciary. The impediments for women entering into the judiciary comes in the form of an inappropriate environment. The judicial ecosystem has somewhat lagged behind in evolving with the new equations of career aspirations. The question that needs to be asked here is how lucrative or attractive — or even convenient — is the 'career option' in judiciary for young and dynamic individuals — both men and women equally? The element of packaging cannot be ignored in today's professional world. A more attractive outlook to professions related to the judiciary would attract the best of talents to the field. It can be debated whether the reservation scheme will help to bridge the wide gender gap in the judicial system by providing the required ambience. It is highly unlikely that a standalone reservation will help solve the problem. Perhaps there is a need to incorporate CJI's other recommendations. Rejuvenating the infrastructure of the courts appears most prominent among those. The National Judicial Infrastructure Corporation (NJIC) framework provided by CJI Ramana is perhaps a holistic approach towards transforming the infrastructure of the judicial system. The structure was proposed on the basis of a survey conducted by the CJI office which highlighted that 22 per cent of trial court complexes do not have any toilet facilities for women. The survey also pointed towards structural deficiencies in other areas such as availability of drinking water, residential complexes, medical facilities etc. These inertial factors prevent young and dynamic aspirants, particularly women, from entering into the judiciary. The CJI also proposed diversification in the legal education system where he once again proposed to introduce reservation of seats for women in law universities and institutes. It can be argued that in the long run, improved infrastructure and ambience will itself drive enrolment of aspiring women to the judiciary. But the CJI's push for reservation in both educational institutions and the judicial system at various levels holds importance. It can be seen as an attempt to undo a lot that has already been established under the men-dominated system. Perhaps what the CJI is able to conceive is disparity not just in the current context but in historical perspective as well. The suggestions, if implemented, may lead to a speedy transformation of the Indian judiciary, which is the need of the hour. Roughly, parallels can be drawn from other instances where women are given reservations. Notwithstanding the reported inconsistencies and proxy rule by husbands in the panchayat election systems, the reservation policy has improved the participation of women in third-tier politics. It won't be wrong to say that India has garnered a good deal of advantage from the reservation policy in the panchayat system. The same has been the case with certain government jobs. Reservation can be replicated for positive outcomes in the judiciary as well but its success will depend on to what extent the negative fallouts are avoided. Another major determinant for the success of such moves could again be the creation of positive ambience and better functional infrastructure. In fact, creating such a capacity could be termed as an imperative. The investment in this regard is worth making as it will influence the efficiency of the judicial system in many ways. It will, first of all, create a gender-sensitive judiciary — directly improving the prospects of justice for nearly half of the nation's population as the women judges may be better positioned to deal with issues sensitive to women. Greater representation of women in the Supreme Court will also help shape more balanced judicial precedents that have an effect of a law. It is heartening to note that the nation's Chief Justice is keen on bridging the ugly gulf.