More difficult for a woman to be a judge: Retd justice Mukta Gupta | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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More difficult for a woman to be a judge: Retd justice Mukta Gupta

Jul 02, 2023 12:17 AM IST

Justice Gupta noted that with more women joining the legal profession, there is a likelihood that the number of women judges will increase

Justice Mukta Gupta, who retired from the Delhi high court on June 27, ruled on numerous cases pertaining to criminal law, civil law, and commercial law including law related to intellectual property and arbitration, during her tenure of more than a decade. Once the face of the Delhi Police — she was standing counsel for the force in several high-profile cases such as the Jessica Lal murder case, the Naina Sahni murder case (known as Tandoor case), and cases relating to the 2001 attack on the Parliament — justice Gupta was elevated as a judge in 2009, serving a 14-year term in the high court.

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(HT Photo)

Speaking to Richa Banka, she noted that during her term, only 20-30% judges were women, but with more women joining the legal profession, there is a likelihood that the number of women judges will increase. Edited excerpts:

Do you feel that while handling sensitive cases, judges face pressure?

I think I evolved in handling these (sensitive cases) in the early days of my career… I always did my level best; beyond this I could not have done anything. So whatever people said, whether positive or negative, it did not impact me…

Three of my cases were reported in the media, and in all the cases, what transpired in the court was not reported and what didn’t transpire and the counsel who was not even present in the court was quoted. That was when I took a resolve — to be out of it.

How difficult is it to rise up the ladder as a woman?

It is more difficult for a woman (to be a judge) because she has to ensure that the other commitments don’t get out of hand. And so, as a woman, you are always looking to save time for other commitments and balancing between family life and professional life… There are many work pressures, but time management is the key…

Did you ever feel that the decision of a high-profile case was not adequate, and that you could have changed the outcome?

I think when you give your best in a matter, whether as a lawyer or as a judge, then you don’t have regrets. There can be two views on a matter, I don’t brood over it.

During your farewell, you spoke about the rehabilitation of women at GB Road — known as the hub of the Capital’s sex workers industry — when you were the standing counsel of Delhi Police. What were the challenges you faced?’

To get these women to believe that they can have a life beyond this was very difficult because most of them feel that it’s a fait accompli. To create that belief in them was the most daunting task.

I remember that on one of the last operations, I had made these women get trained to be security guards. That time, there were not many women guards... This step was taken with the idea that you are not the one who needs protection, but you can be given some protection… Its survivors to saviours.

In 2021, you pulled up the Uttar Pradesh Police for arresting and taking away two people — the brother and father of a man who married a woman against her family’s wishes — and said such illegal acts are not permissible and will not be tolerated. You had remarked, “UP mein chalta hoga, yahan nahi”…

It was nothing but a simple case of habeas corpus. I had granted protection (to the couple), but I saw that they were terrified. I asked them what the problem was, and then they revealed that the (man’s) father and brother were in custody… To be arrested and kept in illegal custody for one and half months is a serious matter… Later, the UP Police accepted that they had exceeded their jurisdiction and had arrested the family members without following proper procedure.

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