'Worrying that SC now has just one woman judge': Chandrachud
The Supreme Court’s senior judge DY Chandrachud said on Saturday it was “deeply worrying” that the apex court was left with only woman judge after the retirement of justice Indu Malhotra, adding that the institution “must do better”.
Speaking at an event organised by the Supreme Court Young Lawyers Forum to bid farewell to justice Malhotra, justice Chandrachud said the diversity of India must also find reflection in the composition of the Supreme Court.
“Justice Malhotra’s retirement means that Supreme Court now has only one female judge on the bench. As an institution, I find that this is a deeply worrying fact and must promptly receive serious introspection and reflection... As an institution whose decisions shape and impact lives of everyday Indian, we must do better. We must ensure the diversity of our country finds reflection in the makeup of our court,” said justice Chandrachud.
Justice Malhotra, the first woman lawyer to be elevated to the Supreme Court directly from the Bar and the seventh woman judge to be appointed at the Supreme Court, retired on Saturday following a tenure of about three years. With the retirement of justice Malhotra, the Supreme Court now has only one woman judge, justice Indira Banerjee, who will retire in September next year.
Justice Malhotra encouraged young lawyers to keep working hard and keep chasing their dreams as she quoted Michelle Obama: “The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.”
Justice Chandrachud is not only in line to become the Chief Justice of India in November 2022 but he is presently also a member of the Supreme Court collegium that picks judges for appointment to the top court.
Diversity in judiciary has both intrinsic and instrumental values, said justice Chandrachud during the virtual farewell event, adding that having a more diverse judiciary ensured that diversity of perspectives was fairly considered in decision-making process, instilled high degree of public confidence in decisions, and helped the institution to be more attuned to the people it served.
He added that the reason why justice Malhotra adorned the bench was not because she was a woman or because she was one of the best women lawyers of her time but because she had capacity to become the best judge of her time, man, woman or others.
Justice Chandrachud also recalled that at an event in October 2020, justice Malhotra spoke about the discrimination she faced even after joining the bench when some of her colleagues doubted her competence, making it necessary for her to work twice as hard.
“I can only tell you from bottom of my conscience and with my hand on my soul that I wasn’t one of them... I hope that as we celebrate today, justice Malhotra’s career and accomplishments, we use this opportunity that stories such as hers become more common place and as members of legal fraternity we do our bit to ensure, that it no longer remains as hard as it was for justice Malhotra for women to climb upper echelons of our profession.”