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Soon, no woman judges in SC

Almost six decades of India's post-independence history has only seen three women jurists reach the Supreme Court ? Meera Sahib Fatima Beevi, Sujata V. Manohar and Ruma Pal, all very distinguished judges in their own right.

india Updated: May 08, 2006 01:24 IST
Samanwaya

Almost six decades of India's post-independence history has only seen three women jurists reach the Supreme Court — Meera Sahib Fatima Beevi, Sujata V. Manohar and Ruma Pal, all very distinguished judges in their own right.

Justice Fatima Beevi was the first woman to become the Chief Justice of a High Court (Himachal). She later on became the Governor of Tamil Nadu. Justice Sujata Manohar was known for her espousal of human rights issues, whereas Justice Ruma Pal is acknowledged as an expert in civil law.

This, however, has done nothing for the representation of their gender in the country’s top court. With the last of them all — Justice Ruma Pal — retiring on June 6 (practically May 15 as the court shuts down for its summer break on that day), soon there will no lady judge on the court rolls.

Even though the number of women joining both the bar and the bench (at the subordinate judiciary and high court levels) is on the rise. And a statement by Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj offering to increase the judge strength of the Supreme Court by five if the court were to recommend the names of more ladies to these posts.

His suggestion had significantly come at a women-dominated gathering in Delhi on November 25, 2005, to commemorate the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women.

This was possibly the first time that the government (which has studiously ignored suggestions from Chief Justice after Chief Justice to increase the number of judges to deal with the problem of accumulating arrears) had made such an offer.

“Our government has no bias against women,” Bhardwaj said when several speakers referred to Justice Ruma Pal as the “only” lady judge of the Supreme Court. “We can have any number of lady judges in the Supreme Court,” he had said to a cheering audience.