Urging women lawyers in the country to raise their demand for 50 percent reservation in the judiciary, Chief Justice of India N V Ramana on Sunday assured them of his “total support”.
"I don't want you to cry but with anger, you have to shout and demand that we need 50 per cent reservation," he said.
"It's a matter of right, and not a matter a charity,” he said.
He added:"I want to say that I strongly recommend and support the demand of a certain percentage of reservation in all law schools of the country for women, so that they can join the judiciary."
Speaking at a felicitation function organised by Lady Advocates of Supreme Court for the nine newly appointed judges, including three women judges, CJI Ramana said he has modified Karl Marx's "Workers of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chain" quote for the occasion and added: "Women of the world unite. You have nothing to lose but your chain."
The CJI said, “You all are laughing. Yes, I don't want you to cry but with anger, you have to shout and demand that we need 50 per cent reservation. It's not a small issue but an issue of thousands of years of suppression. It is high time we have 50 per cent representation of women in the judiciary. You are entitled (to it), it's a matter of right. It is not a matter a charity. It is unfortunate that some things are realised very late."
He said he will be "very happy" whenever the goal will be realised.
"All my sisters and all of you have carved out exceptions for people in the society and women of the society and for that matter youngsters whether male or female are all waiting and looking at you as if you are role models. Your success stories will make them more impulsive and we expect more women will join the profession and we will achieve the goal of 50 per cent shortly. I wholeheartedly support all initiatives taken by you and so long as I am here I will support all of your causes," he said.
The Chief Justice of India said that he believes in mixing with people, knowing about their ideas so that he understands what is the problem the society is facing, but added these days he is visiting lots of places and has got bored of giving speeches.
"After coming back yesterday night from Odisha, I collected some information about the system in which we are working. In the entire country...in subordinate judiciary less than 30 per cent are women, in high courts women judges are 11.5 per cent and in Supreme Court four women judges out of 33...(that is) 11 or 12 per cent,” the CJI said.
He said that out of 1.7 million advocates in the country only 15 per cent are women and only two per cent elected representatives in the state bar councils are women.
"The other day I have told Bar council of India chairman Manan Kumar Mishra, what is this in your bar council national committee you don't have any single woman member represented, this needs urgent correction," he said.
CJI Ramana further said that people will often say easily that it is difficult to have 50 per cent reservation because women have a lot of problems but that's not correct.
“I do agree that there is an uncomfortable environment, lack of infrastructure, crowded courtrooms, lack of washrooms, lack of creches and lack of sitting places, which are some of the major issues which are unfriendly to the women lawyers in the system,” he said.
He said that after gathering information about the prevailing conditions throughout the country he is proposing for Judicial Infrastructure Corporation, which is the need of the hour.
“In 6,000 courts across the country, 22 per cent of them do not have separate toilets (for women) and even lady officers also have to suffer from this,” the CJI said, adding, “So these are the ground realities which we have to tackle immediately and that is the reason why I am proposing certain issues to the executive to take and correct this."
With regard to lawyers' demand for opening of the top court for physical hearings which has been held virtually since the outset of the pandemic, the CJI said that hopefully after Dussehra vacation it may resume.
"The problem is you know we have limited opening (both virtual and physical) but majority of the advocates do not prefer, I don't know why but for whatever reasons, particularly senior counsels have some reservations but youngsters and other lawyers are willing to come,” he said.
He said that senior advocate Vikas Singh, who is president of Supreme Court Bar Association, has raised certain issues with regard to hybrid hearing SOP and it is being corrected and made more liberal.
“We can expect full opening of the courts but the problem is we don't want to take any risk because of the medical advice and suddenly they may say that there may be a third or fourth wave.... So you hope that there are no waves and most probably after Dussehra vacation, I think we can go for physical hearing," CJI Ramana said. (With PTI inputs)