Women Occupy Only 12% of Higher Judicial Posts; Mere 2 Female Muslim Judges in HCs 


“We want the judiciary to be more inclusive in terms of gender, marginalised communities, persons belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and minorities”, says Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud

Shibra Farhat | Clarion India

In India, where women are highly under-represented in decision-making positions, the judiciary is no exception. The World Bank estimates the population share of women in India to be 48.4% for the year 2021, nearly half of the total population. But in higher judicial posts women’s share is only 12 per cent. 

According to the Department of Justice in the Ministry of Law and Justice, as of March 1 this year, of the total 860 sitting judges in the Supreme Court and high courts, there were only 109 women. This accounts for a mere 12 per cent of the total figure. And there are only two Muslim women judges.

Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has recently expressed his concern over the under-representation of marginalised communities and women in the judiciary. In a conversation with a media house, speaking on the appointment of judges the CJI emphasised a gender-inclusive judiciary. “We want the judiciary to be more inclusive in terms of gender, marginalised communities, persons belonging to Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and minorities.”

Among the states, Telangana has the highest share of 28 per cent with 9 women out of a total 32 of sitting high court judges. But, the state’s high court has no representation of Muslim women as a judge. Madras High Court stands second with a share of 24 per cent. It also has the distinction of having the highest number of 14 women out of 58 sitting judges. Big states like Bihar and Uttarakhand courts have no representation of women judges. Similar is the case with small states like Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura where there is no representation of women in judicial posts.

However, only two high courts have Muslim women judges: Khazi Jayabunisa Mohiuddin and Moksha Khajuria Kazmi are the sitting Muslim judges in Karnataka and Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh high courts, respectively. Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has 15 sitting judges including two women. Of a total of 53 sitting judges in the Karnataka High Court, only five are women.

Enrolment of women in law education: 

In recent years, there has been an increase in the enrolment of women in higher education. As per “Women and Men in India 2022,” a report released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the enrolment trend has reversed. Women outnumbered men in streams like Arts, Science, Education, Medical Science and Social Science. Along with this enrolment of women in law education is increasing gradually but their representation in higher judiciary seems to be stagnating. This year the share of women in the judiciary has increased to 12.79 per cent from last year’s 10.89 per cent. 

According to Women and Men 2022 for the month of September, the share was 13 per cent which got reduced to 12.71 per cent in December.

In session 2014-15, 94,201 women chose law for their graduation studies out of a total of 3,01,810. That year women’s enrolment accounted for 31 per cent, which increased to 33.58 per cent in the 2018-19 session. Out of a total of 3,98,584 law students, 1,33,859 were women. In March 2019, there were 713 judges on higher posts across the country. This included 79 women. The session of 2020-21 had 33.86 per cent or 1,61,897 women pursuing law out of 4,78,012 graduating students. In March of 2021, the higher judiciary had 682 judges including 75 women.

Kawalpreet Kaur, an activist and a lawyer based in Delhi, thinks genuine representation of women in the judiciary can only be attained by a change in the collective mentality, systematic push and sincere efforts. “It is the overall system that hinders women from progressing from home to the courts. Women are not encouraged to go into the judiciary. It is seen that the judiciary is meant for men, only they are capable of taking tough decisions. Even if a woman opts to practice she has to force herself out after a few years or she is not able to reach a higher post because it is considered that women are slightly weak in nature to take this big responsibility,” she says.

Kaur further says: “Only talks are not enough. There should be a conscious push by putting more women, by recommending more women and the theory of merit should not be an excuse.” 

Talking about the extreme under-representation of Muslim women in the higher judiciary, Mahmood Pracha, a Supreme Court lawyer, says: “This is not just for Muslim women but women from all other communities, except upper castes or Brahmins. We can only see the change once the regime is changed. By regime here I mean change in the people of India. They should solely think of upliftment of judiciary rather than giving pride to the social category they belong to.” 

For better decisions and representation Pracha demands reservation for marginalised categories in the judiciary. Regarding merit being compromised due to reservation, he says, “We all are witnessing the functioning of the judiciary. Are we in the best position? The judgments coming out from courtrooms bear witness to the deteriorating performance of the judiciary.” 

Advocating reservation he says “judgements from the marginalised and the underprivileged will be better in quality.”



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