India has token representation of women in higher levels of judiciary: Hawaii Supreme Court judge

There are “too few women” in higher levels of Indian judiciary and only three women judges in the apex court here is just “token representation”, says Justice Sabrina McKenna of Hawaii Supreme Court.
She said she is inspired by some of the judges of the Supreme Court of India for whom she has tremendous respect, but her “only concern is the lack of diversity, especially in terms of women” and “apparent bias against women in India’s judiciary in terms of leadership”.
Without commenting on the merits or demerits of the collegium system of appointment of judges for higher judiciary prevalent in India, she said it should be transparent and there is a need to understand and study “why more eminently qualified women are not being appointed to high courts and the Supreme Court”.
“It is very concerning that the women in the high courts and the Supreme Court are so few when it comes to the percentage of women. All you have is token representation. Look at the high courts and the apex court, there are very few women judges,” Justice McKenna told PTI.
She also said that from the international perspective, India seems to lag behind in terms of women’s rights issues.
“Proportional representation of women in the judiciary will result in systemic and policy improvement and more public confidence in the justice system,” she said.
At present, there are three women judges in the Supreme Court — R Banumathi, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee.
Justice McKenna also expressed concern over the manner in which the judges are being appointed because the present system is not bringing enough women.
“There is bias against women in India in terms of judicial leadership, although people here don’t seem to realise their bias. I hope to see a diverse judiciary in India, not just in terms of gender…”
She said it is not just women’s issues, but also having different perspectives in a court.
On the collegium issue, she suggested a transparent system, saying, “When judges select judges, you tend to select people who are like yourself. People are people. They are more comfortable with people like them.”
She said that the change has to start from law schools and women students need to be encouraged not only by other women but also by men in positions of power.
Justice McKenna was here on the invitation of O P Jindal Global University Vice Chancellor C Raj Kumar.
She also said that young women lawyers need to be assigned important cases and given a chance to argue so that they can prove their mettle, adding as a young lawyer, she was given such opportunities by enlightened male attorneys.
“Let the women speak, let them be heard, and honour their presence. If you have a panel discussion, include them and ensure there are women speakers,” she said. (PTI)


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