Anushka Chaturvedi and Mohd Rameez Raza, students at Amity University and Integral University, Lucknow, discuss the consequences to women's participation in the wake of the Bar Council of India's recommendations for the Indian Judicial Services Examination...
Bar Council of India (BCI) filed an application before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to make the three years of practice at the Bar mandatory for all those who want to apply for the judicial services examinations, as the judicial officers who do not have practicing experience are incapable to handle the matters and that is how the courts are lacking efficiency. BCI in its press release precisely mentioned that;
“Inexperience at the Bar is one of the primary and major reasons for delays in the disposal of cases in the sub-ordinate judiciary. Trained and experienced judicial officers can comprehend and dispose of matters at a much faster pace, thereby leading to efficient administration of justice; and, judicial officers not having practical experience at the bar are mostly found to be incapable and inept at handling matters.”
Bar Council of India is strongly in favor of a minimum three-year experience at the Bar for being eligible to appear in a judicial service examination, but what is worrisome is it will have a direct impact on female aspirants; and, it will limit their participation in the judicial service examination.
At this point, all fresh law graduates take the judicial services examination right after completing their Bachelor degree in law; then the average age of the new judges becoming part of the Bench in India is found to be 26-27 years in most states and is 33 years in Kerala. However, if the recommendation by the BCI is implemented, it will rise to 29-30 years or even more. If the BCI’s suggestion comes into force, it might do injustice to all the aspirants; but it will do much injustice to the women aspirants.
According to a 2019 report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the average of women’s marriages in India is 22.1 years; and, some women continue to study, prepare, and work after marriage but the percentage of such women is pretty low. Not all women are privileged or have access to get a chance after marriage to do that. Most women have to discontinue their education or work due to household responsibilities, childbirth, etc. In a country like India, most of the families do not want to keep their daughters unmarried for a longer period of time, therefore, they force them to take up professions that do not require much time. This, somehow, not only restricts women from choosing and pursuing careers of their choice but also limits their growth. A large number of women are pushed into marriage soon in their early 20s; with all the family pressure, and after that, it will become difficult for a woman to appear for the judiciary exams and many of them will give up on their dream jobs; this is a prime concern raised in student circle which is not given the due attention.
If such eligibility criteria are implemented for the judicial services exam, it might result in pushing women out from the judiciary. Prof. Saurabh Kumar Mishra conducted a study titled, Women in Indian Courts of Law; in which the same factors were established. During the study, it was found women law graduates enroll themselves in the Bar, but very few continue the practice, and most of them opt-out soon; as sometimes they don’t get enough cases due to gender discrimination and mostly due to family pressure. By implementing rules of mandatory practice of three-year BCI is making it a lot tougher for the female candidates.
Further, if this action limits female participation in the judiciary it will have a direct impact on the legal system of our country. Our legal framework depends on citizens confiding in a legal dynamic, they appreciate and need judges who mirror their picture; and, they won’t trust the judiciary if they will sense it as a figure of elitism, exclusivity, and privilege. We believe that more and more women are required to be part of the judiciary for equal representation; who will represent the 48 percent population of this country on the bench. Today also, we have only two (2) female judges, in the Hon’ble Supreme Court, and there never has been a female Chief Justice of India; this portrays that only the privileged can get there, and that privilege is being a man.
The entry of women judges into the legal sphere from which they were historically barred has been seen as a positive change; women see the female judge as the beacon of hope, this is also true to some extent. Female judges bring empathy to the bench and along with those lived experiences, which contribute to impactful and quality decision making; especially in the matter of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and other such issues faced by women. Being empathetic doesn’t mean judges decide matters without following the procedure established by law, instead empowers judges to comprehend and consider all the factors that including the positions and sentiments of the parties; this sends a signal of hope that the judiciary can be trusted; as the bench is fair and available to the individuals who were oppressed and were not heard; and, to those looking for justice and equity.
Judiciary since its establishment has been impartial and provided equal opportunity to everyone; it’s the time it paves the path for gender balance on the Bench too, and to achieve this the eligibility criteria of the judicial service examination should not be changed keeping in mind giving equal opportunity to every citizen. Recommendations and policies should be made by considering all the demographic factors of our nation; indeed, we are a progressing nation, but we still have our limitations. The changes should be in the training module, there should be a change in the structure of the training program designed by the Judicial Training Institutes across the country, for the selected candidates. More comprehensive and realistic training sessions should be designed for the candidates so that they learn to deal with different types of matters, and solve them effectively and efficiently. This will solve the issue of judicial officers being incapable of handling the matters, and will also not limit the participation of aspiring candidates.
Anushka Chaturvedi is a student of Gender Studies at Amity University, Lucknow.
Mohd Rameez Raza is a student of Law at Integral University, Lucknow.
Suggested Citation: Anushka Chaturvedi and Mohd Rameez Raza, The Bar Council of India’s Recommendation for Judicial Service Examinations will Limit Female Participation, JURIST – Student Commentary, February 1, 2021, https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2021/02/chaturvedi-raza-bci-women/.
This article was prepared for publication by Vishwajeet Deshmukh, a JURIST staff editor. Please direct any questions or comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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