Public debate on judicial reforms tends to focus on judge vacancies and case delays, and neglects other institutional issues that plague Indian courts. One such problem that has received little attention is the lack of judicial diversity.
To spark conversation on this important issue, a new Vidhi Briefing focuses on one parameter of judicial diversity, namely gender. It presents, for the first time, state and district-wise data on the gender composition of the lower judiciary.
Our findings reveal that women comprise less than 28% of lower court judges. Only in three of the smallest states-Goa, Meghalaya, and Sikkim, with a collective total of a mere 103 judges-does the percentage of women judges cross 60%. Barring Telangana and Puducherry, the percentage of women judges remains below 40% for all other states. Bihar (11.52%), Jharkhand (13.98%), Gujarat (15.11%), Jammu & Kashmir (18.62%), and Uttar Pradesh (21.4%) have the lowest representation of women in the lower judiciary.
The Briefing also explores the representation of women in different tiers of the lower judiciary. Lower courts in India consist of three tiers: District Judges, Civil Judges (Senior Division) and Civil Judges (Junior Division) in descending order. Based on our preliminary findings, where we have analysed data for only ten states, we notice that there is a near-uniform trend of the percentage of women judges decreasing as one moves up these tiers. The Briefing raises questions regarding potential causes behind this trend, highlighting the need to study the impartiality of appointment and promotion procedures in the judiciary.
Through these reports, we hope to bring attention to the lower judiciary which, despite being the first and only point of contact for most litigants, receives much less public scrutiny than the higher judiciary. We conclude by stressing the need to maintain better data on judicial diversity, and hope to fuel further research that leads to policy interventions to make the judiciary more representative.
We have annexed two maps from our Briefing below, which provide a state- and district-wise breakdown respectively.
Map 1: State-wise Percentage of Women Judges in the Lower Judiciary
Map 2: District-wise Percentage of Women Judges in the Lower Judiciary