In April this year, name of Advocate Indu Malhotra was cleared by the collegium for appointment as a Supreme Court judge. She is the second sitting woman judge in the top court and the first woman lawyer to be directly elevated from the Bar.
Justice Malhotra has been a crusader for the rights and equal status of the women. Being one of the members of the Vishaka Committee, she was on the panel of women lawyers set up to protect women lawyers from sexual harassment in 2013. She has been a counsel in multiple PILs challenging the discrimination against women make-up artists in the Bollywood industry.
Recently, speaking at a panel discussion titled, ‘Women in the legal profession in India’, hosted recently by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, a think tank in collaboration with the Oxford University, she did not mince her words to point towards the biases women have to face in the legal profession. Justice Sikri, present there as a panelist opined that it is the irony that the legal fraternity, which is responsible for enforcing the right to equality as embodied in Article 14 and being a part of the universal legal rights, is itself grappling with gender inequalities.
Recollecting her experiences, she said that the journey from a counsel to an Advocate on Record (AOR) and then to a senior advocate in the Apex Court was marred by biases against her on account of her being a woman. All this when her father was senior advocate himself! She further adds, it is a common tendency that women are best engaged with family disputes and cases involving land acquisition. In her words, “There is a gender bias. People think women judges are not good enough to grapple with complicate commercial matters. Sometimes, even a senior judge would turn around to say that you would not understand it. So you have to work twice as hard; you have you have to fight it out and struggle your way through!”
It is in common parlance that unlike men, women have to cater to family needs the most and therefore maintain a healthy work-family balance could be challenging at times. Moreover, in an empirical research conducted by the Vidhi center reveals that a meager percentage of women were magistrates in the lower courts and the same goes for judges and senior advocates in the Apex Court. The data is clearly indicative of the bias women face in the legal profession.
It is interesting to note that Justice Malhotra was the sole dissenting judge in the Sabrimala verdict delivered by the Apex Court allowing the entry of women in the holy shrine. She was criticized by a few women rights groups for the same.
Student Reporter- INBA