Dominant caste men, around 6 percent of India’s population, comprise 70 percent of its high court judges.
A total of 23 judges belonging to Scheduled Castes (SCs) were appointed to high courts from 2018 till December 2, 2023, while during the same period a total of 10, 76 and 36 judges belonging to Scheduled Tribes (STs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and religious minority communities were appointed to high courts.
A total of 492 judges belonging to the ‘general’ category were appointed during the same period. Union Minister of Law and Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal revealed the information in Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
The minister responded to a set of questions asked by member of Parliament (MP) Dr John Brittas. Brittas wanted to know:
(a) The number of women judges and judges hailing from SC, ST and OBC communities in the Supreme Court and high courts at present, and the details thereof, state-wise and category-wise.
(b) Whether the government has sent suggestions to the Supreme Court for supplementing the Memorandum of Procedure for appointment of judges to the high courts and the Supreme Court.
(c) If so, details of the suggestions made by the government and the response thereto.
As of December 2, 2023, a total of 111 judges in 24 high courts are women, the minister added.
Put together, high courts have a sanctioned strength of 1,114 judges, against which only 790 posts are occupied and 324 posts of judges are vacant.
With 15 female judges, the Punjab and Haryana High Court is the leader in gender diversity, followed by Madras and Bombay high courts with 12 and 11 female judges respectively.
The Supreme Court has three women judges against its functional strength of 34 judges.
In terms of percentage, SC communities, which form around 17 percent of India’s population, have 3 percent representation on high court Benches.
ST communities, which compose 8 percent of the country’s population, have a representation of 1 percent among high court judges.
OBCs, which are around 50 percent of India’s population, contribute 10 percent of high court judges.
And religious minorities, which comprise around 15 percent of India’s population, have 5.5 percent representation on high court Benches.
‘General’ category, a misnomer, consists of only around 12 percent of the population, but hogs 80 percent of the seats on high court Benches.
If we take the general category women out, then just 6 percent of the dominant caste men have 70 percent representation on high court Benches.
In August this year, the Chief Justice of India Dr D.Y. Chandrachudstatedthat the collegium aims to “reflect the diversity of India” and that the Supreme Court is ”people-centric”.
“People will start trusting the judiciary only when they see a reflection of themselves in the people who dispense justice,” the CJI added.
In the last year, a total of 14 new judges have been appointed to the Supreme Court but no woman has been recommended by the collegium for judgeship.
The minister also clarified that the proforma for seeking information on the judges recommended for elevation to high courts, as prescribed by the Supreme Court, was revised in July 2017. Hence, data regarding appointment of judges hailing from SC, ST and OBC communities before 2018 was not available.
The minister also asserted that the government remains committed to social diversity in the appointment of judges in the higher judiciary.
“The Minister of Law and Justice has been requesting the chief justices of high courts that while sending proposals for the appointment of judges, due consideration be given to suitable candidates belonging to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, minorities and women to ensure social diversity in the appointment of judges in high courts,” the minister said in the Parliament.