More Female Judges Could Make Sexual Violence Hearings More Empathetic: AG

"For instance, this Court (SC) only has 2 women judges, as against a sanctioned strength of 34 judges. There has never been a female Chief Justice of India," the AG said.

New Delhi: Attorney General K.K. Venugopal has said in the Supreme Court that having more female judges at all levels of the judiciary could trials in sexual violence cases more empathetic. While making his case, the AG brought up the fact that there has never been a woman chief justice of India, and that the Supreme Court currently has only two female judges.

According to Bar and Bench, Venugopal said, “Improving the representation of women in the judiciary could also go a long way towards a more balanced and empathetic approach in cases involving sexual violence. For instance, this Court (SC) only has 2 women judges, as against a sanctioned strength of 34 judges. There has never been a female Chief Justice of India.”

The AG was responding to a plea questioning the bail conditions imposed by the Madhya Pradesh high court in July this year, when the judge asked the accused to have the victim tie a rakhi on him. As The Wire reported them, the court also asked the man to give Rs 11,000 to the woman as part of a customary offering made by brothers to sisters on the occasion of rakhi, tender Rs 5,000 to the son of the victim for purchase of clothes and sweet and seek her blessings.

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Nine lawyers of the Supreme Court, led by advocate Aparna Bhat, had criticised this order, along with a few other high court orders, to say that the judiciary did not have an empathetic approach when it comes to sexual violence cases. “…there is a strong likelihood that such observations and directions may result in normalising what is essentially a crime and has been recognised to be so by the law,” their petition to the Supreme Court said.

Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, while noting that the MP high court order had already been complied with, asked what could be done to avoid such occurrences in the future. It is on that notice that the AG gave his suggestion.

According to Bar and Bench, Venugopal has given four recommendations: Collect data on number female judges in the lower judiciary; collect data on women judges in tribunals; determine number of senior designates by all high courts, year wise; and ensure greater representation of women at all levels of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court.

In addition to these, the AG also recommended that the judiciary put in place guidelines on granting bail and anticipatory bail, to ensure that the courts use only permissible conditions, and gender sensitisation of the entire judiciary, where judges learn to place themselves in the victim’s shows.