Justice Indu Malhotra, the seventh woman to become a Supreme Court judge, said on Friday that she does not subscribe to token symbolism and meritless appointments as a solution to address the lack of representation of women in judiciary.
She said that she was confident that the number of women on the Bench will gradually increase and that society will also benefit from greater diversity on the Bench.
“On the issue of gender representation, the difference between male and female judge will not exist one day. I do not believe representation being merely symbolic. I don’t believe in token symbolism and meritless appointment. I believe the numbers will grow. Society benefits when gender diversity is found on the bench,” she said.
However, Justice Malhotra said that being a woman has its challenges in the profession.
“The biggest challenge woman face is work life balance especially during the tenure of childbearing and child rearing. They require tremendous support in the legal profession. I believe my parents were very progressive for their times,” she said.
Justice Malhotra was speaking at the farewell function organised for her by the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). She is set to demit office on March 13 and Friday was her last working day.
Justice Malhotra in her speech also pointed out an issue plaguing the Supreme Court wherein a “disproportionate” amount of time must be spent by Supreme Court judges on reading case files.
She, therefore, suggested the idea to have a screening process so that “speculative” cases don’t end up being heard.
“I thought it was daunting to see how many cases a judge needed to apprise themselves with before a hearing. I feel a disproportionate amount of time are spent by judges in reading files. There needs to be a system in place to screen petitions. Many are speculative in order. There are SLPs against adjournment orders or concurrence findings. It’s a waste of judicial time,” she said.
She also recounted some heart-warming moments on the Bench specifically recollecting the reactions that swept through the courtroom after the landmark judgment decriminalsing consensual same-sex relations, was pronounced.
“As the Section 377 judgment was read out, the emotion that swept through was moving. Parties broke down as it gave legitimacy to their relationships,” she reminisced.
Justice Malhotra also recollected how she had turned down the offer to become a judge of Gujarat and Delhi High Court before she took up the role of Supreme Court judge.
Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, who also spoke on the occasion, heaped praises on Justice Malhotra calling her a master at arbitration law.
“(Justice) Indu is a master of Arbitration law and her new book is at par with international standards. We have lot more to see of you and your achievements. I hope you are as fruitful in your next phase as you have been in this one,” said Justice Nariman.
Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta stated that Justice Malhotra was “one judge who knew how to be firm without being rude and knew how to be decisive without being arrogant.”
“She knew her law, but it never reflected in her behavior,” he added.
“I lay down my office with a great sense of fulfillment and to have served the court which is the last judicial resort,” said Justice Malhotra as the function drew to a close.
Justice Malhotra was appointed Supreme Court judge on April 27, 2018 becoming the first woman to be elevated directly from the Bar to the Supreme Court and only the seventh woman judge Supreme Court ever had.
Malhotra also holds the distinction of being only the second woman lawyer to be designated Senior Advocate by the Supreme Court, the first being Justice Leila Seth.