Dr. K. Veeramani
It is a matter of grave concern that in the history of the Supreme Court of India, so far no woman has been appointed as the Chief Justice. High Courts and the Supreme Court are the last resort for our people. Why are judges not being appointed there in compliance with social justice?
Social Justice Flag
Judges are to be appointed based on the candidates shortlisted from a social justice point of view. In this process, gender justice combined with social justice is inevitable. In the judiciary, the flag of social justice must always flutter with pride, if our nation has to progress by achieving real growth in all the spheres.
For thousands of years birth based discrimination has been existing in India. No other county in the world endures such a caste based disparity. The upper caste brahmins in our country are a negligible minority of the population. But they have monopolized the world of education. Making education their sole property, these brahmins have been keeping the doors of opportunity shut for the suppressed people of the Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Scheduled Castes (SCs), Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and other Minorities.
Only in the last hundred years an awareness of social justice reservation is visible to some extent. This is prominent only in the southern parts of India due to the fiery efforts of the Dravidian movement. It has enabled the suppressed communities and under-privileged people get education and deployed in various employment to some extent.
Our Constitution was framed by the efforts of Dr. Ambedkar but there were loopholes in it pertaining to the vital issue of social justice, which were found during the first year itself and plugged by the relentless strife of Thanthai Periyar. The credit for the amendment goes to him. Besides them, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu Kamaraj, the Dravidian Movement and the entire population of Tamil Nadu have collectively contributed for whatever little we have achieved so far.
The BJP Ploy
The BJP led Government at the Centre has been consistently trying to chalk out new plans to seize all that Tamil Nadu has achieved so far. For instance, the hasty 103rd Amendment in the Constitution. Such efforts could totally wreck the very foundation of our Constitution.
The High Courts and the Supreme Court alone are the guardians of all the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. People trust in them treating as their last resort. The judges appointed in these courts should believe in social justice and must be willing to fight for it. They should have absolute clarity about it and must have themselves realized the ill-effects of social injustice. The judges appointed should belong to the communities which have instilled such virtues in them. Only then social justice would be firmly established and people deprived of rights and opportunities would derive the benefits of social justice. This makes us stress and insist that social justice should be adhered to – even in the appointment of judges in High Courts and in the Supreme Court. It is only in the recent past, over 40 to 50 years that we find changes in society. All that were the sole properties and monopolised possessions of the upper caste are being shared by the under privileged atleast to some extent today.
Denial of Gender Justice
Gender justice combined with social justice should be accessible for every one without any sort of bias. Under the pretext of providing equal opportunities to women, if the benefits are derived only by upper caste brahmin women, it is actually denial of gender justice, caused by caste-based gender bias.
Gluttony and Starvation
In terms of percentage the upper caste people who have achieved advancement in life are only 3 to 8 per cent of our population. The brahmins have become gluttons by eating belly-full whereas the people of other communities are starving holding empty bowls.
Among the people of SC / ST/ BC/MBC and other minority communities, very few are serving as judges in the courts all over India. Among the 34 judges in the Supreme Court only one hails from the Scheduled Caste (SC) after several years of denial, only one judge belongs to the backward community.
Excluding the vacant positions the rest of the judges of both sex belong to upper caste or general categories. Shouldn’t this pitiable condition change?
Benefactors of the Past
Among the district judges in Tamil Nadu who have had several years of rich experience in their service, ten judges were shortlisted and appointed recently as High Court Judges. Many of them are women judges. In fact, they should have been appointed a few years ago as per their merit and competence. After a long wait they assumed the office a recently. In this batch of judges, a number of them belong to suppressed and under privileged families. This was possible because the principle and policy of social justice and reservation had reached the level of district-judge appointments by the relentless efforts of all the great thinkers and social reformers of the past. Why can’t all the High Courts and the Supreme Court implement appropriate enactments?
13 Women judges in Madras High Court
This is a successful achievement for the social justice agitations held so far in Tamil Nadu. But the yardstick to determine eligibility and competence of a candidate is still not clear. The judgments pronounced by many of the upper caste High Court judges have been changed or rejected by the Supreme Court.
The Chief Justice proudly announced that there were 13 women judges in the High Court of Madras. Is this not an outcome of all the social justice agitations held here in order to depict soil psychology? It was the Dravidian rule which granted voting rights to women in 1921 itself. The evil ‘Manu(a)dharma’ had degraded women by the stigmatic label of ‘Namo Sudhras’. It was erased in this land of Periyar. This Dravidian soil of social justice fought for the upliftment of women by helping them acquire literacy and also job opportunities for their emancipation and advancement in life.
Why should any woman be unable to become the Chief Justice in the Supreme Court of India? An awareness similar to ours is yet to be found in other States, particularly in the North. No movement in the line of Periyar’s Dravidian Movement has been formed anywhere in north India to create awareness like Tamil Nadu. Those people are still being led by outdated ways of life and stale, worn out thoughts. If not, would they be building and worshipping in a ‘Satimata-Temple’?
The people who have been suppressed and oppressed for centuries still starve belching hungrily, holding empty bowls. They must get a fair share in placement as judges in our courts of law. The doors of opportunities must be widely opened to them.
Attorney General’s Regret
Eminent Attorney General and legal expert K.K. Venugopal recently conveyed his regret over the unpalatable fact that in the history of the Supreme Court till this day, not even one woman has served as Chief Justice. Lack of adequate representation is not the only reason for this. Infact the Supreme Court is not willing to prefer and recommend young candidates. A stumbling block still exists which reads – “Preference only to the aged”. This has become a hurdle for competent young women judges.
A precedent was already set in the past when less than 40 year old, matured, competent, talented male judges were appointed as Chief Justice. Why can’t this be followed in the case of young women judges?
Age factor should be ignored. the level of intellect, exceptional skill and competence must be the criteria for eligibility. If such candidates are given opportunities, this deficiency would certainly vanish.