Chief Justice Chandrachud Advocates for Gender Equity in Legal Bodies, Highlights Persistent 'Old Boys Club' Culture

Chief Justice Chandrachud advocates for greater female representation in Bar Councils, highlighting systemic barriers hindering women's participation.

Chief Justice DY Chandrachud raised concerns regarding the inadequate representation of women in Bar Councils and Bar Associations nationwide, citing a perpetuation of an entrenched old boys club due to an unsupportive environment for women's election.

Despite the increasing number of female lawyers, Chief Justice Chandrachud noted that this growth is not translating into proportional representation within elected Bar Councils and Bar Associations.

Speaking at the centenary celebration of the High Court Bar Association at Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court, the Chief Justice also criticized the trend of bar association members publicly commenting on pending cases and court judgments.

Chief Justice Chandrachud emphasized the necessity for women's representation in the legal profession, including the judiciary and bar associations, highlighting the absence of women in key leadership positions such as the Bar Council of India and the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association.

Referring to a 2021 report, the Chief Justice revealed that only 2.04 percent of elected representatives across State Bar Councils are women, shedding light on the substantial underrepresentation of women in elected bodies.

Exploring the reasons behind this disparity, Chief Justice Chandrachud pointed to the demanding nature of election campaigns for Bar Associations and Bar Councils, which often favor the formation and continuation of a male-dominated old boys club. "Contesting elections for Bar Associations and for bar councils requires extensive networking, campaigning and soliciting of votes, which often leads to the formation and perpetuation of an entrenched old boys club," he said.

Chief Justice Chandrachud stressed that simply removing formal barriers to women's participation in elections is insufficient, urging existing male office bearers to actively encourage and support women lawyers in their candidacy and create a conducive environment for their fair participation. "It is the responsibility of the existing male office bearers to not only encourage and support women lawyers who stand for election, but also make the environment conducive for them to stand a fair chance," he said.

Encouraging women advocates to assert their presence and vie for positions of responsibility within Bar Associations, Chief Justice Chandrachud urged them to actively participate in elections and contribute to the transformation of the legal profession's demographic landscape. "Come forward. Contest elections and hold positions of responsibility," he said.

Highlighting a positive development, Chief Justice Chandrachud mentioned the recent decision by the Supreme Court to designate 11 women lawyers as senior advocates, signaling a shift in the demographic composition of successful lawyers. "Recently, the Supreme Court designated 11 women as lawyers, as senior advocates, in one go, signalling the change in the demographic of our successful lawyers," he said.