Justice Sunita Agarwal: Women empowerment or just notional women representation
The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the name of Justice Sunita Agarwal of Allahabad High Court to be elevated to Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court.. She would be the only Chief Justice in all the 25 High Courts in India. At present the representation of women as Chief Justice of any high Court is 0 but if Collegium's recommendation goes through, she will be the only woman Chief Justice and it would make the tally 4%.
Supreme Court of India presently has 3 woman judges. Justice Hima Kohli, Justice BV Nagarathna, and Justice Bela M Trivedi. Out of all these three woman judges, only Justice Hima Kohli has been Chief Justice of any High Court. The rest of the two woman judges have not remained chief Justices of any High Court but were promoted directly from High Court Judge to Supreme Court Judge. The representation of women judges in the Supreme Court at present is about 9%.
The last Chief Justice of any High Court in India was Justice Sonia Gokani of Gujarat High Court who had a very short tenure as CJ of Gujarat High Court.
Out of the 8 women judges who have retired as Supreme Court judges, only 4 judges have been given the opportunity of running the entire state Judiciary. Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai, Fathima Beevi, and Ruma Pal were elevated directly to the Supreme Court while they were working as Judge of any high Court whereas Justice Indu Malhotra is the only judge who was elevated to the Supreme Court from Bar. Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra, R. Banumati, Sujata Manohar, and Indira Banerjee have served as Chief Justices of High courts.
In this furtherance, the wording of the Collegium is very interesting since even the Collegium notes the fact that there is no woman as chief justice of any High Court at the moment.
"On the appointment of Ms. Justice Sunita Agarwal, the Allahabad High Court would have a second Chief Justice among the Chief Justices of the High Courts. Besides, while considering the name of Ms. Justice Sunita Agarwal, the Collegium has taken into consideration the fact that she would be the only woman Chief Justice of a High Court as presently there is no woman among the Chief Justices of the High Courts."
Total women representation in High Court is nearly 11%.