Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud on Saturday said diversity and representation are crucial not only for rectifying historical injustices but also for enriching the decision-making capacity of courts.
Speaking on the occasion of the second annual lecture series to mark the first sitting of the Supreme Court on January 28, 1950, Chief Justice Chandrachud welcomed International Court of Justice Judge Hilary Charlesworth as a chief guest of the programme.
“It is important to emphasise that diversity and representation is crucial not only for rectifying historical injustices but also for enriching the decision-making capacity of courts. The evolving representation of nation-states before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has notably challenged its historically monocultural and Eurocentric outlook,” he said.
“Likewise, integrating gender diversity within the courts would substantially broaden the spectrum of perspectives, leading to more comprehensive and equitable decisions,” he said.
Emphasising that the top court has made strides in making its provisions gender-inclusive, CJI Chandrachud said, “The Supreme Court released a sensitisation module for the judiciary on the LGBTQIA+ community, which seeks to sensitise members of the judiciary on concepts of gender and sexual diversity, on the usage of appropriate terminologies and makes recommendations on the protocol to be followed by courts while interacting with the members of the queer community.”
He added, that similarly, the top court has last year released a ‘handbook to combat gender stereotypes’, in an attempt to ensure that judges use inclusive language and consciously avoid the use of stereotypes in decision-making.
“Before 2024, only 12 women had been bestowed with the title of ‘Senior Advocate’ throughout the entire history of the Supreme Court. However, recently there was a significant shift as the Supreme Court designated 11 women hailing from various regions across the country as Senior Advocates,” he highlighted.
Supreme Court of Singapore Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon was the chief guest for the first edition of the annual lecture series, which was held last year, to celebrate the legacy of the Supreme Court.
Justice Surya Kant, who was also present on the dais gave the welcome address. The programme was attended by top court judges, high court judges, senior lawyers, law students and interns.
CJI Chandrachud said that the first woman to be elected to the ICJ was Dame Rosalyn Higgins, who also became the first female president of the court and Judge Charlesworth is regarded as one of the pioneers of the feminist approach to international law and has brought this school of thought into the mainstream.
He added that Judge Charlesworth, who was his old friend since Harvard Law School days, was the fifth woman to serve on the ICJ in the court’s 77-year history.
“Recently, Judge Julia Sebutinde, the first African woman to sit on the ICJ, has been elected as the vice president. To have more women as judges of the International Court of Justice is not the responsibility of the Court alone, but a share of the responsibility must be borne by nation-states and national groups who are responsible for the nomination process.
“I dare say the same in regard to the appointment of more women judicial officers in India as well,” CJI Chandrachud added.
He said that the institution of the Supreme Court of India in 1950, a moment that marked political and social transformation, cannot be viewed as divorced from the political realities of its time.
“The sitting of the Supreme Court for the first time echoed the aspirations of a nascent country burdened by the legacy of colonial rule and entrenched social stratification, yet equipped with a transformative, progressive, and foresighted Constitution.
“Over the years, the Supreme Court has embodied these aspirations by crafting a vast body of jurisprudence aimed at liberating India from its colonial past and fostering the groundwork for social transformation. In this journey, the apex court of the nation has emerged as a product of the interplay between polity, societal aspirations, and the law,” he highlighted.
CJI Chandrachud further said nowadays legal forums across the globe are recognising that they cannot view themselves as divorced from the socio-political realities and aspirations of the time.
This recognition fosters an environment conducive to mutual learning and exchange of ideas, the CJI said, adding that he is hopeful that the lawyers and researchers who are being mentored are going to change the way the legal systems have been working in.
“The new generation of lawyers and scholars are evolving new paradigms to reimagine the conceptions of law and justice,” he said.
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