Only one woman judge in SC out of 28
With the new appointments, while the total strength of judges in the apex court goes up to 28 out of a sanctioned 31, there is only one sitting woman judge, Justice R Banumathi.
Sources said women Chief Justices of two High Courts who were in the reckoning could not find favour with the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court who are part of the Collegium for selection of judges for higher judiciary.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising said it is very difficult to understand why the women Chief Justices of two High Courts were not considered.
"I fail to understand why there is an all-male team. There is no explanation coming from any authority, whether it is the Supreme Court, the Government or the President on why no women judges have been found fit to be a Supreme Court judge," she said.
Some women lawyers also expressed concern over the issue but declined to make any comment on record, saying "this has been happening every time."
The development leaves the apex court with only Justice R Banumathi as the sitting woman judge, who was appointed in August 2014 when another lady judge, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai was present.
Since Independence, only six women judges have made it to the apex court as judges and the first appointment was of Justice M Fathima Beevi in 1989, 39 years after the setting up of the Supreme Court in 1950.
Justice Fathima Beevi was elevated to the apex court after her retirement as judge of the Kerala High Court. After serving the top court till April 29, 1992, she was later appointed as the Governor of Tamil Nadu.
The second woman judge in the Supreme Court was Justice Sujata V Manohar who started her career as a judge from the Bombay High Court and rose to become the Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court. She was elevated to the apex court where she remained from November 8, 1994 till August 27, 1999.
Justice Ruma Pal followed Manohar after a gap of almost five months and became the longest serving woman judge from January 28, 2000 to June 2, 2006.
After her retirement, it took four years to appoint the next woman judge. Justice Gyan Sudha Misra was elevated to the Supreme Court from Jharkhand High Court where she was the Chief Justice. Her tenure in the apex court was from April 30, 2010 to April 27, 2014.
During her stint, she was joined by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, who served the apex court between September 13, 2011 to October 29, 2014. These two judges also created a history by holding the court together as an all-women bench for a day in 2013.
Justice Banumathi, who at present is the only sitting woman judge, had joined on August 13, 2014 and would retire on July 19, 2020.
In the history of 67 years of the Supreme Court, there have been only two occasions when it has had two sitting women judges together, the first being Justices Misra and Desai and later Justices Desai and Banumathi.