A woman judge in the Delhi High Court pulled up a lawyer when she was constantly referred to as ‘sir’, leading to a discussion on the gender imbalance in the country’s judiciary.
On Wednesday, Justice Rekha Palli objected to the address as ‘sir’ as she was hearing a case, and stated that she was not a ‘sir’. “I am not Sir. I hope you can make that out,” Justice Palli said.
The lawyer apologised and said, “Sorry, it is because of the chair you are sitting in.”
Hearing this, the judge retorted that if the address was because of her chair, it made the mistake worse, because the judge’s chair was not meant to be exclusive to men. “That’s even worse, if after all this time you think that the chair is for ‘Sirs’. If the younger members don’t stop differentiating, what hope do we have for the future?” Justice Palli asked.
The gender ratio in India’s judicial system has remained skewed, with only a handful of women judges ruling in courts. In 2021, an organisation of women lawyers filed a PIL seeking the appointment of more women judged in courts. The PIL stated how the high courts of Manipur, Meghalaya, Patna, Tripura and Uttarakhand had no single woman judge. The High Courts of Guwahati, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir; Ladakh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan and Sikkim had only a single woman judge each.