Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud has called for zero tolerance against sexual harassment, inappropriate behaviour, inappropriate language and even inappropriate jokes at the expense of women.
Delivering the keynote address during an event organised by the Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the CJI pointed out that one of the problems in the profession was the harassment of women and inappropriate behaviour towards them.
Noting that he had heard ‘ghastly’ stories involving young women lawyers in the profession, arising out of the corridors of the Apex Court itself, the CJI called for zero tolerance against inappropriate behaviour towards women, use of inappropriate language in relation to women, and even on cracking inappropriate jokes in the presence of women.
Recalling his days as a young lawyer, the CJI said when he used to sit in groups, sometimes seniors would crack a joke at the expense of a woman lawyer there, which would become extremely unbecoming. No one then had the guts to tell the senior that the language was inappropriate. However, things have changed since, he added.
He said people have now realised that some forms of behaviour, be it physical, language-based, action-based or symbolic, were plainly unacceptable, particularly in the workplace.
Stressing on the need to emphasise that this kind of behaviour was not acceptable, the CJI said it was important to send this message to the authorities, since the excesses did not begin in the corridors. He added that it was important to recognise and put an end to such behaviour.
Expressing his happiness over the increased number of women in legal profession, the CJI recalled the time when women in the profession were far and few between, with an odd woman seen struggling across the board.
He said the times have completely changed now, with most of the states having over 50 percent and some having over 60 percent women judicial officers.
As per the CJI, this held great promise for the future because the women entering into the workspace today were going to define the values, traditions and the aspirations for the present and the future.
Speaking about the transactional lawyering space, Justice Chandrachud said there was a large number of women entering the transactional lawyering space for the reason that it was a space where merit was truly rewarded, where a woman was employed not because of being a woman or to be given another chance, but in recognition of her talent and the fact that she was as competent as her male counterparts.
He further said that the examples set in the district judiciary and in transactional law must now make their way to other parts of the legal profession, including the seniors’ chambers, the courtroom, and in appointments to the High Courts.
He said it was the need of the hour to send across the message that the top court of the country was an equal opportunity employer and workspace.
Chairperson of GSICC Justice Hima Kohli, committee member Justice B.V. Nagarathna and former Supreme Court judge, Justice Indira Banerjee, attended the event.