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RESERVATIONS IN SCBA

Teja Naga Tapasya Mokamatla

Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University

RESERVATIONS IN SCBA

ABSTRACT

Supreme Court Bar Association, an organisation consisting of the lawyers who are interested to bar in the Supreme Court. It is like a venue for them to discuss legal issues, debate them and to stand against anyone who violates their rights. It upholds the rule of law as well. Protecting the judiciary's independence, advancing legal education, and pushing for changes to India's justice system are all important tasks executed by the SCBA.

The members of the Supreme Court Bar Association get their membership through the election procedure. The Supreme Court Bar Association's president and other office holders are chosen by their fellow members, and their job is to represent the interests and concerns of the Supreme Court legal community. The organisation frequently takes up important legal issues of public concern and helps individuals in need by offering legal aid and support.

On May 3, 2024, the Supreme Court, through its judgement,  announced that 33 per cent of the bar body posts are to be reserved for the women from the 2024 elections itself. This paved a way for the representation of women in the judicial bodies as well, in addition to the reservations for the socially and economically backward classes like Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes. 

SUPREME COURT BAR ASSOCIATION

The Supreme Court Bar Association is a premier institution and is an integral part of the highest judicial forum in the country[i]. Supreme Court Bar Association, located in the capital city of New Delhi, is an organisation where the practising lawyers of the Supreme Court are the members. It was actually established in 1951. It was also registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860.

The main aims and objectives of the association is to uphold the rule of law, protect the interests of the members, monitor legal process, influence legislation, provide legal aid, organise events and conferences, ensure member welfare through various initiatives and representation. In general, the Supreme Court Bar Association is essential to the development of the legal profession and the administration of justice in India since it represents the interests of attorneys who practise before the nation's highest court.

The membership shall be divided into four sections: resident members, non-resident members, associate members and non-active members. Even the advocates practising in the High Court and Judicial Commissioners court shall be eligible for the membership as well. The members shall give their full assistance to the court from their part. If any member holds any office of profit or practise, then he may be suspended from the membership for the association. The removal of the members can only be by the 2/3rd voting only.

The Executive Committee consists of the President, Vice-President, Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer and 15 memes where 6 members are the senior advocates. All the other committees shall be subordinate to the Executive Committee. At present, the President is Adish Aggarwal. The members are elected where an election committee is appointed by the Executive Committee of 3 members.

Now, the Supreme Court bench of Justice Surya Kant and K V Viswanathan, remarked that the norms, eligibility conditions, membership, membership fee structure cannot remain static for decades and timely reforms are needed to meet the challenges that may confront the institution in the near future and are required to be carried out[ii].

The elections for the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association is going to be held on May 16, when the term of the current office-bearers will expire. The voters’ list was the same as that of the year 2023.

The order was generally passed due to the application passed by one of the advocates for the reforms in the bar body’s electoral process and holding of the election. Total 8 resolutions were introduced in the Supreme Court Bar Association general body special meeting seeking to recall where any post member not be held eligible to remain in the post for more than four years, revision of deposit fee and eligibility for contesting.

The court directed that a minimum of three out of nine seats in the Executive Committee and at least two out of six senior advocates and a minimum of two out of six of the Senior Executive Members posts need to be reserved for the women. But this does not mean that the eligible candidates will be debarred. It said that one post of the office-bearers of the Supreme Court Bar Association will be reserved for the women and it works on a rotation basis.

The court even remarked that the eligibility criteria and the norms need to be changed and needed an alteration in them as well. These rules and conditions were made from the establishment periods. As the time calls for reforms, directed the Executive Committee of the Supreme Court Bar Association to suggest reforms from its members.

Twenty percent of the 56 advocates who were promoted to senior status by the Supreme Court earlier this year were women. The simultaneous senior designation of 11 female advocates was a novelty in the annals of the judiciary. Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, who has long advocated for the appointment of more women to the court, likewise viewed this move as a significant gender push.

The court added that such reforms are brought after due consideration of the suggestions of the members of the bar[iii].

Reservations for women goes a long way back to the past. Along with the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, women were also considered as vulnerable. They were treated as untouchables and mistreated by the patriarchal society.  They were not allowed to participate in any occasions or events, they were restricted to their kitchen. They were only to listen to the words of their husbands or their fathers.

The constitutional framework has prohibited discrimination and untouchability. Nobody should be discriminated against in terms of race, caste, religion, sex and place of birth. All should be treated equally and equal in law. So, the concept of reservations was introduced for the women as well.

The goal of women's reservations in India is to promote women's involvement in many areas of public life and to combat gender inequalities. Through the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Indian Constitution, women are granted reservations in local governing entities known as Panchayats and Municipalities. These revisions require these institutions to set aside one-third of their seats for women.

The 73rd Amendment to the Indian Constitution[iv], which mandates reservations for women in Panchayats, is a major step towards gender equality and grassroots women's empowerment. According to this constitutional clause, women are entitled to one-third of the seats in Panchayati Raj organisations, such as Zila Parishads, Panchayat Samitis, and Gram Panchayats.

These reservations have been in place since 1993 with the intention of addressing past gender inequities in rural governance, boosting women's voices in local development projects, and increasing women's involvement in decision-making processes. These reservations make it possible for a more varied and inclusive leadership to be formed, one that represents the interests and goals of the whole community by guaranteeing women's representation.

The number of women leaders in Panchayats throughout India has significantly increased as a result of the reservation policy, offering them opportunities to take part in community growth, resource distribution, and policy creation. In their communities, women leaders have been essential in promoting causes including women's rights, healthcare, education, and cleanliness.

Notwithstanding the advancements, obstacles still exist, such as patriarchal beliefs, scarce resources, and societal restrictions that prevent women from fully participating in society. In order to overcome these obstacles, initiatives are being made to help women in developing their leadership abilities, raise awareness of women's rights, and provide capacity-building support.

All things considered, women's reservations in Panchayats have played a significant role in advancing gender parity, bolstering grassroots democracy, and encouraging inclusive local government in India.

The 74th Amendment to the Indian Constitution mandates reservations for women in municipalities, which is an important tool for advancing gender equality and women's empowerment in urban government. One-third of the seats in municipal entities, such as Municipal Corporations, Municipal Councils, and Nagar Panchayats, are set aside for women under this constitutional mandate[v].

These restrictions, which have been in place since 1993, are intended to rectify past gender inequalities in urban government, increase women's involvement in decision-making, and guarantee their inclusion in local development projects. These reserves provide women a chance to participate in urban government, which makes municipal administrations more responsive and inclusive.

The reservation policy has significantly increased the proportion of female leaders in Indian municipal governments, giving them the ability to speak out on concerns such as women's rights in urban areas, infrastructural development, healthcare, education, and sanitation. Women leaders improve the decision-making process and advance the welfare of all citizens, particularly women and marginalised populations, by bringing a diversity of viewpoints and interests to municipal governance.

Notwithstanding the advancements, obstacles still exist, such as discrimination against women based on their gender, a lack of resources, and sociocultural barriers that prevent women from effectively participating in urban administration. In order to address these issues, efforts must be focused on developing women's rights and entitlements, supporting their leadership in municipal organisations, and cultivating an atmosphere that is supportive of their efforts.

In general, women's reservations in municipalities are essential to the advancement of gender parity, the bolstering of urban democracy, and the creation of more inclusive and environmentally friendly cities in India. They encourage women's emancipation and make a significant contribution to the accomplishment of gender equality as a more general aim in urban development and administration.

In addition, women are given preference in both national and state legislative bodies. Nonetheless, the implementation of these reservations varies throughout states and is subject to periodic review and extension by the Parliament.

The aim of these reservations is to tackle past marginalisation and prejudice, improve women's participation in decision-making bodies, and empower them politically. Despite misgivings, obstacles including patriarchal views, Women's full engagement in politics and public life continues to be hampered by a lack of resources and restricted educational opportunities.

In order to bolster and broaden reserves for women, initiatives are being undertaken to guarantee the efficient execution of current reservations as well as to push for higher quotas in legislative bodies. In order to advance gender equality and build a more inclusive and representative democracy in India, several actions are essential.

CONCLUSION

The SCBA is a preeminent organisation made up of Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record (AORs) and practising attorneys. Its primary duties include preserving and strengthening the fundamental principles of democracy, the rule of law, and judicial independence. The reservation of one-third seats in the bar enables them to have an active participation in the elections and uplifts their position in the judicial category as well.

Reservations represent a significant step forward in India's journey towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. It enhances women’s participation and provides a platform to voice their concerns, advocate their rights and contribute towards the decision making process.

The impact of reservations extends beyond mere representation, but includes intangible improvements in the lives of the women and marginalised communities, with focus on areas such as healthcare, education, sanitation, infrastructure. They will be given a chance to demonstrate resilience, leadership and commitment to inclusive development, challenging patriarchal norms and driving positive change in their communities.

Even though the patriarchal norms and attitudes, limited resources and social barriers persist and continue to hinder the full realisation of women’s potential in the governance. Efforts to address these challenges must be ongoing and multifaceted, encompassing capacity building initiatives, awareness raising campaigns and policy interventions aimed at creating an enabling environment for women’s leadership.

The reservations for women have already been implemented by the constitutional amendments in the local government. By this judgement, reservations are going to be implemented in the judicial body as well. This paves a way for a new path.

Reservations for women plays a crucial role in promoting gender equality, strengthening grassroots democracy and fostering inclusive and sustainable development. As India pursues gender equality, ensuring meaningful participation of women in all spheres of governance remains imperative for building a more just, equitable and prosperous society for all.

REFERENCES

[i] Suchitra Kalyan Mohanty, Supreme Court mandates one-third reservation for women in SCBA posts, 2024. https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2024/May/02/supreme-court-mandates-one-third-reservation-for-women-in-scba-posts

[iv] Article 243C, 73rd Amendment Act, 1992, Ministry of Panchayati Raj.

[v] 74th Amendment act, 1992, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs. https://mohua.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/74th_CAA13.pdf.

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