Rajya Sabha member and Senior Advocate P Wilson
Rajya Sabha member and Senior Advocate P Wilson

Empathy is important for judicial decisions: P Wilson writes to President to ensure more diversity in judicial appointments

"The present trend shows representation of socially-marginalised groups remains dismal. The percentage of women judges fall more drastically", Wilson highlights in his letter.

Bar & Bench

Rajya Sabha member and Senior Advocate P Wilson has written to the President of India raising concern over the lack of diversity in judicial appointments, particularly in the Supreme Court of India.

"For the past few years, we have been witnessing declining representation from all the sections of the society in the Apex Court. There is a diversity deficit in our Supreme Court and the Court is not indicative of the wonderfully diverse and pluralistic society of India", Wilson has written.

It is noted that many social groups are poorly represented in the judiciary, which may mean that their rights are not being properly safeguarded.

In this regard, it is noted that people may be apprehensive that a "very narrow, homogeneous group of Judges belonging to certain classes are not necessarily going to reflect the views and values of society as a whole, particularly on issues involving diverse, cultural and generational matters because they would require more perspectives."

Without a diverse judiciary, Wilson highlights that there is a greater likelihood of a violation of the rights of under-represented persons and discrimination. He queries,

"How else can one explain the lack of more number of women and judges from historically oppressed sections of society?"

He adds,

"It is not that they are not qualified enough. The present trend shows representation of socially-marginalised groups remains dismal. The percentage of women judges fall more drastically. Significant over-representation of certain sections calls into question the objectivity of the current system and its inability to recruit from different social groups. There is much to gain from having a judiciary that reflects society in all its diversity."

He goes on to assert,

"To maintain this public faith and especially amongst litigants, we must maintain diversity in the Judiciary. The absence of judges from all sections of society threatens to erode the public confidence in the judiciary and also morale."
P Wilson

Wilson further raises the following pertinent points to call for a more diverse judicary:

  • Diversity on the Benches enhances judicial impartiality as well as increase public confidence in the administration of justice.

  • Increasing the diversity of the judiciary improves the quality of judgments. It means that there will be more varied experiences and perspectives from which to draw on in interpreting and applying the law. Wilson explains,

"After all, Judges are also human beings who are shaped and moulded by the strength of their experiences. On a close scrutiny of composition of Judges which laid down certain laws relating to rights of any community affecting them across the country, it would be apparent that the views drastically changes when they lack diversity in the bench."
  • Empathy is an important tool in shaping judicial decisions. As noted in the letter, "A Judge who was born into privilege, and raised wealthy and in upper echelons of society might not appreciate the law pertaining to reservations as much as a Judge who was born into abject poverty, but has risen to success through reservations and who is not part of the bench which delivered the judgment."

  • Lack of diversity in the Supreme Court may also contribute to problems on a social and constitutional level. People who are unable to relate to figureheads in the justice system are less likely to feel heard and represented. They may be less willing to engage or participate in society or in the democratic process.

  • A diverse judiciary will aid the self-correction of unconscious or conscious bias. Wilson explains that lack of diversity may lead to affinity bias. He adds that while good judges will pride themselves on objectivity, they are only human. Bias may creep into judgments, reducing their fairness and therefore their quality.

In view of these concerns, Wilson has urged the President to make it mandatory for diversity in the appointments to Union judiciary while keeping intact the other requirements.

"Otherwise, an inclusive judiciary would remain a distant dream and an empty slogan relegated to speeches and textbooks, thereby widening the trust deficit over the last bastion", Wilson writes.

Read the Letter:

Letter re diversity in judicial appointments - P Wilson.pdf
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