The Supreme Court on June 9 urgently intervened to direct the Registrar General of Madras High Court to file a detailed report on the basic facilities, including washrooms, available for women lawyers at Nilgiris court complex in Tamil Nadu.
The lack of proper facilities for women lawyers has been a burning issue for nearly a quarter of a century in the hill district.
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The issue was raised in the Supreme Court by the Nilgiris Women Lawyers Association through a petition.
The Supreme Court led by Chief Justice of India D. Y. Chandrachud had been repeatedly highlighting the importance to provide an inclusive environment for women practising law, right from the district courts to the apex court.
The dearth of facilities for women lawyers also grabbed national attention when the National Commission for Women wrote to the Madras High Court, saying the state of affairs not only showed neglect but amounted to a violation of human rights.
On April 29, the Supreme Court had recorded the Madras High Court’s offer to examine the facilities in the Nilgiris court complex and file a report. The apex court had also given the women lawyers liberty to approach the District Judge or the Registrar General of the High Court in case of any future grievances.
On Friday, the women lawyers reached out to the apex court with a complaint that the space meant for their basic facilities in the court complex had “shrunk”.
A Vacation Bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Rajesh Bindal said the report filed by the Madras High Court in the apex court on June 6 about the facilities available to women lawyers in Nilgiris court complex was not comprehensive.
“We need a more detailed report from the Registrar General of the Madras High Court,” Justice Bose observed. The Bench directed the Registrar General to file the detailed report by Sunday. It listed the case on June 12.
During the hearing, the Nilgiris District Bar Association, represented by senior advocate V. Mohana and advocate Sriram Parakkat, countered the plea made by the Nilgiris Women Lawyers Association.
Ms. Mohana argued that the latter association composed of a “few” women lawyers who wanted to bring “disrepute” to the Nilgiris Bar Association.
Senior advocate Guru Krishnakumar, for the High Court, contended that the necessary facilities had been provided.
However, rhe women lawyers complained that the toilet cubicles were so narrow that they were unusable. The court said it would wait for the new report.
“This report on June 6 does not explain in detail the manner of facilities provided in the new court complex and whether there was any shrinkage of facilities which was earlier available,” the Bench observed.