How many Women Judges have been a part of the Collegium?
Out of the eight women who have been appointed to the Supreme Court, only two have ever been inducted into the Collegium.
Article 124 of the Constitution of India, 1950 establishes the Supreme Court and regulates the procedure to appoint the justices. In addition to this constitutional provision, four critical Supreme Court judgments further delineate the process of appointment.
In the First Judges Case (1981), the Court made it explicit that the President would have to substantially consult the Chief Justice. Then in the Second Judges Case (1993), the Court went a step further and declared that the Chief Justice would have primacy over judicial appointments. Finally, in the Third Judges Case (1998), the Court further explicated that the Chief Justice in consultation with four senior-most judges would decide on the appointments. In the Fourth Judges Case (2015) which challenged the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act, the Court held the Act unconstitutional and prevented overarching legislative interference with judicial appointments. And it reiterated the Collegium system.
Currently, the Chief Justice and four senior-most judges form the Collegium and make crucial decisions around appointing judges to the Supreme Court and High Courts.
Justice Banumathi who retired from the Supreme Court on 19 July 2020 was not only one of only three women Justices on the Court, but she was also the only female member of the preceding Collegium. Justice UU Lalit has been inducted into the Collegium in her place.
Out of the eight women who have been appointed to the Supreme Court, only two have ever been inducted into the Collegium: Justice Banumathi and Justice Ruma Pal. Justice Banumathi served on the Collegium from 17 November 2019, while Justice Pal served from 2003 till her retirement on 2 June 2006.
The Collegium system, which is based on seniority, has been more favourable to the female Justices who have served longer terms: both Justices Banumathi and Ruma Pal served for 6 years, in contrast with the average term for female Justices which is 3.87 years.