SC judge praises role of women advocates in MeToo movement

Supreme Court judge justice D.Y. Chandrachud on Saturday praised women lawyers for actively participating in the #MeToo movement, a global campaign which focused on the experiences of sexual violence of survivors and encouraged them to open up on their experiences.

Justice Chandrachud said the creation of a case-type-specific database is the need of the hour and pointed out that such a database being compiled was seen in 2018 with the rise of the #MeToo movement. Justice Chandrachud said: “The rise of the #MeToo movement, where young women lawyers started offering their services free of cost to assist women who have been sexually harassed, has even led to creation of databases of lawyers, who could be approached for specific issues”.

Justice Chandrachud was speaking at the launch of 6-week long ‘Pan India Legal Awareness and Outreach Campaign’ of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).

Justice Chandrachud added that such an exercise should be conducted at an institutionalized level, presently legal aid cases through NALSA are only assigned to empanelled lawyers, who may not have a specialized practice area. “It may be worthwhile for NALSA to solicit support from young lawyers who are passionate about certain specific issues. This will provide comfort to hesitant individuals to see legal aid without the fear of being shamed or harassed”, he added.

Justice Chandrachud emphasized that a similar exercise can be conducted perhaps for the members of the transgender or sexual minority communities. “Many of individuals in these communities are closeted and do not seek legal aid of the fear of disclosure of their identities. A number of them face significant threat to life by society and even from their own family members”, he said, adding that it may be beneficial for them to reach out to lawyers who specialize in these cases.

“The provision of legal aid services can be enhanced if lawyers dedicated to a particular cause and are responsible for only those cases,” Justice Chandrachud said.

President Ram Nath Kovind, who launched the legal awareness and outreach campaign, said, “As a country, our aim is to graduate from ‘women development’ to ‘women-led development’. Therefore, increasing the number of women in National Legal Services Institutions is as important as reaching out to the largest possible number of women beneficiaries”.

He added that there are about 11,000 women lawyers among over 47,000 panel advocates at the district level and about 17,000 women para-legal volunteers out of the total number of nearly 44,000.

Justice S.K. Kaul, also a judge in the Supreme Court, supported justice Chandrachud’s suggestions in connection with #MeToo movement. He said person giving legal aid must have empathy, otherwise that person will not have his/her heart on the issue.