The Bombay High Court on Wednesday appointed a committee consisting of Principal District Judges from each district and a woman representative from the respective district Bar Associations to address the infrastructural issues faced by women lawyers, litigants and staff in the courts of Maharashtra.
A division bench of Acting Chief Justice Nitin Jamdar and Justice Arif Doctor was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Jan Adalat Centre for Paralegal Services and Legal Aid Society. The PIL highlighted the neglect experienced by women in court complexes in the state including lack of separate bar rooms and clean washrooms.
Women lack proper canteen, washroom and creche & feeding facilities
According to the plea, as on January 1, 2019, Maharashtra had approximately 1,60,000 lawyers, of which 40,000 were women. Despite these numbers, there is absence of separate bar rooms for women in court complexes throughout the State. It stressed that there are no existing rules which specify a minimum number of women lawyers required for the provision of a separate bar room.
In most of the court complexes, there is absence of canteen facilities, leaving women lawyers with no separate eating areas and resulting in their skipping lunch, the plea stated.
Attention was also drawn to the lack of changing rooms and clean washrooms for women in courts, as well as the need for a creche facility and feeding rooms to support women lawyers who become mothers.
Space crunch in Pune District Court
Specifically addressing the Pune District Court, the plea noted that despite there being approximately 1,500 women lawyers, there are only two bar rooms, leading to disputes over limited space and discomfort due to tin sheds during the summer.
The petitioner has urged the directions be issued to authorities to allocate separate parking spaces, lockers and drinking water facilities for women lawyers. In addition, the PIL also highlights the absence of CCTV cameras in court complexes.