By Sakshi Kanodia
Disclaimer: The following article does not intend to bring down the image of our judicial system nor does it promote contempt in any form. This is merely an opinion piece and is in no way criticising the judges, their judgments or any particular gender. This is based on my experience during court visits.
‘A wise old man and a wise old woman reach the same conclusion.’ Must have heard this?
If we speak about judges, do you actually believe that the judges are unprejudiced? Does the gender of the judge affect the judgment?
One cannot fan or critic ‘bias’ from a sole angle. All and sundry in this planet and the human race are biased, be it family, friends, or any person with whom you share a special bond. The disparity in outlook, perceptions and sensitivity issues towards things varies from person to person. Adding to this, it won’t be a bombshell if I say that a woman’s and a man’s viewpoint may hold opposing views.
Are judges truly immune from this angle too? Long ago, law was considered to be a man’s field. In India, it was not socially acceptable for a woman to practice law. But today women are doing wonders in this field. Today’s judiciary embodies and is represented by both men and women. However, the question to be posed here is whether the gender of the judge has any impact on the process of judging?
Are the judgments rendered by female judges affected by ‘favouritism’? Obviously, we have no method to test this or to identify this difference. Lack of this does not imply that the gender of the judge does not play a significant role in their judgments and neither does it imply that it makes a difference.
Women are deemed to be more “emotional”, “empathetic” and “involved” as compared to men. Rather, it’s a true fact. It doesn’t imply that men are more mature. It’s just that women have sensitivity issues, to which they can easily relate themselves to; specially, if the matter relates to a family issue or a crime towards women or any concern of such a kind for that affair.
It is taken as a fact that a judge will perform his/her judicial duties without any bias. But it does not necessarily mean that the judge has shed away all of his/her life experiences, just by being sworn in. This is purely not feasible. How can you anticipate someone to undergo instantaneous change in whatever he/she personally feels or believes in or has, perhaps, experienced it?
A lady judge can, in a way, be said to have the most obstinate bias of all, in that she believes that she is not biased at all. In fact, a female judge’s judgment may sometimes be seen leaning towards the more unexpected side in order to prove herself neutral.
But it is practically not achievable to not lean towards the victim side when a matter of sexual offence against a woman appears before her court. Sometimes you will find them to be so much traumatised with the issue, that they cannot be unbiased. They simply cannot help relating to the victim, so much that the right of the other party to be equally heard without any prejudice is trampled over.
During the internships when I visited courtrooms, I could clearly see how a lady judge gets persuaded by the female victim and hardly bothers to listen to the other party. It is not only the case with a single judge, or a single time, because this happens most of the times.
And some of them are so clearly biased that you can basically read their minds and know the outcome of the case even before it is rendered. They think they already know these kinds of people and hardly bother listening to them.
While male judges are seen to be sensitive and concerned towards a female accused criminal and grant them privileges, lady judges are strict and unmoved by the accused woman’s plight. (Read: A woman is a woman’s worst enemy) This at times is a good thing and at times a very very wrong thing to do.
When a law student, during his/her internships, witnesses such biasedness, you can’t even imagine what kind of an image will be formed in his mind regarding our judicial system, which he/she so far considered to be free from bias.
Every person looks up to the judge with faith and a ray of hope. Is justice so scrawny that it is influenced by the emotions of a person? ‘Uninfluenced justice’ is not that easy to attain.
Anyway, these issues of bias are not that big a scam. It is very less in number, but yes it exists.
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Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.