Mainstream / Monday 21 September 2009,
Great Judge Sotomayor, I salute you. Why? You are a super symbol of gender power, a fine paradigm of feminine title to judicial authority to dispense justice at the national level, a glory not only for the womanhood of the USA but a symbol of the woman’s super-stature in the sex performance in all humanity. You are the robed sex on the Supreme Court Bench, an inspiration for women in all countries now neglected because the masculine gender occupies an unjust majority in all the three great constitutional instrumentalities.
This wise and graceful egalitarian nomination by the glorious Obama phenomenon is a bold assertion of equality of the sexes and proof of women’s liberation movement which is part of a broad liberation movement initiated by women the world over to improve their social position by freeing themselves from the constraints and disadvantages of a society said to be dominated by men. ‘Women’s lib’ has very strong roots in the USA and Europe and Tamil culture and has been politicised, especially by radical feminists who challenged even in temples the continued existence of male dominance in capitalist societies.
Is God a male? No. Bhagavathi, Parvathi Saraswathi, Lakshmi are sublime celestial powers. This capitalist godism is not socialist. The whole structural ethos of Manmohan is distanced from the socialist revolution in Russia that resulted in the raising of the status of both sexes with the result that the first woman who went into outer space in the world was a woman in the USSR, Valentina Tereshkova. And there were judges in the Soviet Union where women were on an equal footing with men.
In India alas, there is a printed declaration of equality of sexes as a fundamental right but 0.5 per cent of women are judges. In Muthamma’s case [1979 SCC (4) 260], women are discriminated against in the foreign service rules even in the case of right to matrimony. If a woman IFS officer marries, she must resign while when a man weds the conjugal life continues unbroken. Why no valid ground for this discrimination? So I struck down this disparity in Muthamma’s case, argued for the state by Soli Sorabjee, who fairly conceded the impropriety of this vice. Only in rare cases have we a lady Prime Minister even in a democracy. Half of humanity is women and yet no political party even in a democracy supports half the number of legislators from among the sisters. Even among judges in Victorian England women are rarely elevated to the High Bench. In short, social revolution must begin with equal share for women in constitutional instrumen-talities and learned professions sharing state power. Even Sonia Gandhi wielded power only when Rajiv was assassinated and the nation was shocked. Till then her presence and power were behind the screen. There is almost criminal cultural treatment against Sita by Rama who eventually submitted to discrimination by terrorism to forest life based on rumour. She was saved from this disaster by a Godsend earthquake. In the cultural epics of India polygamy was the privilege of kings (vide Krishna) and monogamy was strictly enforced against women.
Sonia Sotomayor is a majestic challenge to this discriminatory cosmic patho-logy so necessary in feminine suppression in India where unconstitutionality between the sexes is rampant even in Parliament notwithstanding Indira and Sonia Gandhi. Smt Pratiba Patil, by chance a President, is a ceremonial celebrity—these are exceptions; nowhere near Queen Elizabath or Victoria in terms of Power. Our socialist Republic has promises to keep and miles to go before it can claim to fulfil even the Preamble.
Our great Parliament has disgracefully failed in not approving of even one-third of MPs in favour of women. It is time that in the next election any party which does not include this promise in its manifesto should be de-voted by women voting in favour of candidates who promise to support this percentage promotive of this minimum. This does not mean reservation without merit.
Sonia Sotomayor, chosen by Obama, is by all standards a highly qualified person and will surely be a luminous celebrity as a distinguished jurist. Judge Sotomayor has lived the American Dream. Born and raised in a South Bronx housing project, she distinguished herself in academia and then as a hard-charging New York District Attorney.
Judge Sotomayor has gone on to earn bipartisan acclaim as one of America’s finest legal minds. As a Supreme Court Justice, she would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any Justice in 100 years. Judge Sotomayor would show fidelity to the Constitution and draw on a common-sense understanding of how the law affects day-to-day lives.
In India too if only the notorious collegium which has no constitutional status except a bizarre precedent with a narrow majority which binds, nevertheless adopted merit as a ground for selection. Of many candidates men and women are now chosen on irrelevant personal affectionate grounds to personal favouritism, party support and nepotism and close relationship. Many of the judges now selected can be replaced by better ones but a weak executive, itself lacking in merit of the highest order, submits to a syndrome of dynastic and other unhappy considerations. Women of exceptional merit at the Bar and possessing academic excellence are available but miss the Bench since they are women.
The Dravidians marvel of Kannagi and Kovalan where the former (wife) threatened to burn Madurai city. If her husband was sentenced to death unjustly and the ruler resented afraid of Kannagi’s rage. I conclude with a quote from Shakespeare:
From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:
They are the ground, the books, the academes,
From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire.
The pathetic lot of womanhood is best brought out in Shelley’s sad note:
Desires and Adorations,
Winged Persuasions and veiled Destinies,
Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering
Incarnations of Hopes and fears,
And twilight Phantasies;
And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,
And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam
Of her own dying smile instead of eyes,
Came in slow pomp.
Women, awake, arise and stop not till your equal status is secured.
(The author, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, is a well-known champion of human rights and civil liberties.)