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The Moorings of Judge Hillary Charlesworth and Why's it Relevant for Viksit Bharat

In the heart of India's Supreme Court stands a sculpture by Shri Chintamoni Kar. The sculpture’s symbolism transcends aesthetic value embodying the protective and nurturing role of the judiciary. It reminds us that the law, in its purest form, is a guardian of rights and a facilitator of justice. A metaphor as profound as the principles it seeks to embody. Similarly, the International Court of Justice’s Judge, Hillary Charlesworth through her feminist jurisprudence invites us to reimagine this role. This reimagination, the author notes, was extremely well publicised in her Introduction to the author’s edited book titled, “Re-Imagining the International Legal Order”.  In this Introduction, Judge Charlesworth noted perceptively, “although it is often said that international law offers the world a common juridical language, the chapters here suggest that there are many languages of international law. The institutions of international law are embedded in a political context. Still, while international law has opened up certain ways of thinking about global politics, it has also made others harder to imagine.” This perspective continued in Judge Charlesworth’s address at the Second Annual Lecture to commemorate Foundation Day organised to commemorate the Supreme Court's diamond jubilee celebration where Judge Charlesworth illustrated her insights. Referencing her magnum opus, “The Boundaries of International Law: A Feminist Analysis," the Annual Day lecture explored the intersections of gender, law, and international relations through law. In addition, one may add, by bridging the chasms of gender bias and advocating for an inclusive legal order, beckon India to reimagine its judiciary through the prism of equity and justice. Judge Charlesworth's international legal scholarship, marked by a critical examination of international law's limitations and a fervent call for gender-balanced legal practices, provides a blueprint for transformation. Justice Surya Kant highlighted the significance of Judge Hilary Judge Charlesworth's contributions by acknowledging the impact of her feminist jurisprudence on mainstream legal thought, which is typically governed by thought dominated and more often than not determined by first principles.


Her scholarship, emphasizing the integration of feminist perspectives into the legal fabric, challenges the traditionalist view that has long governed judicial systems worldwide, including India's. It's a call to action: to dismantle the entrenched patriarchy that silences women's voices and to construct a judiciary reflective of the society it serves. The relevance of Judge Charlesworth's feminist jurisprudence to India cannot be overstated. In a nation teeming with diversity yet plagued by gender disparities, her work illuminates the path towards a legal system that champions equality and understands the nuanced dynamics of power. It's a vision where law transcends its conventional roles, advocating for justice and transformative equity that uplifts all, irrespective of gender.


India's journey towards legal reform has been incremental, marked by significant milestones such as the appointment of the first female judge to the Supreme Court in 1989 and the gradual increase in gender representation within the judiciary. Yet, the pace of change is painstakingly slow, mirroring the global struggle for gender parity in legal domains. Judge Charlesworth's reflections on the International Court of Justice's composition and the gender dynamics within international legal bodies resonate deeply with the Indian context. They underscore the imperative for a judiciary that not only mirrors the demographic it serves but embraces the diverse perspectives and experiences of its populace. In embracing the tenets of feminist jurisprudence, India has the opportunity to lead by example, showcasing the potential of a judiciary that champions gender equity, respects diversity, and upholds the principles of justice for all. The journey is arduous, fraught with challenges and resistance, but the vision articulated by Judge Charlesworth and symbolized by the Supreme Court's sculpture is a beacon of hope. It's a future where the law, in its most nurturing form, ensures that no child of the nation is left behind, irrespective of gender. As we reflect on the legacy of Judge Charlesworth's feminist jurisprudence, let us commit to a legal revolution that embraces these ideals. It's time for the Indian legal system to not only contemplate the symbolic significance of Mother and Child but to embody its essence, crafting a judiciary that nurtures, protects, and empowers every citizen with equity and justice at its core.


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