Hidden biases often Lurking in one’s Mind are Enemies of an Impartial, gender-Balanced,Equitable verdict: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court in a verdict delivered recently, has stressed the importance of incorporating gender equality and cultural diversity into the curriculum of the Delhi Judicial Academy.

“Hidden biases, often lurking in one’s mind, are the enemies of an impartial, gender-balanced and equitable judgment,” it said.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma noted the significance of addressing hidden biases, stating they are adversaries to impartial and equitable rulings.

The court stressed the need for judicial education to extend beyond legal principles, urging for a deeper understanding of diverse backgrounds and lived realities.

“Judges bear the utmost responsibility of ensuring that every individual, regardless of gender, deserves fair treatment under the law. It is important for the judges to not forget that the idea of being gender neutral while authoring judgments, not only means that the terminology employed and words used in the judgment are to be gender neutral, but also means that the mind of a judge ought to be free from preconceived notions or prejudices based on gender or profession,” the court’s order read.

The judge overturned a trial court’s decision to discharge a husband and his family members from offences under Sections 498A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, noting that the ruling was unjustifiably influenced by stereotypes regarding the complainant’s profession as a police officer.

“The present case of a female police officer, deemed incapable of being victimised, solely due to her profession is an illustration of the insidious nature of our hidden biases,” the court noted.

Justice Sharma further noted in her verdict that to harbour assumptions, especially as a judge, that a woman, by virtue of her profession as a police officer, cannot possibly be a victim in her own personal or matrimonial life, is a form of injustice of its own kind and one of the highest kinds of perversity which can be seen in a judgment.

Justice Sharma said that judicial training should aim at fostering a comprehensive comprehension of different perspectives and experiences.

Such initiatives, the court noted, would enable judges to render more informed and equitable decisions, thereby bolstering public trust and confidence in the legal system.

The ruling urged the Director (Academics) of the Delhi Judicial Academy to take necessary actions to implement these directives.

Furthermore, the court cautioned against basing verdicts on hidden or apparent biases, as it could erode public trust in the judicial system.

“The distinction between legal education and judicial education is important to be understood by all concerned. While legal education imparts knowledge of law, judicial education hones the skills necessary for the judicious application of these laws while adjudicating cases,” the judge noted.

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The court stressed the imperative for judges to remain unbiased and focused on the merits of each case, free from gender biases or professional stereotypes.

It called for judicial academies to conduct awareness and sensitisation programmes to ensure judges author verdicts that uphold gender neutrality, impartiality, and equality.

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