According to the United Nations (UN), gender equality in the judiciary is key to “ensuring that courts represent their citizens, address their concerns and hand down sound judgments”. To mark the UN’s International Day of Women Judges on 10 March 2023, this article spotlights some significant decisions recently handed down by female judges around the world and other developments relating to female members of the judiciary, as discussed by ILO’s expert authors. For related commentary on International Women’s Day, see “ILO experts comment on International Women’s Day 2023”.

Are illegitimate children entitled to inheritance from parents?

Lee Sze Ching from Gan Partnership comments on a decision handed down by Malaysian Federal Court Judge Mary Lim in Tan Kah Fatt & Anor v Tan Ying. The case arose after an individual passed away intestate, leaving behind a wife, a daughter, parents, a younger brother and, significantly, another daughter from a previous relationship. Considering the terms of the Distribution Act 1958, the Federal Court had to decide whether the daughter from a previous relationship was entitled to inherit as an issue and descendant of her deceased father. In deciding that she was, the Court sent a strong message to society at large that illegitimate children should not be discriminated against in terms of their rights and relationship with their biological parent.

Are the IBC provisions relating to corporate insolvency resolution processes mandatory or discretionary?

Ashmi Mohan and Vatsala Pandey from Clasis Law discuss Vidarbha Industries Power v Axis Bank Limited, a decision issued by Indian Supreme Court Judge Indira Banerjee. This case concerned section 7(5)(a) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code 2016, which reads as follows:

Where the Adjudicating Authority is satisfied that . . . a default has occurred and the application under sub-section (2) is complete, and there is no disciplinary proceedings pending against the proposed resolution professional, it may, by order, admit such application. (Emphasis added.)

The Court had to decide, with respect to the word “may”, whether this section was mandatory or discretionary. It held that the provision was discretionary, pointing out that the legislature would have used the word "shall" instead of "may" if the opposite was the case.

Was a decision to cancel an event consistent with the right to freedom of expression under the Bill of Rights?

Felicity Monteiro from Wilson Harle reviews a judgment handed down by New Zealand Supreme Court Judge Ellen France in Moncrieff-Spittle v Regional Facilities Auckland. The case involved an application for judicial review of a decision by a local council-owned entity to cancel a contract for the hire of a venue for an event involving addresses by two controversial "alt-right" speakers. The Court had to decide whether the Bill of Rights applied and, if so, whether the cancellation of the event constituted a breach of the right to freedom of expression. In deciding that the Bill of Rights did apply but that the decision to cancel was reasonable, the Court provided useful guidance on the relevance of interference with the rights conferred by the Bill of Rights on decisions of this kind and what constitutes a reasonable limit on a protected right.

How does Turkey's judicial system fare with respect to gender diversity?

In their recent article for ILO’s Litigation newsletter, Beril Yayla Sapan and Kardelen Özden from Gün + Partners analysed the current split of male and female personnel in Turkey’s judicial system, looking in particular at:

  • judges;
  • prosecutors;
  • lawyers; and
  • other judicial members.

They highlight that the Turkish Ministry of Justice’s Strategic Plan of 2019-2023 provides that the principle of gender equality will be taken into account in the recruitment of such personnel, but that quantitative equality is not enough to ensure full parity between the genders in broader terms.