Senior advocate Indu Malhotra was sworn in as a Supreme Court judge on Friday, 27 April, by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. This makes her the first woman lawyer to be directly elevated to the position of an apex court judge.
Earlier this year, the collegium had recommended the names of Malhotra and Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph for elevation to the top court. While Malhotra’s name was cleared, sources in the Law Ministry told PTI that the recommendation of Justice Joseph has been kept on hold by the government.
The Supreme Court rebuked lawyers who wanted a stay on the warrant of appointment of Indu Malhotra as judge of apex court. CJI Dipak Misra said it was "unthinkable, unimaginable, inconceivable" to stay the Presidential warrant for appointment of Indu Malhotra as the top court judge.
Currently, Justice R Banumathi is the only woman judge in the Supreme Court.
The top court has had only six women judges since its inception — the first being Justice Fathima Beevi in 1989. Indu Malhotra will now become the seventh woman to occupy the post.
Notably, Malhotra was also the second woman to be given the designation of senior advocate by the apex court, with late Justice Leila Seth being the first.
According to a PTI report, the Supreme Court collegium’s file, recommending the elevation of Justice Joseph and Malhotra, reached the Law Ministry on 22 January.
What Happens to Justice Joseph’s Elevation?
The government reportedly feels the collegium has disregarded seniority and regional representation while recommending the name of Justice Joseph.
The judge, who set aside the imposition of President’s rule in Uttarakhand in April 2016, is 42nd in the seniority list of 669 high court judges.
While recommending the name of Justice Joseph for the top court, the collegium had said that he is "more deserving and suitable in all respects than other chief justices and senior puisne judges of high courts for being appointed as judge of the Supreme Court of India".
The collegium had taken into consideration combined seniority on all-India basis of chief justices and senior puisne judges of high courts, apart from their merit and integrity, the body of top five judges of the Supreme Court had said.
Earlier, legal experts had cautioned the government against accepting one of the recommendations of the Supreme Court collegium while keeping the other one on hold, pointing out that a Chief Justice of India had told the Law Ministry not to "segregate" names sent for appointment.
Sources told PTI that when legal experts were asked whether the collegium's recommendation could be segregated, they reminded the government of a letter written in June 2014 by then Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, in which he had made it clear that the executive cannot segregate recommendations without prior approval of the collegium.
‘Govt Has Interfered With Judiciary’
President of Supreme Court Bar Association, Advocate Vikas Singh, criticised the government for interfering with the judiciary, by making just one appointment. He told reporters that the matter should be taken up with the government.
"By making one appointment and not making another, the government has interfered in functioning of the judiciary. This is a very serious matter and should be taken up with the government very strongly." - Advocate Vikas Singh, President, Supreme Court Bar Association
He also raised questions about the procedure followed by the government in not clearing Justice KM Joseph’s name. He told ANI:
"Indu Malhotra is a fine lawyer and she will prove to be a great judge. I have huge reservation at the attitude of the government, there is no way by which they should not have cleared Justice KM Joseph’s name." - Advocate Vikas Singh, President, Supreme Court Bar Association
(With inputs from PTI)
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