OPINION: Indu Malhotra: First Woman Judge In Supreme Court set to be elevated Directly From the Bar
To begin with, the name of senior advocate Indu Malhotra will always be written in golden letters in the pages of record books and history as she becomes the first woman lawyer in India to be directly elevated as Supreme Court Judge from the Bar. It would be pertinent to mention here that her name was unanimously cleared by the Supreme Court collegium which met on January 10. She has broken a new record and has etched her name in the golden pages of history for which she deserves full credit.
The five-member Collegium of the Supreme Court comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph also recommended the elevation of Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph along with Indu Malhotra to the Supreme Court. It must be noted here that Indu Malhotra would be the seventh woman Judge since independence to make it to the Supreme Court. Right now, Justice R Banumathi who is the lone woman Judge was appointed to the Apex Court in August 2014 and will retire in July 2020.
To be sure, Indu Malhotra comes from a family of distinguished lawyers. Her father OP Malhotra, too, was a senior Advocate in the Supreme Court with a great reputation in writing many books on various subjects of law. Her elder brother and sister too are lawyers.
It must be mentioned here that her first tryst with fame was in August 2007 when the Supreme Court designated her as senior advocate, only the second woman to be so designated by the Supreme Court. The first was Leila Seth who was mother of author Vikram Seth in 1977. She specialised in the law of arbitration and co-authored books on the subject. She has also appeared in several domestic and commercial arbitration.
It must also be mentioned here that recently, Indu Malhotra had served on a ten-member Committee which was headed by retired Supremee Court Judge BN Srikrishna which was tasked to review the institutionalisation of arbitration mechanism and suggest reforms. The Committee submitted its report to the government in August 2017. It called for the creation of an Arbitration Promotion Council of India.
It cannot be missed out here that Indu Malhotra is also trustee of the NGO Save Life Foundation which moved the Apex Court for a law to protect good Samaritans who help road accident victims. In November 2017, a three-Judge Supreme Court Bench, headed by the CJI had appointed her as amicus curiae in a case in which it had decided to re-examine an order of a two-Judge Bench which said arrests in dowry harassment cases must be done only with the consent of a family welfare committee set up in each district. She has risen to become Supreme Court Judge by dint of her merit and not just because she is a women who has to be promoted only because of her being a women!
If the government accepts the recommendation to appoint Indu Malhotra as a Supreme Court Judge, she will have a term of nearly four years. She has practiced in Delhi for last 35 years and mostly in the Supreme Court. Born in Bangalore in 1956 to senior advocate Om Prakash Malhotra and Satya Malhotra, she did her schooling from Carmel Convent and graduated in B.A. (Hons.) in Political Science and then postgraduated also in Political Science from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi. After obtaining her Masters Degree, she worked briefly as a Lecturer in Political Science at the Miranda House College and Vivekanand College in Delhi University.
Going forward, she earned a law degree from Faculty of Law, Delhi University and started practicing law in 1983. She worked with noted senior lawyer PH Parekh who is former Chairman of Supreme Court Bar Association. In 1988, she stood first position in the Advocate-on-Record examination for the Supreme Court for which she was awarded the Mukesh Goswami Memorial Prize on Law Day and became a part of the select group of lawyers who alone can file petitions in the Supreme Court.
It must also be informed here that she has authored a treatise on ‘Laws on Industrial Disputes’ and also ‘Commentary on the Law and Practice of Arbitration in India’. Along with the various positions that she held, she has also served as Standing Counsel for the State of Haryana, and represented statutory bodies such as the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) and Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), before the Supreme Court. Given her enormous experience of over thirty years, she has also served as amicus curiae in a number of cases.
The earlier six women Supreme Court Judges are Fathima Beevi (from 1989 to 1992), Sujata V Manohar ( 1994-1999), Ruma Pal (2000-2005), Gyan Sudha Misra (2010-2014), Rajana P Desai (2011-2014) and sitting Supreme Court Judge R Banumathi. According to the established practice, the recommendations of Indu Malhotra’s elevation will be sent to the government. The government can return the file once, but it usually agrees to it if the collegium reiterates its recommendation.
It is beyond doubt that even the government would be too happy to approve the landmark recommendation of the collegium by which a woman would directly become a Supreme Court Judge for the first time in history without becoming a Judge of any lower court or even the High Court! This is a truly remarkable feat from all angles! Indu has proved now very clearly that women are not inferior to men in any way and they can achieve whatever they want to achieve by pursuing their aim with full determination and single minded concentration like she did!
All said and done, it is most heartening to note that a senior woman lawyer has broken the glass ceiling in one more field now! For the first time a woman practicing in the Supreme Court is becoming directly the Judge of Supreme Court. What can be more great than this? The whole nation should feel proud for her as she has made not just her ownself and her family but also the whole nation proud by doing what was previously thought of as impossible! Superb! She is the new hero of real life and all future aspiring Judges should try their level best to emulate her by similarly working hard like her!
Indu Malhotra’s image from here.
Sanjeev Sirohi is an Advocate from Meerut. Views expressed are personal of the author. The Indian Jurist does not take responsibility for the views expressed or facts stated.