Appointment of Indu Malhotra: Towards a Gender-Neutral Judiciary

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The appointment of Indu Malhotra as the judge of the Supreme Court has been a historic moment for both the Bar and Bench. The appointment came as the first woman appointed as the judge of the highest court of the country directly from the Bar. This is a significant step towards acknowledging the role of a woman in the justice delivery system. It is also necessary to highlight the preceding events. The appointment got the node from the Centre after taking months on collegium’s recommendations. The delay in appointment raised many conflicting issue between the Executive and the Judiciary. Since, the appointment of Indu Malhotra has raised the number of Judges to 25, the appointment process has still not gained absolute appreciation.

It is a matter of great anguish and concern when it comes to the appointment of Chief Justice of the Uttrakhand High Court, Justice K M Joseph. Both the recommendations were sent at the same time, but it is questionable on part of the Centre as the very recommendation has been returned for reconsideration. The issue of seniority has been the hindrance for the appointment of Justice K M Joseph for his elevation as the Judge of the Apex Court. And, it is also apprehended that such a reasoning would make the independence of judiciary more vulnerable at the hands of Centre.

The issue has taken a centre-stage with the executive mingling with the judiciary. Justice Jospeh had quashed the President’s Rule in Uttrakhand in 2016, and this could be looked as a reasonable suspicion for jeopardizing his appointment. The seniority for elevation has become the moot question for the elevation to Supreme Court. Seniority in the Supreme Court is placed for constituting the collegium and for the appointment of the CJI. And, it would result into a grave crisis like situation if a precedent is set for considering seniority for the elevation. As, the very reasoning would become an excuse to stall many future appointment delaying the process further.

Another aspect that requires urgent mentioning is with the participation of women at the Bench. Indu Malhotra became the 7th Woman as the Judge of the Supreme Court of India. It is a laudable moment, but equally uncovers the dismal state wherein Gender Equality in the Judiciary is yet not achieved fully. There are many important matters that are gender sensitive, and it seems important to have equal participation at the Bench to make the adjudicatory process more reasonable and gender-neutral.

Presently, there are two women Judges in the Supreme Court of India including Justice Indu Malhotra along with Justice R Banumathi. It is hoped that the reformatory steps would be taken to make the judiciary more gender neutral. The appointment process had been delayed unreasonably, and yet the Supreme Court does not have its full strength. It is an alarming situation with the increasing backlog, and the process needs to pace up with coordinated efforts of both the Executive and Judiciary by avoiding unreasonable confrontations and easing the process of appointments by making it more speedy and efficient.

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