The Centre has cleared the appointment of senior advocate Indu Malhotra as a Supreme Court judge, The Indian Express reported on Thursday. Malhotra’s appointment will make her the first woman lawyer to be recommended directly for Supreme Court judgeship. Her swearing-in ceremony is likely to take place on Friday.
However, the government has not yet decided on the elevation of Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court. In January, the collegium of five senior-most judges had recommended the elevation of Malhotra and Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph to the post of Supreme Court judges.
Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said that he would not stay Malhotra’s appointment, adding that it was “unthinkable, unimaginable and inconceivable”, News 18 reported. He, however, added that there was nothing wrong if the government wanted the collegium to reconsider Joseph’s name.
The law ministry reportedly wanted to approve Malhotra’s appointment but not Joseph’s, citing “breach of seniority”, and so sent the recommendations back to Misra without forwarding them to President Ram Nath Kovind. However, if the Collegium reiterates Joseph’s name for appointment, the government will have no option but to issue a warrant sanctioning it.
Joseph had headed the three-judge Uttarakhand High Court bench that had quashed the Centre’s decision to impose President’s Rule in the state in 2016, and since then his transfer to Andhra Pradesh and elevation to the top court have been blocked by the government.
Senior lawyer Indira Jaising, meanwhile, appealed to Misra on Thursday to not swear in Malhotra as a Supreme Court judge until the Centre cleared Joseph’s name for appointment.
On April 9, Supreme Court Justice Kurian Joseph wrote to Misra and urged the Supreme Court to act against the government’s delay in approving the two appointments to the top court despite the collegium’s recommendation. The “very life and existence” of the Supreme Court is under threat and “history will not pardon us” if the court does not act, Joseph wrote.