The law ministry on Thursday notified the appointment of senior advocate Indu Malhotra as Supreme Court judge, Bar and Bench reported. Reports had earlier said that the ministry approved her appointment on Wednesday, more than three months after the Supreme Court collegium recommended her name.
Malhotra will become the first woman lawyer to be elevated directly as a Supreme Court judge, and the seventh woman judge in the top court’s history. Her swearing-in ceremony will be held on April 27, ANI reported.
Malhotra’s appointment has sparked a controversy because the Centre has not yet cleared the appointment of Uttarakhand Chief Justice KM Joseph to the Supreme Court, even though the collegium of five senior-most judges had recommended both Malhotra’s and Joseph’s names for elevation to the apex court in January.
Senior advocate Indira Jaising appealed to Misra on Thursday to not swear in Malhotra as a Supreme Court judge until the Centre cleared Joseph’s name for appointment.
Misra said he would not stay Malhotra’s appointment, adding that it was “unthinkable, unimaginable and inconceivable”, News18 reported. He, however, added that there was nothing wrong if the government wanted the collegium to reconsider Joseph’s name. If the collegium sticks to its decision to elevate Joseph, the government will have no option but to issue a warrant sanctioning it.
In its letter to Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the law ministry wrote that there were 11 High Court chief justices who were senior to Joseph, and none of those courts had representations in the Supreme Court at present. The letter added that judges from marginalised communities had not been appointed to the top court “for long” and that Joseph’s parent High Court, the Kerala High Court, was already represented.
The government said that such “segregation” of proposals – different decisions on names recommended by the collegium simultaneously – had been “done in many cases earlier”.
Joseph 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.
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, Kurian Joseph wrote.