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The Supreme Court collegium, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, created history on Thursday by picking Indu Malhotra as the first woman advocate to be recommended for appointment as a judge of the SC, which has had just six woman judges in 68 years.
All six were elevated from high courts. The collegium also recommended the appointment of Uttarakhand HC Chief Justice Kuttiyil Mathew Joseph as an SC judge.

Malhotra, 61, became in August 2007 the second woman lawyer to be designated as a senior advocate by the SC, three decades after the honour was first bestowed on Leila Seth, who went on to become the first woman chief justice of a high court. Seth was designated as a senior advocate in 1977. If the government accepts the recommendation to appoint Malhotra as an SC judge, she will have a term of nearly four years.

Indu Malhotra has practised in Delhi for the last 35 years, mostly in the SC. Born in what was then Bangalore in 1956 to senior advocate Om Prakash Malhotra and Satya Malhotra, she did her schooling from Carmel Convent and graduated from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, both in the national capital.

Malhotra earned a law degree from the faculty of law, Delhi University, and started practising in 1983. In 1988, she stood first in the tough advocate-on-record test and became part of the select group of lawyers who alone can file petitions in the SC. She has authored a treatise on "Laws on Industrial Disputes" and also "Commentary on the Law and Practice of Arbitration in India".

The earlier six women SC judges are Fathima Beevi (from 1989 to 1992), Sujata V Manohar (1994-1999), Ruma Pal (2000-2006), Gyan Sudha Misra (2010-2014), Ranjana P Desai (2011-2014) and sitting SC judge R Banumathi.

The collegium, which has Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph besides the CJI, also unanimously recommended to the Centre to appoint Justice Joseph as a judge of the SC. A year ago, Justice Chelameswar had sent a note to the SC on Justice Joseph's non-elevation.

Asked whether the past difference of opinion about the elevation of Justice Joseph to the SC figured in the collegium meeting on Wednesday evening, an SC source said, "The collegium unanimously decided to recommend the names of Malhotra and Justice Joseph for appointment as Supreme Court judges and there was no dissenting discussion on these two names." If appointed as a judge of the SC, Justice Joseph will have a term of nearly six years till June 16, 2023.

Justice Joseph, who headed the bench which quashed the imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand after the dismissal of the Congress government led by Harish Rawat, was recommended by the collegium in May 2016 to be transferred as chief justice of the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh HC. However, the recommendation was never given effect to by the Centre.

If the two recommendations are accepted, the strength of SC judges will go up to 27, leaving four vacancies.


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