The Supreme Court Collegium has created history by recommending the name of senior advocate Indu Malhotra for appointment as a judge of the top court.
Indu, if appointed, will be the first woman lawyer to be made a judge of the SC directly from the Bar instead of being elevated from a High Court. Justice Fathima Bheevi became the first woman judge of the Supreme Court decades ago, in 1989. Justice V Bhanumathi is the lone woman judge of the apex court at present.
The country's top court has had only six woman judges in its 68-year history and all of them were elevated from the High Court.
In 2007, Indu Malhotra became the second woman lawyer to be appointed as a senior advocate by the SC. The first was Leila Seth, who went on to become the first woman Chief Justice of a high court.
Born in Bengaluru in 1956 to noted lawyer Om Prakash Malhotra and Satya Malhotra, Indu has a career spanning over three decades. After completing her Master’s Degree in Political Science, she got her LLB from Delhi University and started out as a lawyer in 1983. In 1988, she qualified as an Advocate-on-Record (AoR) in the top court.
In an earlier interview to Lawz Magazine, Indu had said that judgeship and advocacy are two sides of the same coin.
"I think that judgeship and advocacy are two sides of a coin. Each has its separate challenges. It would be unfair to compare both and say which is more challenging. As an advocate every case is a new challenge. It is an opportunity to learn new areas of law. At the same time, you need to make a good presentation of your case before the court. A lawyer needs to be extremely thorough with his brief before he steps into the court room. So a lot of hard work and preparation is needed before one addresses the court," she said.
"Similarly the same kind of hard work goes for the judges as well. On a Monday or a Friday, a Supreme Court judge has to read at least 60-70 files. This again is a difficult situation. A lawyer may be preparing at best 10-15 cases per day. But judges are reading and preparing at least 50 cases a day on admission hearing. To sit and work continuously for hours also needs tremendous strength, both physical and mental. Legal profession is such where you cannot work by your watch. One has to work 24×7. As such, be it advocacy or judgeship tremendous hard work and sincerity is required to be successful," she added.
The SC collegium also recommended Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court KM Joseph, who was part of the bench that quashed the imposition of President's Rule in Uttarakhand in 2016, for appointment as judge of the apex court.
Prior to Indu, practising lawyers Rohinton Fali Nariman, UU Lalit and L Nageswara Rao were appointed as judges of the top court. Much before that, Justice Santosh Hegde was appointed as a judge in the apex court, directly from the Bar.
Senior counsel and former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium too was recommended for appointment as judge straight from the top court's Bar. However, he withdrew his consent to be the judge of the apex court after the government returned his recommendation and a spate of stories critical of him appeared in the media.