Supreme Court of India (Source: Supreme Court of India website)

Indu Malhotra: First Woman Lawyer To Become Supreme Court Judge

Senior Advocate Indu Malhotra was today appointed a Supreme Court judge, making her the first woman lawyer to directly enter the top judiciary.

A law ministry communique said: “In exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (2) of Article 124 of the Constitution of India, the President is pleased to appoint Ms Indu Malhotra, to be judge of the Supreme Court of India with effect from the date she assumes charge of her office.” Malhotra, who was designated as a senior advocate in 2007, would be the first woman advocate to be directly appointed as a Supreme Court judge.

Her name was cleared by the Supreme Court collegium on Jan. 10 and a resolution of the apex court said, "In our considered opinion, at present, Indu Malhotra, senior advocate, is eminently suitable for being appointed as a Judge in the Supreme Court." While Malhotra's name was recommended by the collegium for elevation along with that of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph, but the Centre has sought reconsideration of the proposal for the latter.

Malhotra would be the seventh women judge in the top court since Independence as only six women judges have made it to the Supreme Court so far. Other women judges were elevated to the apex court from high courts.

Currently, Justice R Banumathi is the lone woman judge in the apex court.

Justice M Fathima Beevi was the first women judge of the apex court. She was appointed in 1989, 39 years after the Supreme Court was set up in 1950.

Justice Beevi was elevated to the apex court after her retirement as judge of the Kerala High Court. After serving the top court till April 29, 1992, she was appointed the governor of Tamil Nadu.

Also read: Supreme Court Refuses To Stay Indu Malhotra’s Appointment As Top Court Judge

The second woman judge in the Supreme Court was Justice Sujata V Manohar, who started her career as a judge from the Bombay High Court and rose to become the chief justice of Kerala High Court. She was elevated to the apex court where she remained from November 8, 1994 till August 27, 1999.

Justice Ruma Pal followed Jusitce Manohar after a gap of almost five months and became the longest-serving woman judge from January 28, 2000 to June 2, 2006.

After her retirement, it took four years to appoint the next woman judge. Justice Gyan Sudha Misra was elevated to the Supreme Court from the Jharkhand High Court where she was the chief justice. Her tenure in the apex court was from April 30, 2010 to April 27, 2014.

During her stint, she was joined by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai, who served the apex court between September 13, 2011 to October 29, 2014. These two judges also created a history by holding court together as an all-women bench for a day in 2013.

Justice Banumathi, who at present is the only sitting woman judge, had joined on August 13, 2014 and would retire on July 19, 2020.

Also read: Delay In Justice KM Joseph’s Elevation To Supreme Court Evokes Mixed Reactions

In the 67-year history of the Supreme Court, there have been only two occasions when it has had two sitting women judges together, the first being justices Misra and Desai and later justices Desai and Banumathi.