Senior advocate Indu Malhotra was on Friday administered the oath of office as a Supreme Court judge by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, making her the first woman lawyer to enter the top judiciary directly.
With Malhotra joining the bench, the strength of the Supreme Court is now 25, against the sanctioned strength of 31, including the CJI.
Malhotra, 61, was administered the oath of office and secrecy in a ceremony held at court number 1 in the apex court.
This would be the third occasion in the 67-year history of the Supreme Court when it has two sitting women judges together — the first being Justices Gyan Sudha Misra and Ranjana Prakash Desai, then Justices Desai and R Banumathi and now Justices Banumathi and Malhotra.
Malhotra’s name was recommended by the collegium for elevation along with that of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice K M Joseph, but the Centre has sought reconsideration of the proposal for the latter.
Malhotra would be the seventh woman judge in the top court since Independence. Other women judges were elevated to the apex court from high courts.
Malhotra joined the legal profession in 1983 and was enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi. She qualified as an Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court in 1988 and has been dealing with several matters of constitutional importance.
She was one of the prominent senior advocates regularly appearing in educational matters pertaining to medical and engineering colleges.
Malhotra was one of the members of the Vishaka Committee on sexual harassment at workplace and was also part of a 10-member committee constituted by the top court to deal with complaints of sexual harassment within the court.
The Bangalore born Malhotra was designated senior advocate by the top court in 2007 and became the second woman to be designated as such by the apex court after a gap of over 30 years.
The first woman judge of the apex court was Justice Fathima Beevi who was appointed in 1989, 39 years after the Supreme Court was set up in 1950. She was elevated to the apex court after her retirement as judge of the Kerala High Court.
The second 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 Justice 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 had joined the apex court on August 13, 2014 and will retire on July 19, 2020.
(With inputs from agencies)