The Supreme Court is going to get its third woman judge. The law ministry on Friday cleared the appointment of Justice Indira Banerjee, 60, the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court as a Supreme Court judge.
The government has also cleared the appointment of Odisha High Court Chief Justice Vineet Saran and Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph.
It was Justice KM Joseph’s appointment, first recommended by the top court’s panel of five most-senior judges in January this year, that had set up a bitter face-off between the judiciary and the government.
Justice Banerjee, 60, is the eighth woman to be ever elevated to the Supreme Court.
But for the top court that got its first woman judge only in 1989, her elevation creates a new record.
This is the first time that the Supreme Court, which already has Justice R Banumathi and Justice Indu Malhotra, will have three woman judges.
Like Justice Indu Malhotra, Justice Banerjee also had started out as a lawyer in the mid-eighties.
An alumnus of Kolkata’s Presidency College, she was appointed as a high court judge in 2002 and had been elevated as a chief justice of the Madras High Court only last year.
Her name was recommended by the Supreme Court collegium only a fortnight back.
Also joining the Supreme Court is the Odisha High Court’s Chief Justice Vineet Saran who had started out as lawyer in Allahabad High Court in 1980. A former law officer for the Uttar Pradesh government, Justice Saran was also elevated to the bench in 2002. He has been Odisha high court chief justice since February 2016.
Government sources said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad decided to process Justice KM Joseph’s appointment after the Supreme Court collegium sent back his name a second time.
The rules say if the collegium recommends a name a second time, the centre has no choice but to accept it. There had been speculation that the centre could have delayed his appointment but government sources had rejected this possibility, underlining that the centre’s reservations to his appointment were not personal, but procedural.
But it had led to accusations from the opposition that the government had targeted Justice Joseph for his verdict in 2016 cancelling President’s Rule in Uttarakhand, which helped the Congress retain power. The law minister had denied the allegation.