Indian judge re-elected at World Court

The Hague: India’s Dalveer Bhandari has been re-elected to the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ), winning the last of five seats for which elections were held, after Britain pulled out its candidate Christopher Greenwood before the 12th round of voting.

For 11 rounds, the two were locked in a stalemate with Justice Bhandari getting majority support in the United Nations General Assembly and Justice Greenwood in the UN Security Council, both of which vote in elections to the world court.

On Twitter, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and her team for “their untiring efforts that have led to India’s re-election to ICJ.” He wrote, “Our deep gratitude to all the members of UNGA as well as UNSC for their support and trust in India.” Ms Swaraj tweeted, “Vande Matram – India wins election to the International Court of Justice. Jai Hind (sic).”

This is the first time since its establishment in 1945 ICJ will function without British judge. “It is wrong to continue to take up the valuable time of the Security Council and the UN General Assembly with further rounds of election,” Britain’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations said as he announced that Greenwood was pulling out.

One-third of the ICJ’s 15-member bench, or five judges, is elected every three years for a nine-year term. Elections are held separately but simultaneously in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and the UN Security Council in New York. To win, a candidate needs to get a majority in both chambers.

Once the British candidate withdrew, both the UNGA and the Security Council formally voted to elect Justice Bhandari, a former Supreme Court judge. The 70-year-old Indian received 183 out of 193 votes in the General Assembly and all the 15 votes in the Security Council.

Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, described Justice Bhandari’s re-election as a “victory for emerging new India,” and an “acknowledgement that the world now needs to make space for an asserting India.”

On November 9, the UNGA and Security Council members had elected judges to four of the five seats, with the fate of the candidates from India and Britain hanging in the balance.

Repeatedly over 11 rounds, the UNGA, made up of 193 countries, voted overwhelmingly for Justice Bhandari, while the 15-member Security Council voting 9 to 5 in favor of Justice Greenwood. Britain is one of five permanent members of the Security Council. India is currently not a member.

In all previous such contests, the candidate who got a majority in the General Assembly was eventually elected, but Britain was at one point seen to be pushing for a joint conference mechanism, never resorted to since the UN was established and only once before that.

A joint conference would’ve involved picking three countries each from the UNGA and the UNSC, which would then choose one candidate. Critics had warned that such a move would be “dirty politics” and other members of the powerful UN Security Council were reportedly uneasy, aware of the long-term implications of a move to ignore the voice of the majority of the United Nations General Assembly.

Britain congratulated Justice Bhandari on being re-elected. “If the UK could not win in this run-off, then we are pleased that it is a close friend like India that has done so instead. We will continue to cooperate closely with India, here in the United Nations and globally,” said Rycroft.

Justice Bhandari was born on October 1, 1947 in a lawyer’ family of Rajasthan. Both his father, Mahaveer Chand Bhandari, and grandfather, B.C. Bhandari, were members of the Rajasthan bar.

After obtaining degrees in the humanities and law from Jodhpur University he practiced in the Rajasthan High Court from 1968 to 1970. In June 1970, he was invited to a six-week workshop organized by the University of Chicago on research on Indian law in Chicago on an international scholarship and subsequently on another international scholarship, he obtained a Masters of Law from Northwestern University School of Law.

He worked at the Northwestern Legal Assistance Clinic and appeared in Chicago courts on behalf of litigants of that clinic. He also worked with the Centre for Research in Chicago. In June 1973, on an international fellowship, he visited Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Sri Lanka on an observational-cum-lecture tour on legal aid and clinical legal educational programs associated with the law courts and law schools.

He also worked with a United Nations project called “Delay in the Administration of Criminal Justice in India.”

Tumkur University, Karnataka, conferred Doctor of Laws (LL.D) on Justice Bhandari for his magnanimous contribution to law and justice.

Following his return to India, he took up a law practice in the Rajasthan High Court from 1973 to 1976. He shifted to Delhi in In 1977 and practices as a Supreme Court lawyer until his elevation to the Delhi High Court in March 1991.

In 2004, he was appointed Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court. His judgments and orders have led to larger allocation of funds for malnutrition in the five most backward districts of Maharashtra. He was instrumental in setting up mediation and conciliation centers all over Maharashtra and Goa. He also organized an International Conference on Mediation and Conciliation in Mumbai.

He was appointed as Supreme Court judge a year later. He delivered a large number of judgments on comparative law, public interest litigation, constitutional law, criminal law, civil procedure code, administrative law, arbitration laws, insurance and banking and family laws.

His various orders in the food-grains matter led to the release of a higher quantum of supply of food grains to the population living below the poverty line. His orders forced state governments to provide night shelters for homeless. His orders in the right to free and compulsory education for children matter led to availability of basic infrastructural amenities in primary and secondary schools all over the country.

He swore in as a member of the International Court of Justice on June 19, 2012.

Bhandari is notable for his interest in computerization and intellectual property law. Also he has a history of promoting legal education, both to professionals and to the general public who might be litigants. He has established mediation and conciliation centers in Maharashtra and an information Centre for litigants in the Bombay High Court.

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