Dalveer Bhandari’s re-election as the 15th judge at the International Court of Justice has been hailed as a diplomatic win for India. Bhandari, an eminent jurist who has served in various capacities as a lawyer and a judge in high courts as well as the Supreme Court of India, was seen to be locked in a neck-to-neck contest with Britain’s Christopher Greenwood for the last seat at the Hague-based court but secured the seat after UK withdrew the latter’s candidature before the voting could begin.
Bhandari’s re-election is significant for India for more reasons than one. The withdrawal of its candidate by Britain, which had the backing of its fellow permanent members, was a setback for the United Nations Security Council that had been locked in a test of wills with the United Nations General Assembly.
A candidate has to win a majority in both the chambers. Bhandari won majorities in the Assembly in the first 11 rounds of voting over two meetings while the Council blocked his election by giving majorities to Greenwood in the 10 rounds of balloting it held.
"The British ultimately had to bow down to the will of the majority," a diplomat said. "The Indians stared them down."
The Council's permanent members have traditionally had a judge in the ICJ, assuming it to be a matter of right. This time the 193-member Assembly asserted itself, forcing the Council to back down and put at risk the continuation of the ICJ perk of the permanent members.
Crucially, besides a permanent member going unrepresented, four Asian countries will be represented on the ICJ bench instead of the usual three.
Here are some key facts about Justice Dalveer Singh:
- Born on October 1, 1947, Dalveer Singh graduated in Humanities and Law from Jodhpur University, before doing a Masters of Law from the Northwestern University, Chicago, USA on an international scholarship. He has been selected as one of the 15 most illustrious and distinguished alumni in the 150 years of the Northwestern University School of Law, the Supreme Court website notes in its profile of Bhandari.
- Dalveer Singh followed on the footsteps of his father Mahaveer Chand Bhandari and grandfather B.C. Bhandari who were both members of the Rajasthan Bar. He practiced in the Rajasthan High Court from 1968 to 1970 before heading to the US to do his Masters of Law. Upon his return, Justice Bhandari practiced in the Rajasthan High Court in Civil, Criminal and Constitutional branches of law from 1973 to 1976.
- During this period, he also taught as a part time lecturer in the Faculty of Law, Jodhpur University.
- He shifted to Delhi from Jodhpur in 1977 and practiced in the Supreme Court till his elevation to the Delhi High Court on March 19, 1991. He served as a distinguished judge at the Delhi HC till 2004.
- On July 25, 2004, he was appointed as the Chief Justice of Maharashtra and Goa. During his tenure here that lasted till October 27, 2005, Justice Bhandari delivered a number of judgments, including one that led to a much larger allocation of funds for malnutrition in the five most backward districts of Maharashtra.
- It was under his watch that the Bombay High Court achieved the distinction of functioning on a full strength of 60 judges for the first time. He also ensured that the strength of the court was increased from 60 to 75 judges.
- He was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court on October 28, 2005.
- In one of his landmark Supreme Court judgments, Justice Bhandari granted divorce to a couple on grounds of "irretrievable breakdown of marriage". The government is now considering incorporating his suggestion for amendment of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955.
- His stint at the International Court of Justice began in 2012 after his retirement as a Supreme Court judge. He election came with overwhelming majority, after a gap of over two decades for an Indian. He obtained 122 votes at the UN General Assembly and 13 votes in the 15-nation Security Council against his Filipino rival Justice Florentino Feliciano, who received just 58 votes.
- A Padma Bhushan awardee in 2014, Justice Bhandari’s term as an ICJ judge will continue till 2018.