By-election scheduled for March

The government of India has officially nominated Justice Dalveer Bhandari, a sitting Supreme Court judge, as India's candidate for the post of Judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the casual vacancy caused in Asia following the resignation of Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh from Jordan in October 2011 after his appointment as the Prime Minister of that country.

Being a casual vacancy the term is for the reminder period of six years. In September, 2011 a regular Asian vacancy (for a nine-year term) had arisen due to the retirement of Japanese Judge Hisashi Owada. But, despite strong expectation, India missed the opportunity and did not nominate its candidate. However, now India is perceived as a strong candidate in the coming by-election in March 2012 to fill the casual vacancy.

Having missed an opportunity to contest in the normal vacancy, India can now seek the support of other countries to get elected at least in the casual vacancy.

In the past, Justice B.N. Rao (1950s), Dr. Nagendra Singh (1970-80s) and Justice R.S. Pathak (1988-90), former Chief Justice of India, had served as Judges of the ICJ. In 1991, Justice Pathak, who was re-nominated, lost the election and thereafter India did not contest. Two persons served as ad hoc Judges namely: M.C. Chagla in a dispute with Portugal in the 1950s and Jeevan Reddy in a dispute with Pakistan in 2002. The list of sitting judges or the past judges of the ICJ reveal that most of them had been law professors or diplomats.

Taking all these factors into consideration, India has now nominated Justice Bhandari as its official candidate and it remains to be seen whether he will be elected unopposed. There will be election if Jordon also decides to contest for the reminder of its term.

The ICJ is the Principal Judicial Organ of the United Nations. It consists of 15 Judges who serve for nine years. At present, among the 15 Judges on the Bench of ICJ, two representatives from Asia are: Hisashi Owada from Japan, who is also the president, and Xue Hanqin from China.

Supreme Court advocate Mohan Katarki, familiar with the working of the ICJ, said: “Though there is no formal provision for distribution of Judges, in practice, distribution among the principal regions of the world exists. Out of 15 Judges, the distribution is 3 for Africa, 2 for Latin America, 3 for Asia, 5 for Western Europe and other States and 2 for Eastern Europe. Another practice is that, a national of each of the 5 permanent members of the Security Council is always represented on the Bench. The principle behind such selection is that the ICJ does not decide disputes based on hard and fast rules, but brings out a solution to the dispute to achieve peace.”

Justice Bhandari (64), who has vast experience in international law and is familiar with the working of the U.N. organisations, is the preferred candidate of the Indian government. He is due to retire in September this year. Justice Bhandari was the chairperson of the Delhi Centre of the International Law Association for several years. He was invited to deliver a keynote address in the International Conference organised by the United Nations on “Intellectual Property” at Auckland (New Zealand). He was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court on October 28, 2005.

On March 13, 2006, he was invited to address the International Conference on “Judicial Education on Equality Issues in South Asia: What we have accomplished Together,” organised by the Asia Pacific Advisory Forum at Kathmandu (Nepal). On January 13, 2007, he was invited to deliver a keynote address on “Gender Justice & Sensitisation of Judiciary – An Overview,” organised by the Asia Pacific Advisory Forum on Judicial Education on Equality Issues at Karachi (Pakistan).

He has been selected as one of the 15 most illustrious and distinguished alumni in the 150 years history of the Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago, U.S. He was unanimously elected president of the India International Law Foundation.

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