Tashi Rabstan also became the first Buddhist to get appointed

Tashi Rabstan on Friday became the first Buddhist and the first person from Ladakh to become a judge of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. He has been an advocate at the Jammu wing of the Court for the last 20 years.

Chief Justice M.M. Kumar administered the pledge to senior advocates Ali Mohammad Magray and Dheeraj Singh Thakur, and two incumbents from the state’s Higher Judicial Service, Bansi Lal Bhat and Janak Raj Kotwal, besides Mr. Rabstan. A number of the Ministers, legislators, senior government functionaries, heads of several commissions and boards, all the High Court judges, and a number of lawyers from the Valley attended the swearing-in ceremony.

The High Court has a sanctioned strength of 14 judges — 9 permanent and 5 additional — but currently has only seven judges, including Justice Kumar. After Friday it will have 12 judges for the first time in about a decade.

Though Mr. Rabstan broke the barrier for Buddhists and Ladakhis, no Jammu Muslim or woman has broken the barrier.

The other minority group, Sikhs have been indirectly represented when some judges from their community, but from other States, were occasionally posted in the Court.

According to knowledgeable sources, a number of Jammu Muslims, invariably from the Bar, were recommended by the High Court collegium in the past, but were dropped on one ground or the other.

One of the Jammu Muslims, who also served as the Advocate General and enjoys proximity to the ruling National Conference, was reportedly dropped in recent past for having allegedly provided his services as a defence lawyer to some militants detained under TADA in early 1990s. “The Jammu Muslims constitute 25 per cent of the provincial population and form over 50 per cent of the population in seven out of the ten districts,” Ghulam Nabi Gauhar, a retired District and Session judge from Kashmir, said.

When it comes to women, there are currently at least four women who in the Higher Judicial Service, who are eligible for elevation as the High Court judge. One of them is a Principal District and Sessions Judge, while the others are District and Sessions Judges. But, none of them is known to have been even recommended.