The elections for a vacant judge’s position at the ICJ are scheduled for today (April 27). As previously noted, the two nominees are: Justice Dalveer Bhandari (India) and Justice (retd.) Florentino Feliciano (Philippines).
Some recent reports suggest that Justice Bhandari’s nomination was challenged (unsuccessfully) before the Supreme Court of India. An Indian LL.M. student filed a PIL challenging the nomination of Justice Bhandari on the ground that the nomination of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court compromised the independence of the national judiciary. According to one report, the petitioner stated:
As a matter of principle, selection of a sitting judge of the highest court of the land by the government creates a grave situation of conflict of interest and compromises the independence of the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary is part of basic structure of the Constitution of India. Selection to post like that of a judge of the ICJ, by its very nature, involves heavy lobbying on part of the government,” thepetition said. “Many of the important cases dealt by a judge of this court involve the Union of India as either the petitioner/appellant or as a respondent.
According to another:
Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner, a LLM student, meanwhile argued that if Justice Dalveer Bhandari fails to obtain the position at the ICJ, it would be difficult for him to maintain his judicial independence henceforth as he would have sought assistance of the government for the appointment. The position will see an election for the post on April 27.
Referring to the nine-judge constitutional bench verdict in ‘Advocate on Record Association case’ which had ruled that judicial appointments shall not be influenced by the executive, Bhushan said the present case was like a case in which a sitting judge of the Supreme Court is offering himself a position to the post of member of the Lok Sabha while allowing political parties to lobby for him.
The petitioner seems to have challenged not the suitability of Justice Bhandari per se, but the practice of nominating sitting Supreme Court judges at all. We have had a lengthy and detailed debate, albeit from a slightly different perspective, on whether Indian Supreme Court judges are ideal ICJ judges here. It is notable that even though the Supreme Court dismissed the challenge, it suggested that the vires of the rules made by the government for the nomination process could have been challenged instead.
More after the result of the election!