Justice Indu Malhotra emotional on last court day, CJI extols role

Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said he has not seen a finer judge than Justice Indu Malhotra, the first woman advocate to be appointed directly as a Supreme Court judge, as she sat on the bench for the last time on Friday.

Justice Malhotra got emotional on her last day in the court. With almost tearful eyes, she thanked the members of the bar. “I retire with great satisfaction of having contributed to the system with utmost capacity,” she said.

She also expressed her gratitude to her fellow judges for acknowledging her contribution.

Justice Malhotra was one of the two woman judges in the apex court. Previously a senior advocate, she was elevated to the bench on April 27, 2018. From now on, Justice Indira Banerjee will be the only woman Supreme Court judge.

Chief Justice Bobde said he has not seen a finer judge than her and he could understand her feelings, citing her emotional state.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal said it is sad that a Supreme Court judge has to retire at the of 65. Citing her historic dissent in the Sabarimala temple case, he said that she did a good job reminding the judiciary about constitutional morality.

Justice Malhotra had dissented from her four male colleagues while deciding the Sabarimala case. Four judges on the bench had decided in favour of allowing women of all age groups to enter the shrine in Kerala. However, she had maintained that courts should not interfere with the matters of faith until the practices are fundamentally unconstitutional.

Senior advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association President Vikas Singh said the retirement age of judges in the top court should be increased from 65 to 70. He also said that the Chief Justice should take steps to fill the vacancy, created after the retirement of Justice Malhotra, with a female judge.

Chief Justice Bobde also said Justice Malhotra is a great role model for younger advocates, adding that her judgments are filled with knowledge, sagacity and firmness.

Recollecting an episode when Justice Malhotra was a lawyer and had argued before his bench, he said that she continued to argue at length and he asked another judge on the bench that why is she still arguing, when the bench has understood the point. “I was told she prepares everything so well that she would not stop until everything is told,” he added.

The Chief Justice said though he did not have many occasions to sit with her, but he did sit with her on some very important cases. “I don’t know of a finer judge than Justice Indu Malhotra….. May you have the best,” he said.

In her parting words, Justice Malhotra said that she was very blessed to serve on the bench of the Supreme Court.