Justice Dalveer Bhandari of India beats Britain to win at International Court of Justice

Justice Dalveer Bhandari of India was elected by over two thirds of the world’s nations at the United Nations to be a member of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) after a hard-fought battle with the UK last week, which is considered a victory for India and all Indians. His election, hailed as a diplomatic win for India, was more than a matter of prestige for India.

The 70-year-old was elected to the world court securing 183 of the 193 votes in the United Nations General Assembly and all 15 in the security council after Britain pulled out its candidate, Christopher Greenwood.

“The election this time was more eventful in the sense that it went on and on. And my re-election is more a victory of all Indians and the country,” Bhandari told the media from New York a few hours after the polling.

Britain decided to withdraw its candidate, Christopher Greenwood, after it became clear that besides European partners such as Germany and France, the United States too had informed its mission at the UN that it faced a deadlock and loss of face due to growing support for the Indian candidate, Dalveer Bhandari.

The former Supreme Court judge was talking about 11 rounds of voting spread over several days, as the UK did everything possible to push Greenwood’s candidature. “This is the first time that I witnessed election to the world court in the general assembly. Last time I was appointed against a seat that fell vacant,” said Bhandari, who joined the ICJ in 2012.

His second term begins February 2018 and he will be with the ICJ for nine years. “My re-election will ensure representation of Indian legal system and civilization at the world court,” said Bhandari, whose orders as an SC judge ensured that those living below the poverty line got a bigger share of food grain.

Bhandari, who started out as a lawyer in the Rajasthan high court, was also instrumental in states setting up night shelters for the homeless. The ICJ is hearing India’s plea against the death sentence awarded to former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav by a Pakistani military court. The next hearing in the case, which has worsened ties between the two neighbors, is in December. Asked about the impact his re-election would have on the case, Bhandari said, “No comments. The issue is pending in the world court.”

The 15-member ICJ is the UN’s top judicial organ that settles disputes between countries. Five judges are elected every three years and serve for nine years. Bhandari is the fourth Indian to be a permanent ICJ judge. The other three were Sir Benegal Rau, Nagendra Singh and RS Pathak.

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