Neeru Chadha becomes first Indian woman appointed to top UN judicial panel

International law expert Neeru Chadha became the first Indian woman to be appointed as a judge at the United Nations (UN) tribunal by winning the crucial election to a top UN judicial body that deals with disputes related to the law of the sea.

Neeru Chadha becomes first Indian woman appointed to top UN judicial panel
International law expert Neeru Chadha. Photo courtesy: International court of justice

Chadha, an eminent lawyer and the first Indian woman to become the chief legal adviser in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, won the election on Wednesday to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for a nine-year term from 2017 to 2026.

Chadha got 120 votes, the highest in the Asia-Pacific group, and was elected in the first round of voting itself. The candidate from Indonesia got 58 votes, Lebanon 60 and Thailand 86.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin expressed gratitude for the broad support of countries that resulted in Chadha’s “emphatic success” at the elections to the ITLOS.

“It reflects both an appreciation of India’s global standing in matters of international law and the recognition for Chadha’s expertise as a lawyer and negotiator on contemporary issues related to the Law of the Seas,” Akbaruddin told PTI.

“The Tribunal is composed of 21 independent members who are elected from among persons enjoying the highest reputation for fairness and integrity and of recognised competence in the field of the law of the sea,” according to the information on the ITLOS website.

Meanwhile, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson in New Delhi hailed Chadha’s election to the ITLOS saying, “Indian expertise on ITLOS stage! Neeru Chadha elected as 1st woman on Int'l Tribunal 4 Law of Seas w/most votes in Asia-Pacific Group.”

Chadha has extensive international arbitration and litigation experience, having served as an agent for the Indian government in its maritime delimitation case with Bangladesh. She was also India’s agent for the case filed by Italy in ITLOS involving two Italian marines accused of shooting two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

Currently, eminent jurist from India P Chandrasekhara Rao is a judge at the tribunal. He was elected member of the tribunal in 1996 and his term will expire in September 2017.

Chadha holds law degrees, including a PhD in law, from the University of Delhi and the University of Michigan.