Wanted: An Indian Charlesworth

News: Recently, India nominated Bimal Patel, professor of international law to the UN International Law Commission. Before him, the only instance of an Indian academic elected to the ILC was that of Radhabinod Pal in 1958, an iconic judge.

Why the nomination is noteworthy?

His appointment is notable as earlier India routinely nominated retired officials from the Legal and Treaties Division (L&T) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), ignoring the talent that existed in international law in academia. According to Syed Akbaruddin, India’s former permanent representative to the UN, the L&T Division treated the ILC membership “as its preserve”.

The Indian habit of nominating retired government officials and bureaucrats to international forums is not restricted to ILC only, but also to other international forums like World Trade Organization, International Court of Justice etc.

What are the practices adopted by other countries?

Other liberal democracies of the world do not nominate only retired officials, but they also nominate the leading academicians of international law. For e.g. Australian nominee, Hilary Charlesworth, recently elected to the ICJ, is a professor of international law and is globally known for her path-breaking work on feminist approaches to international law.

What are the drawbacks of the Indian process of nomination?

Lack of transparency: It gives rise to speculations of favouritism and nepotism.

What is the way forward?

Setting up an independent search-cum-selection committee: The committee should invite applications from qualified candidates, screen them based on their expertise and professional reputation in international law, and then make recommendations publicly.

Nominate the brightest talent: Ministry of External Affairs should make sure that the nominated candidate should have expertise in international law.

Source: This post is based on the article “The need for palliative care in India has never been greater” published in The Hindu on 24th November 2021.

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