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Neeru Chadha becomes first Indian woman judge on international sea law tribunal

By Ians English

United Nations, June 15: Law expert Neeru Chadha became the first Indian woman to be elected as a judge of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea on Wednesday.

She won a nine-year term on the 21-member court that adjudicates disputes arising over the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and agreements between countries that give it jurisdiction. The tribunal was set up in 1996 and is based in Hamburg, Germany.

Neeru Chadha becomes first Indian woman judge on international sea law tribunal

The tribunal has one woman judge, Elsa Kelly of Argentina, and another, Liesbeth Lijnzaad of the Netherlands, was elected on Wednesday along with Chadha.

Chadha was the only candidate from the Asia Pacific Group to be elected in the first round of elections where the 168 countries that are parties to UNCLOS voted.

Judge P. Chandrasekhara Rao, the Indian currently on the tribunal, completes his second nine-year-term this year. He served as the President of the tribunal from 1999 to 2002.

Chadha was the first woman to be the chief legal adviser to the Indian government and she served as an additional secretary in the External Affairs Ministry and a counsellor at India's UN Mission.

Chadha, who is a legal consultant to the Indian government, has experience of ITLOS from the other side of the bench.

She successfully represented the country before the tribunal in the case brought by Italy demanding the release of two of its marines charged by India with killing two Indian fishermen. However, the tribunal refused to order their release.

Dispute between India and Bangladesh

In the maritime borders dispute between India and Bangladesh, she represented New Delhi at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. The verdict awarding Bangladesh 19,467 sq.km of the contested area in the Bay of Bengal was seen as a victory for Dhaka.

Marshall Islands

She also represented India in a frivolous case brought in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by the Marshall Islands over what it said was New Delhi's failure to end the nuclear race. The ICJ dismissed the Marshall Island's case.

She has studied at the University of Michigan Law School.


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