Obama and a diverse United States Judiciary: Lessons for India

Having racial, gender and experiential diversity in the American judicial system were one of Obama’s top priorities when he was elected to the White House. Reports suggest that he may well have succeeded in portraying the true multi-ethnic rubric of the U.S.  through the federal judicial benches, at both the SCOTUS and the Courts of Appeals.

Of the 97 successful nominations made by the Obama administration, almost half were women, a quarter of them were, several openly-gay judges and Asian-Americans too.

In India, although the Supreme Court has had a history of wide regional, albeit linguistic and cultural representation, gender diversity has been hard to come by. Till date, only four women (three retired: Justice Fathima Beevi, Justice Sujata V. Manohar, Justice Ruma Pal; and one sitting: Justice Gyan Sudha Misra) have donned the role of a judge of the Supreme Court of India. In wake of the increased representation of women in local municipal governments and the pending legislation on reservation for women in the State and Central Legislatures, the judicial system has to catch up with the true multicultural, multi-ethnic and egalitarian dynamic that India exemplifies.

M.B.Z. v. Clinton, foreign policy matter before the SCOTUS

At the SCOTUS, an interesting foreign policy matter was admitted as a petition of Certiorari.

The matter relates to the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, something that has been a cause for much debate at the US Senate. For many years now, Senators have tried to push for a law which officially recognizes Jerusalem as a capital of Israel, something that the President of the US has the authority to decide on. And till date, there is no official recognition that Jerusalem is indeed the capital of Israel, according to its choosing. This status of Israel has also been very controversial throughout history. In fact, the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act of 2011, which would officially recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital is still pending at the US Senate.

Coming back to the issue before the Supreme Court of the US, the dispute is relating to the separation of powers between Executive (President) and the Legislative (Congress) branches of the US with regard to matters of foreign policy. The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is allowed in birth certificates of US citizens when they foreign born individuals. However, a presidential direction permitted only Israel to be recognized as a place of birth if they were born in Jerusalem. Therefore, the bone of contention is with regard to the “political question doctrine” which is against a direction of a federal legislation and whether this can be enforced by a court of law adversely to a political decision.

See SCOTUS Blog for the documents and this matter will be heard by the Court in the next term and the Washington Post article on the same.

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