Neeru Chadha, international law expert and the first woman Chief Legal Advisor to the Ministry of External Affairs, has won a much-awaited election to a top UN judicial body that deals with issues relating to international law for the sea. This is the first time an Indian woman has been appointed as a judge at the tribunal.

The eminent lawyer won the election on June 14 to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) for a nine-year term from 2017 to 2026.

Chadha has become the first Indian woman in a top UN position after Vijaya Laxmi Pandit.

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

“It reflects both an appreciation of India’s global standing in matters of international law and the recognition of Chadha’s expertise as a lawyer and negotiator on contemporary issues related to the Law of the Seas,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed 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,” the ITLOS website states.

“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,” said the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson in New Delhi.

Chadha has donned many hats in the past. She was working as a legal advisor to the UN mission and popularly known as an expert in maritime law, international arbitration and the UN Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS).

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