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Sri Srinivasan has become the first Indian American and Asian to head a US court of appeals after taking over as Chief Judge of the Washington DC circuit from Merrick Garland.

Under US rules, circuit courts of appeals – something like the high courts of India in the judicial hierarchy – must be headed by the senior-most judge under the age of 65, and Garland, who is 67, stepped down on February 12, paving the way for Srinivasan, who is 52.

The DC circuit court of appeals is often considered the second most powerful court in the United States after the Supreme Court, and has been a stepping stone to the highest court. Garland was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, but Republicans blocked it by denying him a confirmation hearing in the senate that they controlled then, as now. Obama had considered Srinivasan for that nomination also before going with Garland.

The Indian-descent judge, who was born in Chandigarh, is widely expected to be named to the apex court at some stage, possibly by a Democratic president — he was named to the DC circuit by Obama.

Srinivasan joined the DC circuit in 2013. His swearing in was attended by then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur and the family; their families have been friends from their days in Chandigarh.