“I feel after 22 years as a Judge, we need to think about writing judgments. The consumer of justice must know what is the end result. That is more interesting. Reasoning and conclusion must be clear.”
Justice N.V. Ramana, The Chief Justice of India, at the Launch of SCC Pre-69 Volumes
The Chief Justice – Mukhya Nyayadhish – The Title is heavy, the Mantle heavier; but it is the Expectations that are the heaviest. The Nation hopes and expects a lot from the one who heads the Supreme Court of India for it is he (or one day a She) who leads the Indian Judiciary collectively.
The Supreme Court of India has borne witness to the leadership of 47 Chief Justices, all who had to face unique scenarios during their tenures. The outgoing Chief Justice, N.V. Ramana, had his fair share of challenging circumstances.
As the Supreme Court of India bids adieu to the 48th Master of Roster, it becomes essential to take a step back and look through Justice N.V. Ramana’s career, perspectives and legacy. It is time to take a moment and Know Thy Chief Justice!
Early Life and Career
♦Did You Know? Justice Ramana worked as a journalist from 1979-1980 and reported on political and legal matters for the Telegu daily newspaper Eenadu.
Justice Nuthulapati Venkata Ramana was born in an agrarian family on August 27, 1957 in Ponnavaram Village, Krishna District, to Ganapati Rao and Sarojini Devi. Having attained his degree in Science and Law from Acharya Nagarjuna University, Andhra Pradesh. While in college, Justice Ramana was a student activist and fought extensively for civil liberties during the Emergency and lost an academic year. He also participated in the Jai Andhra Movement for a separate Andhra state in the 1970s because of alleged injustices meted out to the people of the Coastal and Rayalaseema regions. By his own admission, Justice Ramana once stated that he wanted pursue an active political career, however, “Destiny had other plans”.
Advocacy [1983- 2000]
♦Did You Know? Justice Ramana is a first-generation lawyer having an agricultural background.
Justice Ramana enrolled as an Advocate on 10-02-1983 and started his practice from the Magistrate’s Court at Vijayawada. He later started practicing at the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Central and Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunals and the Supreme Court; dealing in Civil, Criminal, Constitutional, Labour, Service and Election matters. Justice Ramana also specialized in Constitutional, Criminal, Service and Inter-State River laws.
He functioned as Panel Counsel for various Government Organizations and was the Additional Standing Counsel for Central Government and Standing Counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad. Justice Ramana also served as the Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh.
Some of the prominent cases where Justice Ramana appeared as a Counsel are listed below:
- R. Kandappa v. Chief Personnel Officer, S.C. Railway, 1991 SCC OnLine CAT 193
- N. Lalitha v. Union of India, 1991 SCC OnLine CAT 130
- J. Balakrishna v. Government of India, 1993 SCC OnLine CAT 244
- A. Raghu Kumar v. Postmaster General (Welfare), 1992 SCC OnLine CAT 353
- State of Karnataka v. State of A.P., (2000) 10 SCC 607
- State of Karnataka v. State of A.P., (2000) 9 SCC 572
Judgeship- The High Courts [2000-2014]
Justice Ramana’s tryst with Judgeship began in the year 2000 when he was appointed as a permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on 27-06-2000. He served as Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court from 10-03-2013 to 20-05-2013.
He had participated in several National and International Conferences held in India and abroad and submitted papers on various topics of legal importance. Justice Ramana was then elevated as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court w.e.f. 02-09-2013.
Some of the prominent cases during Justice Ramana’s tenure in the High Courts are as follows-
DDA v. All India Naval Draughtsman, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 2093
DDA floated a scheme for 7000 expendable houses vide a resolution dated 27-08-1996, whereby 50% of the flats were proposed to be offered to the general public while 50% were proposed to be offered to PSUs/Govt. Organisations; discount was announced for those individuals who would make payment on a cash down basis and the said discount will not be provided to the PSUs/Govt. Organisations. The Bench of N.V. Ramana, C.J., and Jayant Nath, J., held DDA is not entitled to recover any additional sums from the allottees. The Demand cum Allotment Letter clearly stipulated that the terms and condition in the brochures for the scheme would apply to the respondent/allottees and the brochures nowhere stipulated that the discount is confined only to allottees other than PSUs/ Government Organisations but infact clearly provided for discount to an allottee who made 100% payment before possession.
Shahid Balwa v. Directorate of Enforcement, 2013 SCC OnLine Del 2208
The Bench of N.V. Ramana, C.J., and Jayant Nath, J., observed that cross-examination of witnesses is an integral part and parcel of the principles of natural justice. Refusal would normally be an exception. It was further observed that if the credibility of a person who has testified, is in doubt or if the version or the statement of the person who has testified is in dispute, then normally right to cross-examination would be inevitable; if some real prejudice is caused to the complainant, the right to cross-examine witnesses may be denied.
Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2014 SCC OnLine Del 570
The Bench of N.V. Ramana, C.J. and Manmohan, J., observed that Representation of the People (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2013 was within the legislative competence of the Parliament and in fact, by the impugned Amendment and Validation Act, 2013, the Parliament has by explicit words overruled the intent which had been read by implication by the Courts into Section 62(5) and consequently, changed the basis of “Court’s decision” and is, thus, valid.
B. Archana Reddy v. State of A.P., 2005 SCC OnLine AP 892
The 5 Judge Bench of Bilal Nazki, A.C.J. and Goda Raghuram, V.V.S. Rao, N.V. Ramana and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ., observed that reservations under Arts. 15(4) and 16(4) of the Constitution result in reduction in the number of seats available, in academic courses and posts in public services, on the basis of merit. There is every need, therefore, to ensure that only “the backward classes” and none else are extended the benefits of such reservation.
P. Srinivasa Rao v. P. Indira, 2001 SCC OnLine AP 1034
The 3- Judge Bench of S.B. Sinha, C.J. and Ramesh Madhav Bapat and N.V. Ramana, JJ., observed that the Civil Court can exercise such inherent powers with the only limitation that it should not be inconsistent with other provisions of the CPC or contrary to any other law. It was held that granting interim maintenance in a suit for maintenance is not inconsistent with any provision of the CPC or contrary to any other law.
The Supreme Court of India [2014-2022]
Justice Ramana was elevated as a Judge of the Supreme Court of India w.e.f. 17-02-2014. He served as a Judge for 7 years. Eventually his name for the position of Chief Justice of India was recommended by the then outgoing CJI, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde. On 24-04-2021, Justice Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India.
♦Did You Know? Justice Ramana was the third Judge to recuse himself from hearing the plea challenging the appointment of M Nageswara Rao as the interim CBI Director. He sought transparency in the process of short-listing, selection and appointment of the CBI director.
Judgments rendered by any court of law have the capacity to pave the path for change. Whether such changes are for the better or worse, that however is for the time to tell.
Justice Ramana has time and again stressed upon the need for writing simple clear judgments which can be understood by all and sundry. Very recently, while speaking at the Launch of SCC Pre-69 Volumes by EBC, Justice Ramana urged the judges to try being less complex while writing down their judgments, so that the consumer of justice may know what is the end result.
Being a Judge of the Supreme Court already is a tricky path to traverse considering the balance of various interests. It is even trickier when one is a Chief Justice of the topmost Court of the land. Within the legal fraternity, “Justice Ramana is seen as a conventional judge, who is restrained in his speech. He is known to talk less and for clarity of thought in his orders and judgments and adhering to the principle of judicial discipline and the rule of precedent.” .
The following are some of the significant decisions rendered by Justice N.V. Ramana- as a Supreme Court Judge and as Chief Justice that will help you to map the course of Justice Ramana’s tenure in the Supreme Court-
IBC and Customs Act
In Sundaresh Bhatt v. Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs, [C.A. No. 7667/2021], the Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Hima Kohli and C.T. Ravikumar held that The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will prevail over the Customs Act. Once moratorium under IBC is declared, Customs authorities have only limited jurisdiction to assess the quantum and they cannot take steps to recover the dues.
Definition of Freebies
In Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, [Writ Petitions (Civil) Nos. 43 of 2022], Bench led N.V. Ramana, CJ*., stated that Freebies by political parties before election might create a situation where the State is pushed towards bankruptcy. Noting that the issue is complex and requires extensive debate, the matter was referred to a 3-Judge Bench.
Pegasus Spyware Case
In Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, [Writ Petition(s)(Criminal) No(s).314/2021], the 3- Judge Bench of the Court comprising of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., deliberated over the Report submitted by the Expert Committee concerning Pegasus Spyware. The Court listed the matter after four weeks for further hearing.
The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Manohar Lal Sharma v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 985 appointed an Expert Committee to look into the truth or falsity of the allegations in the Pegasus Spyware case, “taking into account the public importance and the alleged scope and nature of the large-scale violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens of the country.”
Bilkis Bano Matter
In Subhashini Ali v. State of Gujarat, [Writ Petition (Criminal) No.319/2022], the Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Ajay Rastogi and Vikram Nath, JJ., issued notice to the Gujarat Government on the release of 11 men convicted for the gangrape of Bilkis Bano during the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Court has also directed that the 11 released men be impleaded as parties in the plea challenging the decision of the Gujarat Government.
Prime Minister’s Security Breach During Punjab Visit
The Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Lawyers Voice v. State of Punjab, [Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No(s).13/2022] deliberated upon the Report of the Enquiry Committee headed by former Judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Indu Malhotra, and considered their recommendations. The Registry was directed to send a copy of the Report to the Central Government and the State Government for further action.
PMLA Judgment Review
The Bench of NV Ramana, CJ., Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice CT Ravikumar, JJ., in Karti P Chidambaram v. The Directorate of Enforcement, [R.P.(Crl.) No.219/2022 in T.C.(Crl.) No.4/2018], while hearing the matter concerning the review of “PMLA Judgment” in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 929 , the Bench decided that Two Issues in the judgment requires reconsideration.
Interpretation of Tenth Schedule of the Constitution
The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Subhash Desai v. Principal Secretary, [WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 493/2022], referred the question relating to interpretation of Schedule X of the Constitution pertaining to disqualification, as well as the powers of the Speaker and the Governor and the power of judicial review thereof, to the 5-judge Constitution Bench.
In a big judgment on the Prohibition of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Union of India v. Ganpati Dealcom Pvt Ltd, [CIVIL APPEAL No. 5783 of 2022] held that Section 3 read with Section 2(a) and Section 5 of the 1988 Act are overly broad, disproportionately harsh, and operate without adequate safeguards in place and were unconstitutional from their inception. The Court observed that both these provisions were still-born law and never utilized in the first place.
In Parvez Parwaz v. State of U.P., [SLP(Crl) No. 6190/2018] wherein the denial of sanction to prosecute Yogi Adityanath (Chief Minister, UP) for an alleged hate speech, was challenged; the 3- Judge Bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ., and Hima Kohli and C.T. Ravikumar*, JJ., stated that there is no necessity to go into the legal questions relating to the issue of sanction. The appeal was dismissed and the legal questions regarding the issue of sanction were left open.
To remove the Sedition law or not remove it, that was the question considered in S.G. Vombatkere v. Union of India, (2022) 7 SCC 433. The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, JJ., however urged the State and Central Governments to restrain from registering any FIR; continuing any investigation or taking any coercive measures by invoking Section 124A of IPC while the sedition law is under consideration.
Chief Justice Under RTI
The 5-judge constitution Bench of Ranjan Gogoi, CJ., and N.V. Ramana, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna, JJ., in Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal, (2020) 5 SCC 481 has held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information. In the 250-pages long judgment, Justice Sanjiv Khanna wrote the majority opinion for the Bench and Justices N.V. Ramana and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud gave separate but concurring opinions. N.V. Ramana, J., stated that- “Right to information should not be allowed to be used as a tool of surveillance to scuttle effective functioning of judiciary.” Stating that transparency cannot be allowed to run to its absolute, considering the fact that efficiency is equally important principle to be taken into fold, Justice Ramana talked about a 2-step process to ascertain whether the information should be disclosed. He laid down non-exhaustive lists of considerations that need to be considered while assessing both the steps.
Internet curbs in Jammu and Kashmir and Article 370
In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, (2020) 3 SCC 637, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana*, R. Subhash Reddy and B.R. Gavai, JJ., directed the J&K administration to review all orders imposing curbs on telecom and internet services in the state in a week and put them in public domain. “The existing Suspension Rules neither provide for a periodic review nor a time limitation for an order issued under the Suspension Rules. Till this gap is filled, the Review Committee constituted under Rule 2(5) of the Suspension Rules must conduct a periodic review within seven working days of the previous review, in terms of the requirements under Rule 2(6).”
A 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, R. Subhash Reddy and BR Gavai, JJ., in Foundation for Media Professionals v. State (UT OF J&K), (2020) 5 SCC 746, constituted a three-member committee to look into demand for allowing 4G mobile internet in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Noticing that since the issues involved affect the State and the Nation, the Court found it appropriate to constitute a Special Committee comprising of the following Secretaries at national, as well as State, level to look into the prevailing circumstances and immediately determine the necessity of the continuation of the restrictions in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The 5-judge Constitution Bench of NV Ramana, SK Kaul, R. Subhash Reddy, BR Gavai and Surya Kant, JJ., Shah Faesal v. Union of India, (2020) 4 SCC 1, refused to refer the petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Centre’s move to abrogate Article 370 to a larger bench.
Post-Conviction Mental Health of Accused
In ‘X’ v. State of Maharashtra, (2019) 7 SCC 1, The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana*, M.M. Shantanagoudar and Indira Banerjee, JJ., held that it needs to be understood that prisoners tend to have increased affinity to mental illness. Moreover, due to legal constraints on the recognition of broad-spectrum mental illness within the Criminal Justice System, prisons inevitably become home for a greater number of mentally ill prisoners of various degrees. There is no overlooking the fact that the realities within the prison walls may well compound and complicate these problems.
Interpretation of Taxing Statutes
The Five-Judge Constitution Bench speaking through N.V. Ramana, J*., in Commr. of Customs v. Dilip Kumar and Co., (2018) 9 SCC 1 invalidated the ratio of Sun Export Corpn. v. Collector of Customs, (1997) 6 SCC 564, and laid at rest the controversy regarding the interpretation of an ambiguous provision exempting tax. The Bench noticed that there was distinction between interpreting a charging section and an exempting section. In case of ambiguity in a charging section, the interpretation has to be made in favour of the assessee.
A 9-judge bench, by 7:2 majority in Jindal Stainless Ltd v. State of Haryana, (2017) 12 SCC 1 upheld the validity of the entry tax imposed by the States on goods imported from other States. The Bench held that taxes simpliciter are not within the contemplation of Part XIII of the Constitution and that the word ‘Free’ used in Art. 301 does not mean “free from taxation”. T.S. Thakur, CJ* and Dr. A.K. Sikri, S.A. Bobde*, Shiva Kirti Singh*, N.V. Ramana*, R. Banumathi*, A.M. Khanwilkar, JJ, giving the majority view said that States are well within their right to design their fiscal legislations to ensure that the tax burden on goods imported from other States and goods produced within the State fall equally.
Notional Income for Homemakers
In Kirti v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., (2021) 2 SCC 166, where the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant*, JJ., had increased the total motor accident compensation of Rs 22 lakhs awarded by the Delhi High Court to Rs 33.20 lakhs after a motor vehicle accident claimed the lives of a man and his pregnant wife, leaving behind his parents and 2 children aged merely 3 and 4, Justice N.V. Ramana took the liberty to write a concurring opinion with respect to the issue of calculation of notional income for homemakers and the grant of future prospect with respect to them, for the purposes of grant of compensation.
The bench of NV Ramana, CJ*., and Aniruddha Bose, J., in Satbir Singh v. State of Haryana, (2021) 6 SCC 1, stated that judges need to be extra careful while conducting criminal trials relating to Section 304-B, IPC. The Court went on to summarise the law under Section 304B, IPC read with Section 113B, Evidence Act and the guidelines to be followed by the Courts while conducting trials in such cases.
In Gurmeet Singh v. State of Punjab, (2021) 6 SCC 108,- a case related to dowry death, where it was argued by the accused that without any charges under Section 498A, IPC a conviction under Section 304-B, IPC cannot be sustained, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ*., and Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., rejected the contention and explained,
“Although cruelty is a common thread existing in both the offences, however the ingredients of each offence are distinct and must be proved separately by the prosecution. If a case is made out, there can be a conviction under both the sections.”
In State of M.P. v. Jogendra, (2022) 5 SCC 401, where the Madhya Pradesh High Court had held that demand of money for construction of a house cannot be treated as a dowry demand, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ and AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli*, JJ., found the said observation to be erroneous and held that the word “Dowry” ought to be ascribed an expansive meaning so as to encompass any demand made on a woman, whether in respect of a property or a valuable security of any nature.
Explaining the scope of Section 92 Proviso (6) of the Evidence Act, 1872, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ*., and Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., in Mangala Waman Karandikar v. Prakash Damodar Ranade, (2021) 6 SCC 139, held that the said proviso can be resorted to only in cases where the terms of the document leave the question in doubt. “But when a document is a straightforward one and presents no difficulty in construing it, the proviso does not apply. In this regard, we may state that Section 95 only builds on the proviso 6 of Section 92”. The Court was of the opinion that if the contrary view is adopted as correct it would render Section 92 of the Evidence Act, otiose and also enlarge the ambit of proviso 6 beyond the main Section itself.
S.P. Velumani Graft Case
In the case where the Madras High Court had ordered an enquiry and obtained a report without furnishing a copy thereof to Tamil Nadu Minister SP Velumani in a corruption case and unceremoniously closed the writ petition, the 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ.,* and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in S.P. Velumani v. Arappor Iyakkam, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 663 held that when the State has not pleaded any specific privilege which bars disclosure of material utilized in the earlier preliminary investigation, there is no good reason for the High Court to have permitted the report to have remained shrouded in a sealed cover.
Public Interest Litigation
The 3-judge bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ* and A.S. Bopanna and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Esteem Properties Pvt. Ltd. v. Chetan Kamble, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 246, urged the Courts to be cautious when examining locus standi in Public Interest Litigations in order to ensure that frivolous or private interests are not masqueraded as genuine claims.
The Court observed that,
“Although the jurisprudence of Public Interest Litigation has matured, many claims filed in the Courts are sometimes immature. Thousands of frivolous petitions are filed, burdening the docket of both this Court and the High Courts. Noble intentions behind expanding the Court’s jurisdiction to accommodate socially relevant issues, in recent decades, have been critically analyzed”.
Contracts and Tenders
On the question as to ‘whether time is of the essence in a contract’, the bench of N.V. Ramana, CJ* and Surya Kant, J., in Welspun Specialty Solutions Ltd. v. ONGC, (2022) 2 SCC 382, held that merely having an explicit clause may not be sufficient to make time the essence of the contract. The same has to be culled out from the reading of the entire contract as well as the surrounding circumstances.
In a case where the process of cancellation of a tender was initiated without affording a chance to be heard to the lessees and the tender was cancelled “because of the possibility of larger profits”, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, CJ and Vineet Saran and Surya Kant, JJ., in City and Industrial Development Corporation of Maharashtra Ltd v. Shishir Realty Private Limited, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 1141, held that when a contract is being evaluated, the mere possibility of more money in the public coffers does not in itself serve the public interest.
A 5-judge Constitutional Bench of Jagdish Singh Khehar, Dipak Misra, Madan B. Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghose and N.V.Ramana, JJ., in Nabam Rebia, and Bamang Felix v. Deputy Speaker, (2016) 8 SCC 1, quashed the order of the Governor, preponing the 6th session of the Arunachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly by a month without consulting the Chief Minister, Council of Ministers or the Speaker, on account of being violative of Article 163 read with Article 174 of the Constitution of India.
the 3-judge bench of N.V Ramana, CJ., and Krishna Murari and Hima Kohli, JJ., in Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind v. NDMC, stayed the demolition drive undertaken by the NDMC at Jahangirpuri.
Prison Conditions During Covid-19
In Contagion of Covid 19 Virus in Prisons, In re, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 376, The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, CJ., and L. Nageswara Rao and Surya Kant, JJ., issued directions to contain the spread of coronavirus in the overcrowded prisons of India.
Defense of Unsound Mind
The 3-judge bench of NV Ramana, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant, JJ., in Mohd. Anwar v. State (NCT of Delhi), (2020) 7 SCC 391 held that in order to successfully claim defense of mental unsoundness under Section 84 of IPC, the accused must show by preponderance of probabilities that he/she suffered from a serious-enough mental disease or infirmity which would affect the individual’s ability to distinguish right from wrong.
Challenges and Reforms
The challenges before Chief Justice Ramana were multifold. When he took charge as the CJI, the country was severely reeling under the socio-economic effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic; the judiciary itself was staring at ever rising number of pending cases and judicial vacancies.
In order to resolve some of these issues, Justice Ramana launched ‘Fast and Secured Transmission of Electronic Records’ (FASTER)- a software to transmit court orders through a swift and secure electronic mode. Justice Ramana stated that the objective of FASTER is to eliminate the situation where release of prisoners gets delayed even after they have been granted bail and the delays were solely due to jail authorities not getting the certified hard copies of the bail orders.
The advent of the deadly Covid-19 wreaked havoc upon the journalists who were reporting SC judgments for benefit of the common man. Justice Ramana thus launched an app to provide the media access to Supreme Court video links. The step was appreciated for encouraging transparency. Justice Ramana revived the public relation office of the Supreme Court by ensuring the availability of text of speeches.
Justice Ramana also agreed to a long-pending demand of the Supreme Court Bar Association to ensure the nomination of lawyers practising in the SC for appointment as High Court judges, by allowing the Bar body to form a search committee.
Opinions of Note
Justice N.V Ramana has been an opinionated Judge. Given his background as a student activist and a desire to enter into active politics, his being opinionated is hardly a surprise. Bolstered by his experiences in life and law, Justice Ramana’s views were reflective of his thought process and the desire to lead the judiciary towards a better and inclusive future.
Justice Ramana’s perceptions and views on several matters of importance have been a major highlight of his Chief Justiceship-
Law Reports and Legal Reporting
During the launch of SCC Pre-69 Volumes, Justice Ramana stressed upon the need for accurate reporting of judgments and court proceedings. He requested the judges’ fraternity to focus on simplicity in judgments where the ratio and decision is clear. Justice Ramana further emphasised that the reporting of law judgements is necessary because the people of India should be aware of their constitutional rights. He also implored that focus should be on making law reports reasonably priced and their availability in regional languages.
“There is a need for accurate reporting, otherwise people are confused. The majority of reports don’t know what order, proceedings, judgment, oral observations are. It is very unfortunate. Suppose a judge asks a negative question, immediately it is reported”.
A Judge’s Life
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony of ‘Justice SB Sinha Memorial Lecture’ on the topic “Life of a Judge”, organised by the National University of Study & Research in Law, Ranchi; Justice Ramana pointed out that a Judge’s life is tough one- “A person who has no connection with the profession cannot even imagine the number of hours that go into preparation. We spend many hours reading the paper-books and making notes for matters listed the next day. Preparation for the next day begins soon after the court rises, and will go on beyond midnight on most days. We continue to work even during weekends and court holidays to do research and author pending judgments. In this process, we miss out on many joys of our lives. Sometimes, we miss out on important family events”.
Justice Ramana expressed his laments on the rising instances of media trials, stating that these instances are taking democracy backwards- “Of late, we see the media running kangaroo courts, at times on issues even experienced judges find difficult to decide. Ill-informed and agenda driven debates on issues involving justice delivery are proving to be detrimental to the health of democracy”.
Judiciary, Democracy and Constitution
While speaking at the foundation stone laying ceremony of new J&K High Court complex at Srinagar, Justice Ramana highlighted the importance of a functioning judiciary for a healthy democracy. “For the functioning of a healthy democracy, it is imperative that the people feel that their rights and dignity are protected and recognised. Expeditious adjudication of disputes is the hallmark of a healthy democracy. Denial of justice would ultimately lead to anarchy”. He also stressed on the importance of digitization of for better dispersion of judicial functions – “The judiciary must be at its innovative best to ensure that the challenges to its working are met with just and Constitutional measures. Technology has been a strong aid to the judiciary. Now, virtual courts are bridging the gaps of accessibility by reducing time, cost and distance. But in a country like India, where a vast digital divide still exists, much needs to be done in order to harness the full potential of technological innovations”
Expressing disappointment over the state of affairs in all the Three Estates of the State, Justice Ramana stated that “In India, a party in power believes that every governmental action is entitled to judicial endorsement and the Opposition parties expect the judiciary to advance their political positions and causes, but the judiciary is answerable to the Constitution and Constitution alone”.
♦Did you Know? For the first time ever, the proceedings before the Ceremonial Bench of Chief Justice NV Ramana, on his last working day in the Supreme Court was live-streamed!
The measure of respect that Justice Ramana had accumulated during his tenure at the Supreme Court was well revealed before the world when for the first time ever, a Supreme Court Proceeding, (especially a Ceremonial Bench proceeding) was live-streamed. Those attending the proceedings were full of emotions and admiration for the retiring Chief Justice.
Attorney General of India, K.K Venugopal stated that “This is not the right age to retire for the judge of the Supreme Court or of the High Court. But this is not in my hands. The Lordships have started a new era”.
Meanwhile Senior Advocate, Dushyant Dave tearfully expressed that Justice Ramana had been a ‘Citizens’ Judge’.
Senior Advocate, Kapil Sibal stated that, “I have competed 50 years with SC and many Chief Justices come and go. There is another family you take care of that is the Bar and my Lords have taken their proper care”. Expressing his gratitude to the outgoing Chief Justice, Mr. Kapil Sibal eloquently pointed out –
“When the sea is calm the ship will sail. You have maintained the balance in turbulent times. That the give is called to answer. You have maintained the high standards of the judiciary”.
President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Vikas Singh stated that Justice Ramana has ensured the maintenance of Supreme Court’s prestige and has strived to protect the constitutional rights of the people.
Senior Advocate, Vibha Dutt Makhija expressed her appreciation for the work does by Justice Ramana for the women in judiciary.
Thanking the members of the Bar and the Bench, Justice Ramana once again stressed upon the importance of deploying modern technologies for effective functioning of the Supreme Court. He also expressed his apologies for not being able to focus on the issue of pendency and listing of matters. Conveying his gratitude and hoping for betterment of the Bar and the Bench, Justice Ramana stated-
“I am not the last or the first person who has worked for the development of this institution. Several great people have contributed a lot to the judiciary and we need to work together for the success of Indian Judiciary”.
Chief Justice N.V. Ramana oversaw a nation that had reeled and then rallied from a deadly pandemic. When Covid-19 brought everyone on its toes and stopped the Nation on its tracks, Justice Ramana held on tightly to reins of the judiciary and his measures allowed the courts to function seamlessly. There can be no doubt that Justice Ramana’s judgments and opinions gave lot for the legal and non-legal fraternity to ponder on.
Coming from a humble background, Justice Ramana rose through the ranks and created his own niche within the ‘Legal Multiverse’. We are eager to see what the future holds for him. Whatever his next journey will be, we are sure that it will be equally illuminating.
†Sucheta Sarkar, Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt Ltd
* Judge who authored the judgment/ wrote a concurring opinion