Published: 26th August 2022
#WhatTheFAQ: 16 months of CJI NV Ramana. How did he fare?
For the first time ever the Supreme Court allowed live streaming of court proceedings as Justice NV Ramana sat on his seat as the CJI for the last time
That General Knowledge question of who is the Chief Justice of India would not have been a difficult one to answer during this last year. That's all thanks to India's 48th CJI NV Ramana, who has often been at the front and centre of media reports for his frequent lectures and "bold" statements.
Ramana is set to retire today, August 26, and we take this opportunity to look back at his time in the hot seat.
Who is NV Ramana?
As the Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana assumed office on April 24, 2021. He had been serving as a Supreme Court judge since February 17, 2014. He was also the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court from September 2013 to February 2014, and before that, the Acting Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court.
What were some of the highlights of his career?
In July last year, the Supreme Court, led by Justice Ramana put the controversial Sedition Law (Section 124A of the IPC) on hold and asked the Indian government to refrain from registering any cases under it. He questioned the need for the colonial era law even after 75 years of independence. He is also credited with significantly reducing the number of vacancies in the judiciary, by clearing the appointments of 255 judicial officers and advocates as High Court judges. During his tenure, 11 Supreme Court judges were also appointed by the Supreme Court Collegium, which is headed by the CJI.
And what about his work outside the Supreme Court?
Ramana has come to be known for his speeches and lectures at various forums, which provoked sustained coverage by the media. In his talks, he made calls for a democracy filled with "vibrance and idealism". During a speech in Srinagar, he said, "One of the major challenges to the protection of rule of law and human rights is the inability of the formal justice system to deliver speedy and affordable justice to all." He has also criticised the government over the highly controversial Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
What criticisms has he drawn?
Observers have expressed disappointment over the fact that for a judge who seems to mince no words during speeches, Justice Ramana seemed awfully reluctant to list cases of national significance for hearing.
One of these matters includes a petition challenging the constitutionality of the UAPA Act, especially in the context of the amendments introduced in 2019. Not only did the Supreme Court not list the case for hearing during Ramana's tenure, it passed a statement saying that a Delhi High Court judgment that termed the UAPA 'vague', should not be considered as a precedent.
When presented with the hijab ban issue from Karnataka, which was impacting the education of Muslim girls, Ramana told the petitioners that the matter was not urgent. It hasn't been taken up for hearing yet.
Other important cases that have similarly languished without attention from the top court and the CJI include the 103rd Constitutional Amendment which provides 10% reservation in government institutions for education and jobs based on economic criteria, the petition challenging electoral bonds, and the petition challenging the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
Who is the next CJI of India?
Justice Uday Umesh Lalit will take over as the 49th Chief Justice of India. However, he will hold office only up until his retirement in November and will be replaced by Justice DY Chandrachud, who will be the 50th Chief Justice of India.