The Poeple’s Judge: Justice Ramana takes historic decisions in one year as CJI

by Dikhyaa Mohanty

Justice N V Ramana, who completed a year as Chief Justice of India, took path-breaking judicial and administrative decisions as the head of the judiciary which included a probe into Pegasus snooping, the unprecedented appointment of nine judges in the apex court, including three women, in one go and 126 judges in high courts and uninterrupted running of courts even during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the reports, Justice Ramana took over as head of the judiciary from Justice S A Bobde during whose tenure as the CJI, the apex court had commenced proceedings through the mode of video conferencing after the outbreak of the pandemic.

Sworn in as the 48th CJI on April 24, 2021, he is credited for successfully ensuring the smooth functioning of the top court during the pandemic by resorting to extensive use of technology and judicial decisions like ensuring an independent probe into the Pegasus spyware case and the Lakhimpur Kheri violence.

The apex court, which did not get a single judge after the superannuation of the then CJI Ranjan Gogoi on November 17, 2019, had nine existing vacancies when CJI Ramana took over and the high courts had around 600 vacancies.

Justice Ramana, in his first interaction with the Chief Justices of high courts in June last year, sought names for appointments and due to his persistent efforts and collective leadership skill of taking along his colleagues at the collegium, nine vacancies in the Supreme Court were filled in August last year in one go and Justice B V Nagarathna, one of three women judges, would become the first woman CJI.

A total of 192 candidates for the judgeship in high courts were recommended and out of these, 126 have already been appointed and women’s names constituted nearly 20 per cent of those recommended till now. His efforts led to the increase of Telangana High Court bench strength from 24 to 42 judges.

Hailing from an agriculturist family of Ponnavaram village of Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district, a soft-spoken Justice Ramana, who never misses an opportunity to wear his rural background as a badge of honour, has a tenure of 16 months and two days as he would demit office on August 26, 2022.

At the outset of his tenure, the CJI, who was part of the selection panel along with the prime minister and the leader of the opposition to select the CBI Director, invoked the apex court judgment leading to the appointment of S K Jaiswal as the head of the probe agency.

Taking note of the law on sedition and its misuse, the CJI issued notices to the Centre and questioned the need for colonial-era penal provision which was used to persecute the freedom fighters.

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