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Introduction

Recently, Justice UU Lalit was sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India. He succeeds Justice NV Ramana. After a 490-day tenure, Ramana’s stay as the Chief was bid farewell in an event that was live-streamed per his requests. Ramana, who came from an activist background, having dabbled in journalism as well, was hoped to bring justice to most of his critics. However, did he fulfill their expectations? After being elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2014, Justice Ramana took charge as CJI on April 24, 2021, with his tenure being one of the longest among the last ten CJIs.

Over the course of his tenure as a judge of the Supreme Court and later CJI, he can be credited to have authored 177 judgments, mostly in criminal matters, and was part of the bench that dispensed nearly 594 judgments. Ramana, during his tenure, was a man of many words. This article will discuss and dissect judicial happenings during ex-CJI Ramana’s tenure, and his role in them.

Procedure for Appointment of CJI

Before diving into the tenure of NV Ramana, it is imperative to understand the procedure of such an appointment. Article 124 of the Indian Constitution says that the Supreme Court of India will consist of a Chief Justice of India. However, this article doesn't specify any procedure for the same. It merely propounds on such appointment being done by the president of India, and in absence of a conditional provision, by means of the convention.

The Convention

Convention essentially means something which has been in practice for long enough for it to be accounted for. The convention in this context dictates recommendation. This implies that the outgoing CJI recommends someone as his successor, strictly based on seniority. The presiding Union Law Minister forwards the recommendation so received to the Prime Minister of India, who, in turn, plays an advisory role to the President.

Thus, in crude terms, after a CJI retires at the age of 65, the next senior judge in the Supreme court takes over. Seniority in this context is not defined by age, but by the number of years a judge has been serving in the top court of the country. In rare cases where the two judges have the same seniority, miscellaneous factors including who took the oath first, was anyone nominated to the bar directly? And who have served in priority cases, become decoding factors.
For instance, in 2017 Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Jasti Chelameswar, were both sworn in on the same day as Judges of the Supreme Court, but Justice Misra was anointed as the CJI despite being four months younger than Justice Chelameswar. Both were elevated to the apex court in the capacity of a judge on October 10, 2011. But in such, rare simultaneous appointments, whoever takes the oath first, be it the difference of a minute, is accorded seniority. Since Justice Chelameswar took oath after Justice Misra, the latter became senior to him.

The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP)

The MoP is a formal document, laying out the procedure for CJI appointment, It is drafted between the government and the judiciary. The MoP, like the convention, lays down that the appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the senior most Judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold office, except the MoP is tangible while the convention isn't.

The procedure in accordance with the MoP is initiated by the Union Law Minister by seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI at an ‘appropriate time’. If the incumbent CJI has any doubts about the fitness of the senior most judge to hold the office of the Chief Justice of India, he can consult the collegium. The only point of contention and ambiguity in the MoP is its silence on a situation wherein government disagrees with the incumbent CJI’s recommendation.

Exceptions to the Rule

While justice Ramana and U.U Lalit, were appointed employing the conventional procedure, there have been two notable exceptions to this rule. These exceptions are those of Justice AN Ray and Justice MH Beg, who became CJIs during the 1970s. In the case of Justice AN Ray, who was appointed as CJI in 1973, the rule of appointing the “senior-most” judge was averted. He was the fourth senior-most judge in the SC. The reason so cited was the involvement of the other three judges in the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973, which had held that Parliament cannot make amendments to the Constitution that would alter its `basic structure. This was seen as a controversial move since the other three judges’ views were in opposition to the government, and thus, they were simply sidelined.

In the second instance, Justice MH Beg was appointed as the CJI in 1977 despite Justice HR Khanna serving as the senior Judge. “Coincidentally” in 1976, Justice Khanna had pronounced in the ADM Jabalpur case that he did not agree with the government’s argument that the detention of persons during the Emergency cannot be questioned, even if mala fide and without the authority of law. These two cases were thus, exceptions to the rule and widely scrutinized.

Tenure of NV Ramana

NV Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India, in April 2021 and retired on August 28th, 2022. His tenure spanned 16th months and while he didn't oversee noteworthy constitutional judgments, his speeches and views on judicial functioning and public policy were profound.

He presented the truth in a manner that was both diplomatic and palatable. One such instance is his perception of the trust deficit in the Induan Judiciary. He also propounded on nuanced matters like the need for police reform and women's rights. Perhaps due to his own roots in journalism, while working with Eenadu newspaper, before plunging into law, CJI Ramana had a rather refreshing willingness to engage with the public and the press without an intermediary. However, his criticism of the fourth estate was also a part of the same “interaction”. Ramana worked 5 days a week on the bench and the rest, in public service, delivering speeches and enriching the education system via lectures and seminars. His views on the education system and fraudulent healthcare services garnered attention and added to the ongoing discourse rather meaningfully.

Pendency of Cases

The pendency of cases and the shift in data, positive or negative, are indicative of the presiding Chief’s efficiency, involvement, and initiative. However, with CJI Ramana, such numbers might not convey the correct message, because they have to be viewed in the backdrop of COVID-19, which resulted in stalled hearings and resistance from the judiciary in conducting virtual trials and hearings. When CJI Ramana assumed charge in 2021, around 67,000 cases were pending disposal before the top court. Currently, there are at least 71,400 pending cases. Per reports, Supreme Court would require an uninterrupted 3.8 years, with no new cases being filed, to clear its pending cases.

Ramana acknowledged the problem, however, he simply defended the judiciary by saying
“It is often stated that there are 45 million pending cases and it's said because courts cannot handle it. It is an uncharitable analysis...Issue of judicial delays is a complex problem and just not in India"

Inaction on Constitutional matters

While his speeches may have been extremely insightful and at times, thought-provoking, they did little to effect any significant change. CJI Ramana’s contribution to serious polity, civil rights, and constitutional law was below par and insignificant. 492 Constitution bench matters, including 53 main cases (the UAPA for instance), remain pending. These issues possess the power to impact the citizenry in a matter which would be life-altering. Their pendency thus, concerning.

CJI Ramana inherited a majority of these Constitution Bench matters, but little to no action was seen to be taken by the master of the roster during his tenure. Certain potentially landmark matters which await decisions are:

  • Abrogation of Article 370

More than 20 petitions are pending before the top court challenging the Central government’s August 2019 decision to revoke the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir. CJI Ramana remarked that he will try to list the case, and that said hearing is pending because there are conflicts within the constitutional bench. However, since, there has been radio silence on the same.

  • Citizenship Amendment Act

A batch of over 140 petitions is pending before the Court challenging the validity of the Act which spurred protests across the country which in turn led to the arrests of many. The pleas challenging the Act’s constitutionality were never taken up by CJI Ramana. Thus, this case was never mentioned during his tenure, which most perceived as a red flag.

  • Reservation for Economically Weaker Section

A batch of petitions filed by NGOs Janhit Abhiyan and Youth for Equality, among others, challenged the validity of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 on the ground that economic classification cannot be the sole basis for reservation. Two years ago, this matter was referred to the court and the court acknowledged the same. However, since, there has been no development.

Despite dozens of cases and severe public criticism, the CJI made no move to hear the pleas challenging the aforementioned and more.

Inaction on Oher Important Matters

Apart from Constitution Bench matters, several significant matters were brought before the apex court, most to no avail. “No urgency” and not following up on cases are detrimental to the functioning of the Indian Judiciary. Some cases under this category include the Hijab Ban and challenges to the Electoral bond scheme. While Ramana maintains that the common citizen should not hesitate in approaching the court, said approach doesn't amount to anything substantial most times. This deference and lack of judicial endorsement leave a question mark on the efficacy of his tenure.

Impact

Despite his shortcomings, CJI Ramana was successful in creating public awareness and catalyzing social mobilization. His judicial contributions include constituting an expert panel on the infamous Pegasus case while firmly directing that the Centre cannot use the bogey of national security to silence judicial inquiry. He also furthered the discourse on sedition and its abuse. Moreover, furthering the hearings of the Lakhimpur Kheri case, CJI Ramana exercised his power to cancel the bail of minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra, who was responsible for running over multiple people. More recently, Ramana issued a notice on plea against the remission of the sentence of 11 rapists involved in the Bilkis Bano case.

On the administrative side, he can be lauded for having filled 224 vacancies in various High Courts. He was also responsible for the elevation of justice BV Nagarathna, who is likely to become the first female Chief Justice of India in 2027. He deserves due credit when it comes to the appointment of judges and judicial officers. His efforts at the helm of the Supreme Court Collegium were often coupled with openly calling out the Central government for delaying improvements of the Collegium's recommendations, not raising the number of judicial posts, and not improving judicial infrastructure. During his tenure, the Supreme Court witnessed a record number of appointments, with nine judges - including three women judges - taking oath simultaneously.

Future

As his career spanning over a glorious 22 years comes to a close, it is hard to gauge what he chooses to do. He has however implied his willingness to continue being active in the public sphere, being a torch-bearer of knowledge and legal awareness. While he didn't change the dynamics of the Indian judiciary, he played a part in its evolution, which will go a long way.
A Technical Overview of the Tenure of NV Ramana

Introduction

Recently, Justice UU Lalit was sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India. He succeeds Justice NV Ramana. After a 490-day tenure, Ramana’s stay as the Chief was bid farewell in an event that was live-streamed per his requests. Ramana, who came from an activist background, having dabbled in journalism as well, was hoped to bring justice to most of his critics. However, did he fulfill their expectations? After being elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2014, Justice Ramana took charge as CJI on April 24, 2021, with his tenure being one of the longest among the last ten CJIs.

Over the course of his tenure as a judge of the Supreme Court and later CJI, he can be credited to have authored 177 judgments, mostly in criminal matters, and was part of the bench that dispensed nearly 594 judgments. Ramana, during his tenure, was a man of many words. This article will discuss and dissect judicial happenings during ex-CJI Ramana’s tenure, and his role in them.

Procedure for Appointment of CJI

Before diving into the tenure of NV Ramana, it is imperative to understand the procedure of such an appointment. Article 124 of the Indian Constitution says that the Supreme Court of India will consist of a Chief Justice of India. However, this article doesn't specify any procedure for the same. It merely propounds on such appointment being done by the president of India, and in absence of a conditional provision, by means of the convention.

The Convention

Convention essentially means something which has been in practice for long enough for it to be accounted for. The convention in this context dictates recommendation. This implies that the outgoing CJI recommends someone as his successor, strictly based on seniority. The presiding Union Law Minister forwards the recommendation so received to the Prime Minister of India, who, in turn, plays an advisory role to the President.

Thus, in crude terms, after a CJI retires at the age of 65, the next senior judge in the Supreme court takes over. Seniority in this context is not defined by age, but by the number of years a judge has been serving in the top court of the country. In rare cases where the two judges have the same seniority, miscellaneous factors including who took the oath first, was anyone nominated to the bar directly? And who have served in priority cases, become decoding factors.
For instance, in 2017 Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Jasti Chelameswar, were both sworn in on the same day as Judges of the Supreme Court, but Justice Misra was anointed as the CJI despite being four months younger than Justice Chelameswar. Both were elevated to the apex court in the capacity of a judge on October 10, 2011. But in such, rare simultaneous appointments, whoever takes the oath first, be it the difference of a minute, is accorded seniority. Since Justice Chelameswar took oath after Justice Misra, the latter became senior to him.

The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP)

The MoP is a formal document, laying out the procedure for CJI appointment, It is drafted between the government and the judiciary. The MoP, like the convention, lays down that the appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the senior most Judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold office, except the MoP is tangible while the convention isn't.

The procedure in accordance with the MoP is initiated by the Union Law Minister by seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI at an ‘appropriate time’. If the incumbent CJI has any doubts about the fitness of the senior most judge to hold the office of the Chief Justice of India, he can consult the collegium. The only point of contention and ambiguity in the MoP is its silence on a situation wherein government disagrees with the incumbent CJI’s recommendation.

Exceptions to the Rule

While justice Ramana and U.U Lalit, were appointed employing the conventional procedure, there have been two notable exceptions to this rule. These exceptions are those of Justice AN Ray and Justice MH Beg, who became CJIs during the 1970s. In the case of Justice AN Ray, who was appointed as CJI in 1973, the rule of appointing the “senior-most” judge was averted. He was the fourth senior-most judge in the SC. The reason so cited was the involvement of the other three judges in the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973, which had held that Parliament cannot make amendments to the Constitution that would alter its `basic structure. This was seen as a controversial move since the other three judges’ views were in opposition to the government, and thus, they were simply sidelined.

In the second instance, Justice MH Beg was appointed as the CJI in 1977 despite Justice HR Khanna serving as the senior Judge. “Coincidentally” in 1976, Justice Khanna had pronounced in the ADM Jabalpur case that he did not agree with the government’s argument that the detention of persons during the Emergency cannot be questioned, even if mala fide and without the authority of law. These two cases were thus, exceptions to the rule and widely scrutinized.

Tenure of NV Ramana

NV Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India, in April 2021 and retired on August 28th, 2022. His tenure spanned 16th months and while he didn't oversee noteworthy constitutional judgments, his speeches and views on judicial functioning and public policy were profound.

He presented the truth in a manner that was both diplomatic and palatable. One such instance is his perception of the trust deficit in the Induan Judiciary. He also propounded on nuanced matters like the need for police reform and women's rights. Perhaps due to his own roots in journalism, while working with Eenadu newspaper, before plunging into law, CJI Ramana had a rather refreshing willingness to engage with the public and the press without an intermediary. However, his criticism of the fourth estate was also a part of the same “interaction”. Ramana worked 5 days a week on the bench and the rest, in public service, delivering speeches and enriching the education system via lectures and seminars. His views on the education system and fraudulent healthcare services garnered attention and added to the ongoing discourse rather meaningfully.

Pendency of Cases

The pendency of cases and the shift in data, positive or negative, are indicative of the presiding Chief’s efficiency, involvement, and initiative. However, with CJI Ramana, such numbers might not convey the correct message, because they have to be viewed in the backdrop of COVID-19, which resulted in stalled hearings and resistance from the judiciary in conducting virtual trials and hearings. When CJI Ramana assumed charge in 2021, around 67,000 cases were pending disposal before the top court. Currently, there are at least 71,400 pending cases. Per reports, Supreme Court would require an uninterrupted 3.8 years, with no new cases being filed, to clear its pending cases.

Ramana acknowledged the problem, however, he simply defended the judiciary by saying
“It is often stated that there are 45 million pending cases and it's said because courts cannot handle it. It is an uncharitable analysis...Issue of judicial delays is a complex problem and just not in India"

Inaction on Constitutional matters

While his speeches may have been extremely insightful and at times, thought-provoking, they did little to effect any significant change. CJI Ramana’s contribution to serious polity, civil rights, and constitutional law was below par and insignificant. 492 Constitution bench matters, including 53 main cases (the UAPA for instance), remain pending. These issues possess the power to impact the citizenry in a matter which would be life-altering. Their pendency thus, concerning.

CJI Ramana inherited a majority of these Constitution Bench matters, but little to no action was seen to be taken by the master of the roster during his tenure. Certain potentially landmark matters which await decisions are:

More than 20 petitions are pending before the top court challenging the Central government’s August 2019 decision to revoke the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir. CJI Ramana remarked that he will try to list the case, and that said hearing is pending because there are conflicts within the constitutional bench. However, since, there has been radio silence on the same.

  • Citizenship Amendment Act

A batch of over 140 petitions is pending before the Court challenging the validity of the Act which spurred protests across the country which in turn led to the arrests of many. The pleas challenging the Act’s constitutionality were never taken up by CJI Ramana. Thus, this case was never mentioned during his tenure, which most perceived as a red flag.

  • Reservation for Economically Weaker Section

A batch of petitions filed by NGOs Janhit Abhiyan and Youth for Equality, among others, challenged the validity of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 on the ground that economic classification cannot be the sole basis for reservation. Two years ago, this matter was referred to the court and the court acknowledged the same. However, since, there has been no development.

Despite dozens of cases and severe public criticism, the CJI made no move to hear the pleas challenging the aforementioned and more.

Inaction on Oher Important Matters

Apart from Constitution Bench matters, several significant matters were brought before the apex court, most to no avail. “No urgency” and not following up on cases are detrimental to the functioning of the Indian Judiciary. Some cases under this category include the Hijab Ban and challenges to the Electoral bond scheme. While Ramana maintains that the common citizen should not hesitate in approaching the court, said approach doesn't amount to anything substantial most times. This deference and lack of judicial endorsement leave a question mark on the efficacy of his tenure.

Impact

Despite his shortcomings, CJI Ramana was successful in creating public awareness and catalyzing social mobilization. His judicial contributions include constituting an expert panel on the infamous Pegasus case while firmly directing that the Centre cannot use the bogey of national security to silence judicial inquiry. He also furthered the discourse on sedition and its abuse. Moreover, furthering the hearings of the Lakhimpur Kheri case, CJI Ramana exercised his power to cancel the bail of minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra, who was responsible for running over multiple people. More recently, Ramana issued a notice on plea against the remission of the sentence of 11 rapists involved in the Bilkis Bano case.

On the administrative side, he can be lauded for having filled 224 vacancies in various High Courts. He was also responsible for the elevation of justice BV Nagarathna, who is likely to become the first female Chief Justice of India in 2027. He deserves due credit when it comes to the appointment of judges and judicial officers. His efforts at the helm of the Supreme Court Collegium were often coupled with openly calling out the Central government for delaying improvements of the Collegium's recommendations, not raising the number of judicial posts, and not improving judicial infrastructure. During his tenure, the Supreme Court witnessed a record number of appointments, with nine judges - including three women judges - taking oath simultaneously.

Future

As his career spanning over a glorious 22 years comes to a close, it is hard to gauge what he chooses to do. He has however implied his willingness to continue being active in the public sphere, being a torch-bearer of knowledge and legal awareness. While he didn't change the dynamics of the Indian judiciary, he played a part in its evolution, which will go a long way.
A Technical Overview of the Tenure of NV Ramana

Introduction

Recently, Justice UU Lalit was sworn in as the 49th Chief Justice of India. He succeeds Justice NV Ramana. After a 490-day tenure, Ramana’s stay as the Chief was bid farewell in an event that was live-streamed per his requests. Ramana, who came from an activist background, having dabbled in journalism as well, was hoped to bring justice to most of his critics. However, did he fulfill their expectations? After being elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2014, Justice Ramana took charge as CJI on April 24, 2021, with his tenure being one of the longest among the last ten CJIs.

Over the course of his tenure as a judge of the Supreme Court and later CJI, he can be credited to have authored 177 judgments, mostly in criminal matters, and was part of the bench that dispensed nearly 594 judgments. Ramana, during his tenure, was a man of many words. This article will discuss and dissect judicial happenings during ex-CJI Ramana’s tenure, and his role in them.

Procedure for Appointment of CJI

Before diving into the tenure of NV Ramana, it is imperative to understand the procedure of such an appointment. Article 124 of the Indian Constitution says that the Supreme Court of India will consist of a Chief Justice of India. However, this article doesn't specify any procedure for the same. It merely propounds on such appointment being done by the president of India, and in absence of a conditional provision, by means of the convention.

The Convention

Convention essentially means something which has been in practice for long enough for it to be accounted for. The convention in this context dictates recommendation. This implies that the outgoing CJI recommends someone as his successor, strictly based on seniority. The presiding Union Law Minister forwards the recommendation so received to the Prime Minister of India, who, in turn, plays an advisory role to the President.

Thus, in crude terms, after a CJI retires at the age of 65, the next senior judge in the Supreme court takes over. Seniority in this context is not defined by age, but by the number of years a judge has been serving in the top court of the country. In rare cases where the two judges have the same seniority, miscellaneous factors including who took the oath first, was anyone nominated to the bar directly? And who have served in priority cases, become decoding factors.
For instance, in 2017 Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Jasti Chelameswar, were both sworn in on the same day as Judges of the Supreme Court, but Justice Misra was anointed as the CJI despite being four months younger than Justice Chelameswar. Both were elevated to the apex court in the capacity of a judge on October 10, 2011. But in such, rare simultaneous appointments, whoever takes the oath first, be it the difference of a minute, is accorded seniority. Since Justice Chelameswar took oath after Justice Misra, the latter became senior to him.

The Memorandum of Procedure (MoP)

The MoP is a formal document, laying out the procedure for CJI appointment, It is drafted between the government and the judiciary. The MoP, like the convention, lays down that the appointment to the office of the Chief Justice of India should be of the senior most Judge of the Supreme Court considered fit to hold office, except the MoP is tangible while the convention isn't.

The procedure in accordance with the MoP is initiated by the Union Law Minister by seeking the recommendation of the outgoing CJI at an ‘appropriate time’. If the incumbent CJI has any doubts about the fitness of the senior most judge to hold the office of the Chief Justice of India, he can consult the collegium. The only point of contention and ambiguity in the MoP is its silence on a situation wherein government disagrees with the incumbent CJI’s recommendation.

Exceptions to the Rule

While justice Ramana and U.U Lalit, were appointed employing the conventional procedure, there have been two notable exceptions to this rule. These exceptions are those of Justice AN Ray and Justice MH Beg, who became CJIs during the 1970s. In the case of Justice AN Ray, who was appointed as CJI in 1973, the rule of appointing the “senior-most” judge was averted. He was the fourth senior-most judge in the SC. The reason so cited was the involvement of the other three judges in the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973, which had held that Parliament cannot make amendments to the Constitution that would alter its `basic structure. This was seen as a controversial move since the other three judges’ views were in opposition to the government, and thus, they were simply sidelined.

In the second instance, Justice MH Beg was appointed as the CJI in 1977 despite Justice HR Khanna serving as the senior Judge. “Coincidentally” in 1976, Justice Khanna had pronounced in the ADM Jabalpur case that he did not agree with the government’s argument that the detention of persons during the Emergency cannot be questioned, even if mala fide and without the authority of law. These two cases were thus, exceptions to the rule and widely scrutinized.

Tenure of NV Ramana

NV Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India, in April 2021 and retired on August 28th, 2022. His tenure spanned 16th months and while he didn't oversee noteworthy constitutional judgments, his speeches and views on judicial functioning and public policy were profound.

He presented the truth in a manner that was both diplomatic and palatable. One such instance is his perception of the trust deficit in the Induan Judiciary. He also propounded on nuanced matters like the need for police reform and women's rights. Perhaps due to his own roots in journalism, while working with Eenadu newspaper, before plunging into law, CJI Ramana had a rather refreshing willingness to engage with the public and the press without an intermediary. However, his criticism of the fourth estate was also a part of the same “interaction”. Ramana worked 5 days a week on the bench and the rest, in public service, delivering speeches and enriching the education system via lectures and seminars. His views on the education system and fraudulent healthcare services garnered attention and added to the ongoing discourse rather meaningfully.

Pendency of Cases

The pendency of cases and the shift in data, positive or negative, are indicative of the presiding Chief’s efficiency, involvement, and initiative. However, with CJI Ramana, such numbers might not convey the correct message, because they have to be viewed in the backdrop of COVID-19, which resulted in stalled hearings and resistance from the judiciary in conducting virtual trials and hearings. When CJI Ramana assumed charge in 2021, around 67,000 cases were pending disposal before the top court. Currently, there are at least 71,400 pending cases. Per reports, Supreme Court would require an uninterrupted 3.8 years, with no new cases being filed, to clear its pending cases.

Ramana acknowledged the problem, however, he simply defended the judiciary by saying
“It is often stated that there are 45 million pending cases and it's said because courts cannot handle it. It is an uncharitable analysis...Issue of judicial delays is a complex problem and just not in India"

Inaction on Constitutional matters

While his speeches may have been extremely insightful and at times, thought-provoking, they did little to effect any significant change. CJI Ramana’s contribution to serious polity, civil rights, and constitutional law was below par and insignificant. 492 Constitution bench matters, including 53 main cases (the UAPA for instance), remain pending. These issues possess the power to impact the citizenry in a matter which would be life-altering. Their pendency thus, concerning.

CJI Ramana inherited a majority of these Constitution Bench matters, but little to no action was seen to be taken by the master of the roster during his tenure. Certain potentially landmark matters which await decisions are:

  • Abrogation of Article 370

More than 20 petitions are pending before the top court challenging the Central government’s August 2019 decision to revoke the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir. CJI Ramana remarked that he will try to list the case, and that said hearing is pending because there are conflicts within the constitutional bench. However, since, there has been radio silence on the same.

  • Citizenship Amendment Act

A batch of over 140 petitions is pending before the Court challenging the validity of the Act which spurred protests across the country which in turn led to the arrests of many. The pleas challenging the Act’s constitutionality were never taken up by CJI Ramana. Thus, this case was never mentioned during his tenure, which most perceived as a red flag.

  • Reservation for Economically Weaker Section

A batch of petitions filed by NGOs Janhit Abhiyan and Youth for Equality, among others, challenged the validity of the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019 on the ground that economic classification cannot be the sole basis for reservation. Two years ago, this matter was referred to the court and the court acknowledged the same. However, since, there has been no development.

Despite dozens of cases and severe public criticism, the CJI made no move to hear the pleas challenging the aforementioned and more.

Inaction on Oher Important Matters

Apart from Constitution Bench matters, several significant matters were brought before the apex court, most to no avail. “No urgency” and not following up on cases are detrimental to the functioning of the Indian Judiciary. Some cases under this category include the Hijab Ban and challenges to the Electoral bond scheme. While Ramana maintains that the common citizen should not hesitate in approaching the court, said approach doesn't amount to anything substantial most times. This deference and lack of judicial endorsement leave a question mark on the efficacy of his tenure.

Impact

Despite his shortcomings, CJI Ramana was successful in creating public awareness and catalyzing social mobilization. His judicial contributions include constituting an expert panel on the infamous Pegasus case while firmly directing that the Centre cannot use the bogey of national security to silence judicial inquiry. He also furthered the discourse on sedition and its abuse. Moreover, furthering the hearings of the Lakhimpur Kheri case, CJI Ramana exercised his power to cancel the bail of minister Ajay Mishra's son Ashish Mishra, who was responsible for running over multiple people. More recently, Ramana issued a notice on plea against the remission of the sentence of 11 rapists involved in the Bilkis Bano case.

On the administrative side, he can be lauded for having filled 224 vacancies in various High Courts. He was also responsible for the elevation of justice BV Nagarathna, who is likely to become the first female Chief Justice of India in 2027. He deserves due credit when it comes to the appointment of judges and judicial officers. His efforts at the helm of the Supreme Court Collegium were often coupled with openly calling out the Central government for delaying improvements of the Collegium's recommendations, not raising the number of judicial posts, and not improving judicial infrastructure. During his tenure, the Supreme Court witnessed a record number of appointments, with nine judges - including three women judges - taking oath simultaneously.

Future

As his career spanning over a glorious 22 years comes to a close, it is hard to gauge what he chooses to do. He has however implied his willingness to continue being active in the public sphere, being a torch-bearer of knowledge and legal awareness. While he didn't change the dynamics of the Indian judiciary, he played a part in its evolution, which will go a long way.


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