Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana on Sunday completed a year as a top judge, leading the Supreme Court in several interventions from ordering an inquiry into the Pegasus snooping allegations to canceling bail to a Union Minister’s son accused in the Lakhimpur Kheri killings to ordering status quo of the Jahangirpuri demolition drive.
In this year it is also observed that CJI create a consensus within the powerful Supreme Court Collegium, which went on to script history, and it’s a great achievement to the appointment of nine Supreme Court judges in one go. Out of that One of the nine judges, Justice B.V. Nagarathna, would become the first woman Chief Justice of India.
But what had really set Chief Justice Ramana apart was his role as an ambassador of the judiciary to the public. He despite the limitations thrown by the pandemic, made a constant effort to communicate, and through his speeches, remove any disconnect between the public and the judiciary, which is often viewed as a class that sits in ivory towers.
Moreover, Shri Ramana used to travel on the weekends and he went to almost every part of the country. His topics have ranged from greater access to justice for the poor to inclusiveness, removal of language barriers, the presence of more women in the legal profession and judiciary, and improvement of judicial infrastructure, among others.
The year has been a period of resuscitation and relative calm within the court. The past years, from a press conference held by four senior apex court judges to sexual allegations leveled against a sitting CJI, have been rough for the court.
The Ramana Collegium’s success has also replenished the judicial ranks in the constitutional courts. His immediate predecessor was unable to make a single judicial appointment to the Supreme Court.
Besides the filling up of nine apex court vacancies in August last year, the Collegium had recommended 192 names for appointment as judges in the High Courts. Of them, 126 have been appointed by the government and nearly 20% of those recommended are women.
Ten Chief Justices for various High Courts were appointed and six Chief Justices and 27 judges of High Courts were transferred. Further, the Collegium is waiting to receive and consider nearly 100 more proposals that have reached the Centre from High Courts.
However, several cases, including petitions challenging the sedition law, continue to remain pending in the Supreme Court.
In July last year, the CJI had compared sedition (Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code) to a tool given to a carpenter “to cut a piece of wood and he uses it to cut the entire forest itself”. The CJI had wondered why a democracy needed a law which was used by the British to imprison Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Another one of the pending cases is a challenge to the electoral bonds scheme. Chief Justice Ramana had recently, on an oral mentioning by advocate Prashant Bhushan, agreed to list the case.