NV Ramana: The Chief Justice of India with an independent voice

CJI NV Ramana has played the role of the protector of the judiciary as well as a vocal citizen of India with ease earning himself more admirers than critics.

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Jitesh Surjiani | 18 Apr '22

NV Ramana, the 48th and current Chief Justice of India (CJI), has distinguished himself from many of his predecessors by the manner in which he has conducted himself and his office. Not being one to hold back his views, he has freely commented on various topics of political, economical, and social importance and brought them to national attention. Be it on public platforms or in the courtroom, he has candidly spoken about the government’s policy shortcomings, the challenges of the judiciary, and the ideological gaps in the society, with an intent to increase awareness and make positive changes.

Being publicity-shy himself, his ability to step out of his judicial character and carry the citizen’s voice comes from his training as a student activist and a journalist in his early days. Expectedly, he has earned himself many critics who accuse him of only making sweeping comments without any judicial contributions to remedy them. He has deftly resisted the temptation to defend himself recognizing his constitutional limitations as the caretaker of the judiciary but continuing to express his views as a concerned citizen of India.

Let’s take a look at his comments over the year that provide a peek into his ideologies and concern for a better India.

CJI NV Ramana’s views on various subjects

  • Government
    • “Now, it is a sorry state of affairs. Earlier, there used to be many debates in Parliament on various constitutional amendments and how they will affect the people. But now there are lots of gaps and ambiguity in the law-making process due to the lack of debates. We don't know what the intent of the legislature is. We don't know for what purpose the laws are made. This happens when members of the legal fraternity are not in the Parliament and the state legislature.”
    • “A government enjoying a popular majority in Parliament is not a defense for its arbitrary actions. Every action by the government and Parliament will have to pass the Constitutional muster and the judiciary has been entrusted with the task of ensuring the same by its power of judicial review.”
    • “National security cannot be used as an excuse by the government to avoid making complete disclosures whenever a matter comes up for judicial review before the Supreme Court.”
    • “Political parties promising 'freebies' before elections is a serious issue”
    • "Bureaucracy has gone into inertia and they don't want to do anything about pollution in Delhi. For using sprinklers or water buckets, we have to say. This is the attitude of the executive."
    • “Nowadays, it’s a new trend. The government, just like the private parties, has started maligning the judges. It’s unfortunate.”
  • Independent Institutions
    • “The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has come under deep public scrutiny through its actions and inactions which have raised questions about its credibility. The need of the hour is to reclaim social legitimacy and public trust and the first step to that is to break the nexus between political and executive.”
    • "The image of police is tarnished by allegations of corruption etc. Often police officers approach us saying they are being harassed with the change in power. The political executives will change with time. You are permanent."
    • "There is an immediate requirement for the creation of an independent umbrella institution, so as to bring various agencies like the CBI, SFIO, ED, etc. under one roof. This body is required to be created under a statute, clearly defining its powers, functions, and jurisdictions. Such a law will also lead to much needed legislative oversight."
  • Politics
    • “No big leaders have emerged from the student community after liberalisation. This is due to the diminished participation of students in social causes.”
  • Legal Profession
    • “The legal profession is not about profit maximization but about service to the society.”
    • “Young lawyers cannot be strangers to the socio-economic and political realities of the country. They need to choose a life of service for the future of the nation, over a life of convenience. They should actively participate in public life. Hopefully, goodness will come out of it in the country.”
    • "The true function of a lawyer is to unite parties. Developing expertise in negotiation and mediation is much-needed for new-age lawyers and law students”
    • “The best judge is one who is less known and seen in the media.”
  • Laws in India
    • "Our legal system is colonial, not suited for the Indian population. The need of the hour is the Indianisation of the justice delivery system."
    • “Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code that deals with Sedition is a colonial law and was used by the British against Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. Is this law still needed after 75 years of independence? Our concern is the misuse of the law and no accountability of the executive"
  • Judiciary
    • "In our country, due to obstacles in formal litigation, people hesitate to approach judicial forums.”
    • "Judicial infrastructure needs to be improved. Unfortunately, we are not even meeting the basic minimum standards in this area. Mere allocation of funds is not enough. The challenge is to put the available resources to optimum use. I have been pursuing the government for setting up statutory authorities, both at the centre and at the states. But unfortunately..."
    • “A 50 percent representation of women in the judiciary is not a matter of charity but the right of women."
    • "I think 65 years is too early an age for someone to retire. In countries like the USA, there is no fixed retirement age for Supreme Court judges. There should be at least a 3 years tenure for the CJI.”
  • Media
    • “The problem is that everything in this country is shown with a communal angle by a section of media. The country is going to get a bad name ultimately.”
    • "I have not come across any public channel, Twitter, Facebook or YouTube…They never respond to us and there is no accountability about the institutions they have written badly about and they don't respond and say this is their right. They consider only people who are powerful. Institutions, common man, judges, they do not... This is the reality."

After having served a year in the role, CJI NV Ramana, 65, is due to retire on August 26, 2022. But retirement from the judiciary does not mean retirement from public life for him. "I am still left with a decent amount of energy. I am basically a man of people and love to be among the people. It has been my nature since my student days. I hope I will find the right avenue to invest my energy for the sake of people," he says.


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Jitesh Surjiani

Jitesh Surjiani

Jitesh Surjiani is passionate about progressive change for India and its citizens. He writes about issues that are roadblocks in improving quality of life and interpersonal interactions as well as areas of public governance that fall short in intent and action.

NV Ramana: The Chief Justice of India with an independent voice NV Ramana: The Chief Justice of India with an independent voice
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