Former Chief Justice of India
Assumed Office24th Apr, 2021
Retired On26th Aug, 2022
Judge of the Supreme Court of IndiaFebruary 17th 2014 - April 24th 2021
Chief Justice of the Delhi High CourtSeptember 2nd 2013 - February 16th 2014
Acting Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High CourtMarch 10th 2013 - May 20th 2013
Permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High CourtJune 27th 2000 - September 1st 2013
EnrolmentFebruary 10th 1983
Early Life and Education
Chief Justice of India, Nuthulapati Venkata Ramana was born to an agricultural family in Ponnavaram Village, Krishna District, Andhra Pradesh on August 27th, 1957. Before entering public life as a Judge, CJI Ramana was a student activist fighting for civil liberties during the Emergency and a separate Andhra state in the 1970s. He would later speak about the long lasting effect the Emergency had on young people at the time, recounting his struggles with academics and his mental health in the aftermath.
Career as an Advocate
After a brief stint as a journalist for the largest Telugu daily newspaper Eenadu, he enrolled as an advocate on February 10th, 1983. He served as Additional Standing Counsel for the Central Government and Standing Counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad. He served as the Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh as well.
Career as a Judge
CJI Ramana was appointed as a Permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court (APHC) on June 27th, 2000. He served as Acting Chief Justice of the APHC between March and May 2013 before becoming the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court in September 2013. He was elevated to the SC on February 17th, 2014. However, his appointment as Chief Justice following CJI S.A. Bobde was initially met with an obstacle. In October 2020, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister wrote a letter to then CJI Bobde claiming that then Justice Ramana was influencing the roster of Judges in the APHC in order to allot cases involving Telugu Desam Party Members to specific Judges.
The SC conducted an internal investigation and dismissed the claims in March 2021. CJI Ramana became the Chief Justice on April 24th, 2021. He was appointed during a chaotic time for the Supreme Court, becoming the second ‘COVID-19 CJI’. With the Court turning to virtual hearings during the pandemic, CJI Ramana launched an app to provide the media with virtual access to the hearings. During the launch, he emphasised the importance of transparency in the judicial process.
However, during CJI Ramana’s tenure so far, there has not been a single pending or new Constitution Bench convened to hear matters of importance. The challenge to the constitutionality of sedition law seemed on the verge of being referred to a 7-Judge Bench, but the Union instead informed the Court that they would re-examine the law. The Bench led by CJI Ramana instead delivered an Order directing that ‘no coercive action’ be taken in ongoing sedition cases while the law is being re-examined.
Tenure at the Supreme Court in Numbers
CJI Ramana retired on August 26th 2022 after serving an 8-year term at the SC. During his tenure CJI Ramana sat on 666 Benches and authored 176 Judgments.
In Figure 2, we see that a vast majority of the Judgments CJI Ramana has authored have been for Criminal matters (39%). The rest of his Judgments are distributed between an array of subject matters, with the next highest portion being for Property matters (7%) and matters related to the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 (7%).
Figure 2 -
Where Are They Now?
In April 2022, CJI N.V. Ramana publicly stated that retirement from the judiciary does not mean he will retire from public life. However, he said he was too busy at the time to think about his post-retirement plans.
In June 2022, he hinted at plans to write an autobiography with a significant portion dedicated to his association with former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N.T. Rama Rao. CJI Ramana was reportedly a member of the Telugu Desam Party and was considered for election to the Nandigama constituency in 1994.
On his final day at the SC, the Union government released a notification amending the rules regarding post-retirement benefits for Judges. Following the notification, the benefits given to former SC Judges and former CJIs were expanded to include a chauffeur and a secretary for the rest of their lives. Former CJIs will also be provided with round-the-clock security for five years starting from the date of their retirement.
CJI Ramana has been embroiled in some amount of controversy which has persisted even past his retirement. On August 15th, 2022, several arbitrators and mediators signed a representation demanding a probe into alleged ‘illegal acts’ committed by CJI Ramana while setting up the International Arbitration and Mediation Centre in Hyderabad.
In Central Public Information Officer v. Subhash Chandra Agarwal (2019), a 5-Judge Constitution Bench held that the office of the Chief Justice of India comes under the purview of the Right to Information Act, 2005. The Bench held that the CJI’s office is a Public Authority as defined in the Act. This would make information on SC Judges and their assets, which had earlier been protected, publicly available. In a concurring but separate Judgement, then Justice Ramana agreed with the majority Judgment. However, he added that the right to information should not be used as a “tool of surveillance” hindering the effective functioning of the Judiciary.
A three-judge bench ruled upon the internet shutdown in Kashmir in 2019 in Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India. Ramana J, writing the majority opinion, stated that the right to trade over the internet was a fundamental right under the right to freedom of speech and expression. He further held that the internet cannot be suspended for an indefinite period.
Ramana J was a part of the 3-Judge Bench in Md. Anwar v . State of NCT of Delhi (2020). The SC established the test to apply when an accused claims mental unsoundness as a defence under Section 84 of Indian Penal Code, 1860. The accused must show evidence that they have suffered from a ‘serious-enough mental disease or infirmity which would affect the individual’s ability to distinguish right from wrong’. The Court further held—referring to the specific facts of the case—that a mere photocopy of an Out Patient Department card and a statement made by the accused’s mother would not be enough to prove mental unsoundness.