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From farms to Chief Justice of India: CJI-designate NV Ramana and the big challenges ahead of him

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New CJI NV RamanaNew CJI NV RamanaNV Ramana enrolled as a lawyer on February 10, 1983. (PTI)

Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana will be sworn in as the 48th Chief Justice of India tomorrow at 11 am. Born on August 27, 1957, in an agricultural family in Ponnavaram Village of Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna District, NV Ramana has done B.Sc. and Bachelor of Law.

He enrolled as a lawyer on February 10, 1983. He had practised in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Central and Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunals and the Supreme Court of India in Civil, Criminal, Constitutional, Labour, Service and Election matters. His specialisation lies in Constitutional, Criminal, Service and Inter-State River laws. “He has also functioned as Panel Counsel for various government organisations. He has functioned as Additional Standing Counsel for Central Government and Standing Counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad. He has also functioned as Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh. He was appointed as a Permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on June 27, 2000. He functioned as Acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court from March 10, 2013, to May 20, 2013,” says a brief profile on the website of National Legal Service Authority.

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Justice NV Ramana was elevated as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court in September 2013. He was elevated to the Supreme Court of India in February 2014 as a judge and will retire on 26 August 2022. So, Justice NV Ramana will have around 16 months to serve as the CJI.

As a student, NV Ramana fought for civil liberties during the Emergency and the Jai Andhra movement for a separate Andhra state in the 1970s.

Justice Ramana has been at loggerheads with current Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy who accused him of manipulating judges of the high court to stall the policies of his government. He also accused Justice Ramana of staying investigations into some dubious land deals in Amaravati. Reddy wrote a letter to CJI SA Bobde in October last year accusing Ramana of an attempt to destabilise his government. CJI Bobde had asked Reddy to submit his allegations in the form of an affidavit. A confidential in-house inquiry was ordered after Reddy submitted an affidavit. Justice Ramana got a clean chit in the probe.

Challenges ahead as CJI

Justice NV Ramana has sought to strengthen judicial infrastructure for clearing the massive backlog of cases. The Supreme Court will have around 13 vacancies during Ramana’s tenure as many judges are due to retire by the end of 2021. Four more sitting judges will retire before Justice Ramana demits office in August 2022. The biggest challenge in front of Ramana will be to streamline the appointment process in the Supreme Court as well as in the High Courts which have been struggling with the pendency of around five million cases due to a lack of judges. He is taking over the post at a time when the nation is grappling with the COVID-19 surge and shortage of oxygen. As the suo motu case concerning issues arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic and its management has been adjourned for Tuesday, the new CJI NV Ramana will hear the matter now. Some other issues that may come up during his tenure may include the plea for Rafale deal investigation, the Right to Worship Act, CAA-NRC and Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill.

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