India’s 48th Chief Justice, Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana was elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2014. During his tenure, Justice Ramana has been proactively shaping the jurisprudence. Justice Ramana’s multi-faceted journey can be seen through the gamut of judgements he has penned. His judgments ate simple, clear and are balanced to cater needs of the society. Justice Ramana has authored over 156 judgments ranging over a wide gamut of issues, during his tenure in the Supreme Court.
Here are the 12 key Judgements given by Justice Ramana:
- In Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, Justice Ramana expounded on the nature of fundamental rights and declared that the right to freedom of speech and expression over the internet is a fundamental right. This judgment ensured the eventual return of internet in the Kashmir valley and acknowledged the ever-changing nature of Fundamental Rights. Additionally, the Court also laid down certain parameters with respect to curfews and held that “Section 144 CrPC cannot be used to suppress legitimate expression of opinion or grievance or exercise of any democratic rights”.
- In Foundation for Media Professionals v. State (UT OF J&K),the Supreme Court balanced the fundamental rights and the concerns of the State security and appointed a Special Committee to ensure that restrictions, if required, are narrowly tailored and not permanent in nature.
- In Dr. Shah Faesal & Ors. etc. etc. Versus Union of India & Anr., the Supreme Court was faced with the issue of the of reference to a larger bench. The Court held that, “[w]hen substantial judicial time and resources are spent on references, the same should not be made in a casual or cavalier manner”.
- While sitting in a five-judge bench in Supreme Court of India v. Subash Chandra Agarwal, Justice Ramana held that “…the right to information and right to privacy are at an equal footing. There is no requirement to take an a priori view that one right trumps other.”
- In Swaraj Abhiyan (V) v. Union of India, Justice Ramana expounded on the nature of federalism in a welfare state. While dealing with the implementation of National Food Security Act, he propounded need for cooperative federalism. He has issued subsequent directions in order to ensure right to food for all in India and to help India achieve its nutritional goal
- In Jindal Stainless Ltd. v. State of Haryana, he wrote a concurring opinion as a part of a Nine Judge Bench to overrule the five decade old decisions in Atiabari Tea Case and Automobile Transport Case. He expounded on the taxing power of the State with respect to right to trade and commerce. It may be noted that Supreme Court overruled a seven-decade old decision to uphold imposition of entry tax. Such measures were seen as beneficial for the State Governments to increase their fiscal status.
- Justice Ramana’s opinion in Shrimanth Balasaheb Patil v. Karnataka Legislative Assembly was seen as a decisive statement of the law on the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution which was riddled with confusion and contradicting opinions. He observed that for political functionaries, “…merely taking the oath to protect and uphold the Constitution may not be sufficient, rather imbibing the constitutional values in everyday functioning is required and expected by the glorious document that is our Constitution”.
- In Shiv Sena v. Union of India, Justice Ramana highlighted the importance of floor test to curtail unlawful practices such as horse trading and to effectuate smooth running of democracy the Court. The direction to conduct an immediate floor test in the political log jam created post election in Maharashtra, led to quick and effective justice and was hailed as having stopped horse trading in the State.
- In Excel Corp Care Ltd. v. CCI, he expounded on the formula to calculate penalties for violations of competition law. Justice Ramana held that penalties should integrate proportionality, a constitutional virtue. This area was not clear and the competition tribunal were imposing arbitrary penalties without a formula to impose the same. Lordship provided a two step formula to calculate the turnover relatable to the product in which anti-competitor practice were observed. This opinion brought the Indian jurisprudence in line with the modern jurisdictions such South Africa, EU etc.
- In Kirti vs Oriental Insurance, his opinion was instrumental in providing homemakers an equal status with the earning member of the family to recognize their contribution to the family. This judgment was hailed as a powerful statement by various women organizations and as an effective measure to empower women in India.
- In Accused X v. State of Maharashtra, JusticeNuthalapati Venkata Ramana penned an opinion sparing an accused with acute mental illness from gallows. Lordship believe in reformative theory and this judgment can be seen laying down clear jurisprudence for courts to consider mental condition of the accused post-conviction. The Court stressed upon the importance of mental health of convicts sentenced to death penalty and held that post-conviction mental health disorders can be a ground for commutation of death sentence. While asserting that even prisoners cannot be deprived of dignity, Justice Ramana, “[t]he dignity of human being inheres a capacity for understanding, rational choice, and free will inherent in human nature, etc. The right to dignity of an accused does not dry out with the Judges’ ink, rather, it subsists well beyond the prison gates and operates until his last breath. In the context of mentally ill prisoners, it is pertinent to mention that Section 20(1) of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, explicitly provides that “every person with mental illness shall have a right to live with dignity”.” Justice Ramana also stressed upon the importance of pre-sentence hearing and called upon the courts to provide real and effective hearing to the accused persons so as to present the mitigating factors in their favor.
- The Court, while dealing with the issue of inordinate delays in criminal investigations and trials relating to elected politicians (MPs and MLAs) in the case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, has passed numerous directions to streamline and expedite the same. The Court observed that such measures were necessary as “legislators are the repositories of the faith and trust of their electorate, there is a necessity to be aware of the antecedents of the person that is/was elected. Ensuring the purity of democratically elected institutions is thus the hallmark of the present proceedings”.