Justice NV Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India on April 24
During his term as a judge of the Supreme Court since Febraury 17,2014, Justice Ramana has dealt with several important cases relating to constitutional issues, fundamental rights, civil liberties, elections etc. Justice Ramana has also delivered several notable judgments in the filed of commercial law and arbitration. He has written 157 judgments till date.
As Justice Ramana starts his judicial functions as the Chief Justice of India today, here is a look at some of the major judgments authored by him.
Right to freedom of speech and expression over internet a fundamental right
Justice NV Ramana led the bench which heard the petitions challenging the internet curbs imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the abrogation of its special status in August 2019. In the judgment delivered on January 10, 2020, in the case Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India, the bench held that right to freedom of speech and expression and right to trade over internet was a fundamental right. Restating the principles of proportionality, the judgment authored by Justice Ramana held that suspension of internet cannot be done for an indefinite period. The judgment held that authorities have the obligation to publicize the internet suspension orders with reasons.
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".
The bench did not order immediate restoration of 4G services but asked a committee under the Union Government to review the restrictions in the light of the principles in the judgment.
Later, during the lockdown time, a second petition was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the decision of the authorities to continue with the denial of 4G services in J&K.
In Foundation for Media Professionals v. State (UT of J&K), a bench led by Jusitce Ramana held on May 10, 2020 that fundamental rights have to be balanced with 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.
The 4G services were restored in J&K on February 5, 2021, nearly 550 days since the suspension of high speed mobile internet on August 5, 2019.
UAPA does not affect the power of a constitutional court to grant bail on ground of right to speedy trial
In Union of India v KA Najeeb, a bench led by Justice Ramana held that Section 43D (5) of UAPA per se does not oust the ability of Constitutional Courts to grant bail on ground of violation of Fundamental Right to Speedy Trial.
The bench observed that the rigours of the provision will melt down where there is no likelihood of trial being completed within a reasonable time and the period of incarceration already undergone has exceeded a substantial part of the prescribed sentence.
Recognition for homemakers' contribution
"The conception that house makers do not "work" or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome", Justice NV Ramana observed in a judgment in an appeal arising out of a motor accident compensation claim.
"The sheer amount of time and effort that is dedicated to household work by individuals, who are more likely to be women than men, is not surprising when one considers the plethora of activities a house maker undertakes. A house maker often prepares food for the entire family, manages the procurement of groceries and other household shopping needs, cleans and manages the house and its surroundings, undertakes decoration, repairs and maintenance work, looks after the needs of the children and any aged member of the household, manages budgets and so much more. In rural households, they often also assist in the sowing, harvesting and transplanting activities in the field, apart from tending cattle", Justice Ramana observed in the case Kirti vs. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd
Special Courts for trial of cases against MPs/MLAs; Directions for time-bound trial
A bench led by Justice Ramana , 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".
The bench also passed elaborate directions to ensure protection of witnesses in criminal cases against politicians.
Post-conviction mental illness a ground to commute death penalty
The Supreme Court has held that post conviction mental illness will be a mitigating factor while considering appeals of death convicts.
A bench led by Justice NV Ramana laid down certain guidelines in the case Accused X v State of Maharashtra to determine the plea of mental illness.
Anti-defection law - Resignation by MLA will not efface effect of disqualification
In an important pronouncement on anti-defection law, a bench led by Justice Ramana held that an MLA cannot simply offer resignation to escape the consequences under the tenth schedule of the constitution for his defection
In Shrimanth Balasaheb Patil v. Karnataka Legislative Assembly, Justice Ramana's judgment held that resignation of a legislator will not efface the effect of disqualification if defection has taken place before the date of resignation.
In the same judgment, Justice Ramana expressed concerns about the growing tendency of Speakers adopting openly partisan attitudes on political lines forgetting their constitutional role.
Floor test important to prove majority in house
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 was issued after an urgent hearing held on a Sunday in the wake of the political logjam created after the Maharashtra assembly elections of 2019.
Scope of judicial examination at the stages of Sections 8 and 11 of Arbitration Act clarified
Justice Ramana led the bench which delivered the judgment in the case Vidya Drolia v Durga Trading Corporation clarifying the scope of judicial review of validity of arbitration agreement at the stage of Section 8 and 11 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act.
While Justice Sanjiv Khanna wrote the main judgment, Justice Ramana wrote a concurring judgment, explaining certain aspects.
The separate but concurring judgment penned by Justice N V Ramana summarized the conclusions as follows :
(a)Sections 8 and 11 of the Act have the same ambit with respect to judicial interference
(b)Usually, subject matter arbitrability cannot be decided at the stage of Sections 8 or 11 of the Act, unless it's a clear case of deadwood.
(c)The Court, under Sections 8 and 11, has to refer a matter to arbitration or to appoint an arbitrator, as the case maybe, unless a party has established a prima facie(summary findings) case of nonexistence of valid arbitration agreement, by summarily portraying a strong case that he is entitled to such a finding.
(d) The Court should refer a matter if the validity of the arbitration agreement cannot be determined on a prima facie basis, as laid down above, i.e., 'when in doubt, do refer'.
(e) The scope of the Court to examine the prima facie validity of an arbitration agreement includes only:
- Whether the arbitration agreement was in writing?or
- Whether the arbitration agreement was contained in exchange of letters, telecommunication etc?
- Whether the core contractual ingredients qua the arbitration agreement were fulfilled?
- On rare occasions, whether the subject matter of dispute is arbitrable?
In PUDA Vs. Vidya Chetal, a bench led by Justice NV Ramana held that even services rendered by statutory authorities can be brought under the ambit of the Consumer Protection Act, and can therefore be adjudicated upon by consumer forums.
In Excel Corp Care Ltd. v. CCI, Justice Ramana expounded the formula to calculate penalties for violations of competition law. Justice Ramana held that penalties should integrate proportionality, a constitutional virtue. The judgment authored by him provided a two step formula to calculate the turnover relatable to the product in which anti-competitor practice were observed.
"If we adopt the criteria of total turnover of a company by including within its sweep the other products manufactured by the company, which were in no way connected with anti-competitive activity, it would bring about shocking results not comprehended in a country governed by Rule of Law," Justice Ramana wrote in the judgment.
Deemed university will come under Prevention of Corruption Act
In Mansukhbhai Kanjibhai Shah vs. The State of Gujarat, the Court held that the officers of a Deemed University also perform public duties and are therefore public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Justice Ramana highlighted the fact that India is being engrossed in corruption which has spread like a malignant cancer.
"The object of the PC Act was not only to prevent the social evil of bribery and corruption, but also to make the same applicable to individuals who might conventionally not be considered public servants. The purpose under the PC Act was to shift focus from those who are traditionally called public officials, to those individuals who perform public duties. Keeping the same in mind, as rightly submitted by the learned senior counsel for the appellant-State, it cannot be stated that a "Deemed University" and the officials therein, perform any less or any different a public duty, than those performed by a University simpliciter, and the officials therein", Justice Ramana wrote in the judgment.
Upholding of the principle of secret ballot
A judgment authored by Justice Ramana observed that the principle of secret ballot is an important postulate of constitutional democracy.
"It is to be observed that one of the fundamental principles of election law pertains to the maintenance of free and fair elections, ensuring the purity of elections. The principle of secrecy of ballots is an important postulate of constitutional democracy whose aim is the achievement of this goal", observed a bench comprising Justices N V Ramana, Sanjiv Khanna and Krishna Murari in the case Laxmi Singh and others vs Rekha Singh and others.
Clarifying interplay between SARFAESI and tenancy laws
Clarifying the interplay between laws of tenancy and debt recovery, a bench led by Justice Ramana has held that protection from recovery proceedings under the SARFAESI Act is not available to a 'tenant-in-sufferance', i.e a tenant who continues to be in possession even after the expiry of the lease period.
The bench comprising Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar and Justice Indira Banerjee was deciding the case Bajrang Shyamsunder Agarwal v Central Bank of India and others.
Solitary Confinement Of Death Convict Prior To Rejection Of Mercy Petition Palpably Illegal
A bench headed by Justice Ramana has observed that solitary confinement of a person sentenced to death prior to the rejection of mercy petition is palpably illegal.
"Solitary confinement prior to the disposal of the mercy petition is per se illegal and amounts to separate and additional punishment not authorized by law", Justice Ramana observed in the judgment in the case Union of India v Dharam Pal.Builder has to allot possession of flats in a reasonable period of time
A bench led by Justice Ramana ruled that a person cannot be made to wait indefinitely for the possession of flat allotted to him and that the builder has to hand over possession within a reasonable period of time. The judgment held that such failure to hand over possession within a reasonable period of time would amount to deficiency of service. This was held in the case Fortune Infrastructure Ltd(Now known as Hicon Infrastructure and another v Trevor D'Lima and another.
Justice Ramana was part of the Constitution Benches which decided the validity of entry tax, validity of pan-India reservation policy in states, scope of exemption clauses in tax statutes and applicability of RTI to CJI's office.
In his separate but concurring judgment in the case relating to the applicability of RTI to CJI's office, Justice Ramana observed :
"It must be kept in the mind that the transparency cannot be allowed to run to its absolute, considering the fact that efficiency is equally important principle to be taken into fold. We may note that right to information should not be allowed to be used as a tool of surveillance to scuttle effective functioning of judiciary".
He is heading the Constitution Bench which is considering the petitions challenging the changes made to Article 370 of the Constitution to abrogate the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.