Justice NV Ramana will be sworn in as Chief Justice of India (CJI) at 11 AM today. He is set to succeed CJI SA Bobde who retired from office on Friday.
Justice Ramana was born on August 27, 1957 to agriculturist parents in Ponnavaram Village situated in Krishna District of Andhra Pradesh.
The appointment of Justice Ramana as CJI brings with it a not so relevant but interesting question.
Will he be considered the first person from Andhra Pradesh (AP) High Court to become the CJI?
This is highly contested, because a stalwart, Justice K Subba Rao who was the 9th CJI, was from the State of Andhra Pradesh.
But what is noteworthy is that AP High Court was not the parent High Court of Justice Rao.
Parent High Court is the first High Court where a person becomes a judge.
When Justice Rao became a judge in March 1948, neither the AP High Court nor the State of AP existed.
Justice Rao started his legal practice in 1926 at the Madras High Court where he continued for 22 years before he was elevated as a judge of the Madras High Court in 1948.
It was in 1954 when the Andhra State was created and Andhra High Court came into existence that Justice Rao became its Chief Justice. The Andhra State existed from 1954 to 1956.
Later the Telugu speaking regions of Hyderabad State were merged with the Andhra State to form the State of Andhra Pradesh and the High Court of the State came to be known as High Court of Andhra Pradesh.
Justice Rao then became Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh where he served, till he was elevated to the Supreme Court in January 1958. He became the Chief Justice of India in March 1966.
Thus, while Justice Rao was the first CJI from the State of Andhra Pradesh, he is clearly not the first CJI from the High Court of Andhra Pradesh for the reason that his parent High Court was Madras High Court.
This would mean that Justice Ramana would be the first Chief Justice of India from Andhra Pradesh High Court.
Justice Ramana takes over as CJI at a time of crisis.
Aside from questions raised about judicial independence due to an increasingly assertive executive which enjoys a brute majority in the Parliament, Justice Ramana will also have to steer the Supreme Court and the country’s judiciary through the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic.
And this time, judiciary has also been badly affected by the virus with many High Court and Supreme Court judges testing positive for COVID.
Justice Ramana will have a lengthy tenure as CJI, a critical period which is likely to set the ball rolling on how the judiciary would fare in the coming years.