I am confident that my successors will take the Supreme Court to new heights: former CJI NV Ramana
Former Chief Justice of India, NV Ramana, on September 4, 2022, bestowed the Capital Foundation Life Time Achievement Award on Chief Minister of Odisha, Naveen Patnaik. On this occasion, he also delivered the Capital Foundation Society Annual Lecture titled “My Experiences in the Indian Judicial System” at the Auditorium of the International Center of India, New Delhi. I commend my predecessors for taking this institution so far, and I trust that my successors will take it to new heights.
Rtd. Justice Ramana began his address by describing Naveen Patnaik as one of the most dynamic leaders, whose connection to his people was indicated by the fact that he had been one of the longest serving Chief Ministers. Justice Ramana also spoke of Patnaik’s active interest in the preservation and promotion of culture and literature. While congratulating Patnaik, he also spoke of 16 other Capital Foundation Life Time Achievement Award winners. One of the laureates he mentioned was Justice Krishna Iyer, whom he described as the most learned and welfarist judge India has ever known.
While talking about his experience in the Indian judiciary, he said that as he had very recently resigned as Chief Justice of India, he did not think it was appropriate for him to talk about my experiences in performing this function for some time. Instead, he spoke of “the march of Indian justice during these 72 years“.
He traced the history of Indian judicial development from Indian independence to the 1960s and 1970s, which consisted of two wars, a liberation movement, the nationalization of banks and general insurance companies, the devaluation of the rupee and the declaration of emergency etc. and the 1990s which included the Gulf War, the fall in foreign remittances, the increase in world oil prices, the depletion of foreign exchange reserves that resulted and a very high rate of inflation. He said that throughout seven decades of difficult times, a variety of opinions emanated from the Supreme Court. He further believed that the faith and trust of the people in the institution must be maintained and that any institution that does not enjoy public trust is irrelevant to society. Judge Ramana said that–
“An institution speaking with one voice will not be the sign of a healthy democracy. As in all other spheres, the diversity of opinions and viewpoints is essential for the judiciary and democracy… The judiciary, the great creation of our Constitution, is the repository of trust and faith people. The Supreme Court of India has contributed immensely to establishing a constitutional culture in the country. The verdicts and opinions of the Supreme Court have become fundamental values of citizens, governments and institutions.“
Justice Ramana also spoke on the role of Chief Justice of India and said that the role requires leadership and a long term vision for the judiciary and that each of the Chief Justices assumes the office in distinct circumstances and faces a different set of challenges. He said that-
“I congratulate my predecessors for taking this institution so far, and I am convinced that my successors will take it to new heights. In the growth of the Indian judiciary, lies the growth of Indian democracy… The functions of the Chief Justice of India are not confined to the Supreme Court but extend to the entire judiciary across the country. From district courts to high courts, issues affecting the justice system need to be brought to light. If the existing shortcomings are not corrected, we will not be prepared to meet the future needs of the country.“
Justice Ramana also commented on the dual reality of India where on one side there are high rise buildings, while on the other side people still reside in slums where children sleep hungry. He said that if we aim for space, the moon and Mars, we must not forget the little stars struggling in the streets, slums, hamlets and villages. In this context, he said that–
“Sustainable and responsive growth is the key to an inclusive and equitable future. A dignified life for all is non-negotiable. Until we achieve the same goal, our constitutional aspirations will be empty dreams. As responsible citizens, we must strive to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.“
With this, he concluded his speech.