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Justice N.V. Ramana, the judge who opened Supreme Court to RTI

Justice Ramana, as Supreme Court judge, has been part of various decisions ranging from electoral issues to rights of women to bringing the Chief Justice of India’s office under the ambit of the Right to Information.

Several years before he began his journey, which will eventually see him being sworn in as the 48th Chief Justice of India, Nuthalapti Venkata Ramana undertook an arduous journey by truck with ₹10 in his pocket.

The journey was to the home of his maternal aunt. The year was 1975. The young man had heeded his father’s advice to stay away from their agrarian home at Ponnavaram village after word spread that the government was going to proclaim Emergency. The father feared that the police may arrest his son, who had never hid his passion for civil liberties.

“In hindsight, I wish my father had given me some more money,” Justice Ramana recounted the incident recently.

Justice Ramana said excesses like Emergency impact generations.

In January 2020, a Bench led by Justice Ramana ripped the veil of secrecy shrouding months of restrictions imposed in Jammu and Kashmir. The Bench made it mandatory for the government to publish each and every one of its orders which crippled the fundamental freedoms of over 7 million Kashmiris following the abrogation of Article 370.

The Bench held that a right cannot be used against itself. The extensive reach of the Internet cannot be cited as a reason to restrict the right. “Freedom of speech and expression includes the right to disseminate information to as wide a section of the population as possible,” Justice Ramana observed in the judgment.

Justice Ramana, as Supreme Court judge, has been part of various decisions ranging from electoral issues to rights of women to bringing the Chief Justice of India’s office under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI).

In 2019, a five-judge Bench, of which Justice Ramana was a member, declared the CJI’s office as a public authority accountable under RTI to provide information sought in public interest. However, Justice Ramana, in a separate opinion, said “RTI should not be used as a tool of surveillance”.

A Bench led by Justice Ramana, in a recent judgment, criticised the paternalistic notion that homemakers neither work nor contribute anything of economic value to the household.

Justice Ramana’s judgment in the Karnataka MLAs’ disqualification case said it was time to “re-consider strengthening certain aspects of the Tenth Schedule”. The verdict said that horse-trading political parties and partisan Speakers were denying citizens a stable government.

In his speech at a Madras Bar Association function amid the controversy surrounding the Andhra Chief Minister’s letter to the CJI, Justice Ramana highlighted the need to “hold on to principles and be fearless in decisions”.

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