This article has been written by Sneha Jaiswal, from CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Delhi NCR. This article shows the life journey of first-generation lawyers to the Chief Justice of India and juxtaposes the hurdles that are faced by first-generation lawyers rather than those with a legal background.
Justice NV Ramana is the current Chief Justice of India. He belongs to an agricultural background and is a first-generation lawyer from his family. He had also faced hurdles as any other first-generation lawyer. But he has done something that is incredible with his hard work and with the spirit of never giving up on his dreams. He is the best example for first-generation lawyers who are struggling in their life to achieve something good in their legal careers.
First-generation lawyers are lawyers who do not have a legal background. They are the people who do not come from the family of lawyers or judges, they write their own destinies in the legal world. The Supreme Court of India and various High Courts like those in Delhi, Allahabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, etc. are full of examples where first-generation lawyers from various law schools have done tremendously well in their careers.
Do first-generation lawyers face more hurdles than those with a legal background
Being a first-generation lawyer, the battle of becoming a successful lawyer is not so easy, in an immensely crowded nation like India. Making a sound career in law has never been an easy job, be it for a first-generation lawyer or a lawyer having a prior legal background.
However, one cannot deny the fact that individuals with the law heredity, born in law-related cultures and backgrounds are placed much better than a first-generation lawyer. The reasons for this are the archaic model of practicing law and the special treatment given to a person born with a golden spoon of legal background. A person being born in a law family is well adept with the fundamentals of law, has exposure in managing legal concerns, and has an indirect encounter of handling the clients. Being a lawyer in the family of lawyers or judges passes the skills that are required by a law student to master in their career, even clients also get passed on to the next generation. Usually, a lawyer with legal lineage gets the benefit of their family background, where they don’t have to build new connections or do much hard work as compared to the first-generation lawyer because they have good guidance from their family members. On the other hand, first-generation lawyers have to build new connections in the legal world and they don’t have much networking skills or knowledge to adapt to the legal aura. They are also without guidance or negligible guidance. Inadequate information and legal connections are the main keys that every first-generation lawyer lacks.
One of the most important aspects of the undertaking and specializing in legal matters for one should be making a connection by his own practice. These connections for a first-generation lawyer take years to come by or once in a while assembled gradually. Another part of the viable battle for a first-generation lawyer happens within the courtroom.
Having the son or daughter of a high-profile lawyer prior to responding to complex issues and portrayal in the courts has been a culture that many of us are familiar with. Without any difficulty, such lawyers mark their presence in the court and get the useful mastery of handling courtroom proceedings in some amazing cases and earn their name in the legal world. Such lawful portrayal since watched by a large number of legal associates, senior and junior individuals from the bar, such authentic advantage and handling of issues alluded through an age of a customer most likely lacking amongst the first-generation lawyers. It is frequently seen that during the time spent discussing the perceived nepotism at the bar, one dismisses what really ought to be done to have a good career in the legal field.
The recruitment obstacles for first-generation lawyers remain one of the most cumbersome procedures to survive in legal space. Writing from a personal experience, the process of hiring in several law firms requires a solid connection or a reference to get into an ideal post. Even, grasping the internship in the law school needs strong connectivity in the profession. Hence, the reality remains the same that there are some tedious and unending challenges for a first-generation lawyer to realize his/her dreams of pursuing law.
Justice NV Ramana: an outstanding example
Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana is an Indian judge who was sworn as the 48th and current Chief Justice of India. He was appointed by President Ram Nath Kovind. He was born on 27 August, 1957 and hails from Ponnavaram Village, Krishna District in Andhra Pradesh. He graduated in science and law and became the first-generation lawyer of his family having a background in agriculture. Justice Ramana took oath as the 48th Chief Justice of India on April 24, 2021, and will have a tenure of around sixteen months. He replaced the CJI SA Bobde, who had completed his tenure in April 2021. Former CJI Sharad Arvind Bobde recommended the name of Justice Ramana as his preferred successor, which the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind duly accepted. It would be the longest tenure for a Chief Justice of India in nearly a decade.
Before becoming a full-fledged lawyer Justice Ramana worked as a journalist for a leading Telugu newspaper for a short time. He enrolled on 10th February, 1983 as an advocate and practiced in the Andhra Pradesh High Court, Central and administrative tribunals. On 27th June 2000, he served as a permanent Judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Justice NV Ramana worked as the additional standing counsel for the Central Government, the standing counsel for the Indian Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad. He too served as an Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh. He became the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court in the year 2013. Before his elevation to the Apex Court of India on February 17, 2014, Justice NV Ramana became the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court. From the State of Andhra Pradesh, he is the second Chief Justice of India. He has expertise in civil and criminal law and vigorously dealt with matters on constitution, service, labor, inter-state river disputes, and elections. He has been credited for authoring path-breaking judgments in the constitution, arbitration, taxation, and criminal law. He additionally worked as the executive chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) since 27 November 2019. In April, 2021, the warrant of appointment as Chief Justice of India was handed over to Justice NV Ramana by the secretary of the Department of Justice. As a Chief Justice of India, he would have a tenure of around sixteen months and his term shall come to an end on 26th August 2022.
Journey of the first-generation lawyer to Chief Justice of India
Justice NV Ramana started various measures for the advancement of the Indian legal system while he was the president of the Andhra Pradesh Judicial Academy and presented Regional Judicial Conferences underlining the administration of criminal justice. He had introduced significant changes in the training of judicial officers, and the quasi-judicial officers from Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Commissioners of Central Labour Department, and Registrars of Co-operative Department.
During his tenure as president of the judicial academy, he organized various joint conferences, the first-ever in the history of India, for the Judicial Officers of all ranks, Police Officers, Correctional Services Authorities, Juvenile Justice Boards, Advocates, Prosecutors, Women bodies, Social groups, and Media representatives to have a dialogue on the growing menace of Sexual Assault on women. His proposals to effectively tackle the issue of sexual attacks on women led to the formation of the Justice Verma Commission which led to the amendment of the Code of Criminal Procedure to some extent. As a Judge of the Hon’ble High Court, his recommendations to the state to fill the vacancies of public prosecutors has resulted in speeding up criminal trials and changed the pace of criminal justice administration. He had been known as the advocate for transparency in the judicial proceedings and voiced his concern to implement the three regional languages as the language of the Court for meaningful and effective participation of rural litigants in the process of trial.
Justice Ramana had participated and led several National as well as International Conferences and Seminars in India and abroad. He has an immense interest in philosophy and literature besides law. He had written various papers on different issues of legal importance and received the honor for his suggestions on “Global Legal Education” in a seminar organized by the Confederation of Indian Bar. He was involved in arranging the “First Conference of Public Prosecutors” in Andhra Pradesh. He was a part of various programs of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) for spreading legal awareness amongst the masses and for the better implementation of a speedy justice delivery system. On invitation by the UK, he visited Great Britain and examined its justice delivery system. He also visited the United States of America to comprehend its legal system. He attended the “International Conclave on Balancing Recovery, Restructuring and Liquidation, the emerging challenges in Asia” held in Sri Lanka. He was also a part of the 14th Conference of Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation member state held in Sochi, Russia.
Justice Ramana served as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and further elevated as a judge of the Supreme Court of India. He is a member of the General Council of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore, and also a chairperson of the General Body and Governing Council and Executive Committee of the National Judicial Academy. He is also a chairperson of the National Judicial Academic Council in the National Judicial Academy. Moreover, he is an ex-officio President of the Institute, and chairman of the Library Committee in Indian Law Institute, Delhi.
He visited Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam for the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh convocation ceremony, Justice Ramana is an avid supporter of judicial reforms, specifically the Alternate Dispute Redressal mechanism, and advances the use of technology in the Indian judicial system. He wanted the implementation of the justice delivery system in regional languages and advocated for adopting suitable measures for speedy justice to the majority, especially the more fragile and discouraging sections of the society.
Notable judgments delivered: setting an example for the legal fraternity
The Right to freedom of speech and expression through the internet is a fundamental right
Justice NV Ramana led the bench which heard the petitions challenging the internet curbs which were imposed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in the wake of the abrogation of its special status in August, 2019. In the case of Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India, the bench held that the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to trade through the medium of the internet is a fundamental right. The judgment penned by Justice NV Ramana restating the principles of proportionality held that the suspension of the internet can’t be possible for an indefinite period. He also mentioned that authorities should publicize the internet suspension orders with the reasons specified.
In Foundation for Media Professionals v. State (UT of J&K), a bench headed by Justice Ramana held that fundamental rights should be balanced with the concerns of state security and appointed a special committee to ensure the restrictions, if required, are narrowly tailored and do not have permanent nature. As per an ANI report, Justice Ramana had lifted the restriction on internet access in the valley.
UAPA doesn’t influence the power of a constitutional court to grant bail on the ground of the Right to a speedy trial
In the case of Union of India vs. KA Najeeb, a bench led by Justice Ramana held that Section 43D (5) of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, UAPA in itself does not deprive the ability of constitutional courts to grant bail on the ground of violation of the fundamental right to a speedy trial. The bench observed that the strictness of the provision will collapse where there is no likelihood of trial being completed within a reasonable time and the period of detainment has already undergone has surpassed a substantial part of the prescribed sentence.
Recognition to homemaker’s contribution
Justice Ramana observed in the case of Kirti vs. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd, “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”,
Special Courts for the trial of cases against MPs/MLAs; directions for time-bound trial
In the case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay v. Union of India, 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), has passed various orders to streamline and facilitate the same. The Court observed that such measures are essential 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”.
Post-conviction mental illness is a ground to commute Death Penalty
Justice NV Ramana laid down certain guidelines in the case of Accused X v State of Maharashtra to regulate the plea of mental illness. It was held that post-conviction mental illness would be a mitigating factor while considering appeals of the death convicts.
Bringing Chief Justice of India’s office under the ambit of RTI
In a major breakthrough for transparency, Justice NV Ramana brought the office of the Chief Justice of India under the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, in the case of Cen.Pub.Information… vs Subhash Chandra Agarwal.
Importance of conducting Floor Test
In the case of Shiv Sena vs. Union of India, Justice NV Ramana ruled in favor of conducting a floor test in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, paving the way for an end to unlawful practices like ‘horse trading’ during the 2019 Maharashtra political crisis, when Shiv Sena, the Bhartiya Janta Party, and the National Congress Party and others were attempting to form the State government.
The legal profession demands a great deal of knowledge of both legal and non-legal concepts. It additionally requires a huge measure of persistence. But the fact is, the way that one makes the most of his/her legal career, is rewarded enough in their life which compensates for the sacrifice which he/she had put in their legal journey. It is significant for a lawyer to continue to accomplish great work at the offices of a senior or while addressing his/her own clients. Wait for the opportunities that will inevitably come, where a first-generation lawyer or a lawyer with legal lineage can show the abilities and experience that have accumulated in all those years. Our Chief Justice of India, Justice NV Ramana sets a great example for the people, especially in the legal aura. I would love to conclude with one of my favorite quotes “Where there’s a will, there is a way”.
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