The Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, who will retire on August 26 after a tenure of one year and four months, said that “65 years is too early an age for someone to retire”.
Chief Justice Ramana was speaking at a virtual session called “Comparative Approaches of Supreme Courts of World’s Largest and Oldest Democracies” on Monday
He was accompanied on the panel by Justice Stephen Breyer of the US. The session was moderated by William M Treanor, Dean and Executive Vice President, Georgetown University Law Centre.
On being asked about the issue of retirement age of judges, Justice Ramana said, “Yes, I think 65 years is too early an age for someone to retire. In the Indian judiciary, at the time of joining we know our date of retirement. There are no exceptions. As for me, I am still left with a decent amount of energy. I am the son of an agriculturalist. I am still left with some land to cultivate. I am basically a man of people. I love to be among the people. It has been my nature since my student days. I hope I will find the right avenue to invest my energy for the sake of people. One thing I can say for certain is that retirement from the judiciary does not mean that I will retire from public life. I am too busy currently to think about my post-retirement plan.”
The issue of appointment of more women judges was also a key part of the discussion.
The moderator said the Supreme Courts of India and the US are making history with their recent appointment of women judges – appointment of three women Judges in India’s Supreme Court last year, and appointment of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first African-American woman judge in the US Supreme Court.
Mr Treanor complimented Chief Justice Ramana for the fact that for the first time, a legal professional who is openly gay was recommended by him for elevation to a judge of a constitutional court.
Chief Justice Ramana replied, “The first woman judge was appointed in the Supreme Court after nearly 40 years of its establishment. We now have four women judges. This is the highest number so far. I know it is not enough. I expect more. I am happy that the recent appointments and recommendations have generated a lot of discussions about inclusivity. In fact I borrowed from Karl Marx to say ‘Women of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains’. This resonated well with the people. They welcomed diversity. For me, inclusivity doesn’t stop with having more women judges. Our population is nearly 140 crore. The social and geographical diversity must find its reflection at all levels of judiciary. With widest possible representation, people get to feel that it is their own judiciary. Diversity in the bench promotes diversity of opinions. Diversity enhances efficiency. People from different backgrounds enrich the bench with their diverse experiences.”
Justice Stephen Breyer of the US said, “Once Ketanji is here there will be four. That doesn’t mean the problem is over. What you want really, is for it to be normal, natural and comfortable. It’s not just with women but minorities. I’m glad that we are moving in that direction. When it is totally natural, then it will be okay.”
On a question about whether Justice Breyer had turned to Indian law at any point of time, he said, “You don’t know what you’re going to learn when you start talking to judges from other countries. We were in India in 2001. We went to Gujarat. One of the judges there showed me a building and a line of women, a queue that stretched on endlessly. The judge said that we have created this set up so that women in this area have a facility they can approach when they want to complain about something. Inside these rooms there is a psychologist, lawyer and a social worker and those three will figure out how to help them.”