Justice Nuthalapati Venkata Ramana, who will take over as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India on April 24, guided the legal service authorities to provide assistance to vulnerable groups during the challenge posed by COVID-19 as executive chairman of NALSA (National Legal Services Authority).
The Legal Service Authorities (LSAs) were at the forefront of providing legal, non-legal, and financial assistance under the leadership of Justice Ramana.
They swiftly adapted to revaluate their operating model in view of the COVID-19 situation.
Many of its activities, imperative for achieving access to justice for all, had to be shifted from offline to online mode.
Through technological interventions, the LSAs provided legal advice and assistance, carried out outreach and legal awareness activities and coordinated with other government departments and NGOs.
Assistance to vulnerable groups became the prime focus of LSAs and during the COVID-19 pandemic (lockdown and unlock period) the LSAs provided legal aid and assistance in 2,878 domestic violence cases.
The LSAs also assisted around 60 lakh migrant workers along with 36,435 stranded persons across the country. Over 1,04,084 senior citizens were also assisted by the LSAs.
Justice Ramana was designated as the Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority on November 27, 2019. At the inception of his tenure, on December 6, 2019, he released a 'Vision 2020' document which chalked out the roadmap for future activities of NALSA.
During Justice Ramana's tenure, NALSA introduced new programmes and visions for LSAs and activities and systems already adopted by the authorities were also strengthened.
The LSAs also assisted around 60 lakh migrant workers along with 36,435 stranded persons across the country. Over 1,04,084 Senior citizens were also assisted by the LSAs.
Despite the pandemic, the LSAs successfully conducted National and State Lok Adalats, wherein over 48 lakh cases were disposed of in State and National Lok Adalats. In such Lok Adalats, over 21 Lakh cases were disposed of at pre-litigation stage. The total settlement amount in the cases settled at Lok Adalats was over Rs 16,900 crores.
During such period LSAs also implemented the Victim Compensation Scheme. Compensation amounting to Rs 2,18,81,99,800 was awarded.
Justice Ramana highlighted the need to enhance the quality of the legal services provided to the marginalized sections of the society. LSAs developed measures to standardize the performance of the workforce engaged to provide such legal services. 'Handbook of Formats: Ensuring Effective Legal Services' was prepared.
Alternate Dispute Resolution Mechsms regularly orgsed by the LSAs including Lok Adalats and Mediations were also shifted online. Transformed into e-Lok Adalats, over 24 orgsed the online form of the ADR mechsm. From June 2020 to February 2021, more than 4.11 lakh cases were settled in e-Lok Adalats. Out of these cases 1.23 lakh cases were pre-litigative and 2.88 lakh were pending cases.
Justice Ramana had focused on early access to justice at all stages of criminal proceedings.
Legal assistance was provided at pre-arrest, arrest and remand stages. Legal assistance was provided to 4,313 suspects at pre-arrest stage, 5,031 arrestees, and 76,087 persons at remand stage.
A total o f36,233 bail applications were filed wherein bail was granted to 20,825 accused. Moreover, appeals of 3,756 convicts were filed in High Courts.
President Ram Nath Kovind appointed Justice Ramana as the next Chief Justice of India on April 6. He will be the 48th CJI of the country and will have a term till August 26, 2022.
Justice Ramana, born in an agricultural family on August 27, 1957, is a first-generation lawyer and hails from Ponnavaram Village in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh.
He enrolled as an advocate on February 10, 1983 and practiced in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh, Central and Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunals, and the Supreme Court of India in Constitutional, Civil, Labour, Service and Election matters.
During his practice years, he was a panel counsel for various government orgzations and as additional standing counsel for Railways in the Central Administrative Tribunal at Hyderabad before rendering services as Additional Advocate General of Andhra Pradesh.
Justice Ramana was appointed as a permanent judge of the Andhra Pradesh High Court on June 27, 2000. He also functioned as acting Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court from March 10, 2013 to May 20, 2013.
Thereafter, he was transferred to Delhi as its Chief Justice before he was elevated to the Supreme Court.
He has been the judge in the Supreme Court since February 17, 2014.
Justice Ramana had also worked as a journalist for a leading Telugu newspaper for a brief time before becoming a full-fledged lawyer.
As a Supreme Court judge, Justice Ramana rendered many major judgments including that which brought an end a year-long internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir in 2020 after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019.
Justice Ramana had said that the Internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir without limiting it to a particular duration is not only a violation of the telecom rules but also of the freedom of speech and expression granted by the Constitution.
In another judgement, Justice Ramana breathed transparency into the office of the Chief Justice of India and brought it under the ambit of the Right to Information Act.
In Shiv Sena vs. State of Maharashtra case, his judgment to conduct a floor test paved way for reducing horse-trading.
He gave a judgment directing that the pending corruption cases against politicians were to be decided in a time-bound manner.
While dealing with the issue of inordinate delays in criminal investigations and trials relating to elected politicians (MPs and MLAs) in the case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India, Justice Ramana has passed numerous directions to streamline and expedite the same.
The court observed that such measures were necessary 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".
( With inputs from ANI )
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