Justice BV Nagarathna: Judge Who Can Become India's First Woman CJI in 2027
Justice Nagarathna's judicial record reflects equitable access to quality education and spearheading social welfare.
On Tuesday, 17 August, the Supreme Court collegium in its meeting recommended nine names to be elevated as judges of the Supreme Court. Eight out of the nine names are judges of the high courts, out of which three are women.
The recommendations of the Supreme Court will now go the Union Ministry for Law and Justice for its approval. If approved as recommended and in due course of time, India will get her first woman Chief Justice of India in 2027 — Justice BV Nagarathna.
Justice Nagarathna was enrolled to the Bangalore Bar in 1987 and practised as an advocate dealing with matters pertaining to constitutional law, commercial law, and administrative law. She is the daughter of Justice ES Venkataramiah who became first Chief Justice of India from Karnataka in 1989.
She was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Karnataka High Court in February 2008, and became a Permanent Judge exactly two years later in Februrary 2010.
Pioneering the Cause of Education
Justice Nagarathna during her tenure at Karnataka High Court has presided over some key cases on education policy. Her judgments have prioritised principles such as equitable access to quality education while also maintaining autonomy of educational institutions.
On 29 July, a bench led by Justice Nagarathna directed a committee of experts to submit a draft roadmap for improving the infrastructure facilities in the state's government aided schools. Further, on 2 August, she suggested the state government to recognise teaching and non-teaching staff of schools as frontline workers for priority COVID-19 vaccination.
Hailing the cause of access to quality education even during the pandemic, the bench headed by Justice Nagarathna directed the state government to bridge the digital divide, ensuring wider reach of online classes.
"Economic backwardness or poverty should not become a reason for lack of continuity in education... At these times of crisis, there ought to be budget allocation made for supply of smartphones or technological devices to students so that there is continuity in education."Bench led by Justice Nagarathna
"Pandemic or no pandemic, education of children must go on," she consistently held. She also ensured that the unique needs of specific category of students are also being taken care of to engender meaningful access to education. In light of this spirit, she categorically highlighted that the state cannot ignore distribution of sanitary napkins to adoloscent school-going girls.
Monitoring the Migrant Crises
Justice Nagarathna, along with Chief Justice Abhay Oka, consistently sought accountability from and issued directions to the state government to manage the migrant crisis created by the sudden imposition of lockdown.
On 30 May 2020, the Bench of Chief Justice Oka and Justice Nagarathna directed the state government to place on record its "systematic plan" to facilitate transport of more than 6,00,000 migrants who are yet to return to their respective states.
The said bench also directed the state government to make adequate arrangement for food and water for migrants destined to travel in Shramik trains. It was because of her pulling up the state government, that the latter decided to bear the costs of migrants' travelling to their native states.
"Considering the constitutional rights of the migrant workers, no one should be deprived of an opportunity to go back to his own state only for the reason that he has no capacity to pay for the transport."Bench of Chief Justice Oka and Justice Nagarathna
A Welfarist Jurisprudence
Justice Nagarathna's jurisprudence at the Karnataka High Court is largely marked with sensitivity towards social welfare and protection of the constitutional rights of the most deprived.
She has shown great respect for data, expert opinions, and having a dynamic approach towards issues of equitable and quality access to public resources by the most marginalised.
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