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Who is Justice BV Nagarathna? The Judge who could become India’s first woman CJI

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: Justice B Venkataramiah Nagarathna is likely to become India’s first woman Chief Justice of India in 2027 as she is among three women judges who were chosen by the Supreme Court collegium for the elevation to the top court. Currently, she is serving as a judge in the Karnataka High Court and is expected to retire on October 29, 2024, after reaching the retirement age for HC judges.

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Born on October 30, 1962, Justice B.V. Nagarathna started as a lawyer in Bengaluru in the year 1987 and practiced constitutional law commercial law, including insurance law, service law, administrative and public law, the law pertaining to land and rent laws, family law, conveyancing and drafting of contracts and agreements, arbitration, and conciliation before being appointed as an additional judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2008. Later in 2010, she became a permanent judge in the Karnataka HC.

In 2009, she and another judge, Venkate Gopala Gowda, were unlawfully detained, along with the then-Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court, P.D. Dinakaran, by a group of protesting lawyers – who were demonstrating against Justice Dinakaran following allegations of corruption.

All of them, however, were later released by the protesting lawyers. But following the incident, Nagarathna made a public statement, saying, “We cannot be cowed down like this. We have taken the oath of Constitution.”

In 2012, along with another judge, she ordered the federal government to examine the possibility of regulating broadcast media in India, noting the rise of fake news. She also warned against the risks of allowing government control over broadcast media, calling for a statutory framework that would allow self-regulation by the broadcast industry.

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In 2016, she ruled along with another judge that the Karnataka government could not require owners of vehicles bought outside the state to pay a “lifetime tax” in order to use their vehicles in Karnataka, holding the policy to be unconstitutional.

In 2019, along with two other judges, she ruled that temples were not commercial institutions and accordingly, that provisions of labour laws relating to the payment of gratuities did not apply to temple employees.

On 15 September 2020, she and another judge upheld a contested government policy to ensure the standardization of admissions into both, public and private colleges in Karnataka, citing the Coronavirus pandemic in India as a reason to limit the autonomy of private institutions.

Notably, Justice Nagarathna’s father, E.S. Venkataramiah, was the 19th Chief Justice of India for almost six months in 1989. He was appointed on June 19, 1989 and served until his retirement on December 17, 1989.

If approved by the Union government, justice Nagarathna will ser ved as India’s first woman CJI for a little over a month in 2027.

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