Hon’ble Mr.Justice Ajit Nath Ray was the 14th Chief Justice of India. He had served as the CJI of India from 26th April 1973- 28th January 1977. Earlier he was appointed as the Judge of Supreme Court of India in August 1969.

Early life

A N Ray was born 29th January 1912 and had passed away on 25th December 2010 at Kolkata. He had studied in various prestigious colleges of the country and abroad like the Presidency college, Kolkata and the Oriel College, Oxford. Moreover he had been a part of various controversial judgements like the Bank Nationalisation Case of 1970 also known as the R.C Cooper Case.

He had hit the news headlines on January 1973 when he was appointed as the CJI of India by the then PM of India Smt. Indira Gandhi which is often said to be the darkest hour in the history of India’s judiciary. The senior-most Judge of the Supreme Court is appointed as the Chief Justice of India. An unwritten convention, this practice is known in legal, academic and judicial parlance as the ‘seniority principle’. This convention has been justified to safeguard the judiciary’s independence from political interference.

The seniority principle has been strayed from thrice in the history of the Court. The first time was in February 1964, when Justice Gajendragadkar was appointed as the Chief Justice, superseding Justice Imam who was suffering from a serious illness. In August 1969, Justice A N Ray was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court. He went on to become the Chief Justice of India in the most controversial fashion in 1973.

His appointment superseded three senior judges of the Supreme Court, J M Shelat, A N Grover and K S Hegde. This was viewed as a direct attack on the judiciary. This was considered to be unprecedented in the legal history of India. It has been called as the blackest day in Indian democracy. This move was marked by protests by bar associations and many within the legal faction.

The appointment was made on April 25, 1973, a day after the SC’s judgement in the Kesavananda Bharati case, where a 13-judge constitution bench, by a 7-6 verdict, had outlined the ‘basic structure’ doctrine of the Constitution.

Famous Judgments:

Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala

This was known as the ‘Basic Structure Doctrine’. Ray J wrote a scathing yet crisp dissent. Justice Ray stated that there was no limitation on Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution. The Indira Gandhi Government, presumably displeased with the Court’s decision in Kesavananda, appointed him as the 14th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court the very next day.

ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla case
One of the major judgements pronounced during the tenure of CJI Ray was the famous case of ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla also known as the Habeous Corpus Case.
This case had created a lot of controversy for the then CJI as the judgement pronounced in this case is considered to be the one of the worst judgments pronounced till date. After this case the protection of life and personal liberty under Art.21 of the Indian constitution would remain suspended during the National Emergency so which also meant that the writ of Habeas corpus cannot be invoked during the emergency. So this meant that now the executive authorities and the government had excessive powers especially the power to arrest and detain anyone during the emergency for which they are neither answerable to the people nor to the judiciary.
This was the time when the apex court of the country by majority had pronounced a judgement which was for the welfare of the government and not of the people. But here it will be worth noting that in this 4:1 judgement Justice H.R Khanna was the only one who dissented this majority view and believed that this judgement was against the welfare of the people and as a result he was punished subsequently by not appointing him as the next CJI rather Justice M. Hameedullah Beg was appointed as the next CJI of India.
R. C . Cooper case On the 2nd of February, 1970, the landmark judgement, by a majority of 10:1 was delivered by the Supreme Court of India. Except Justice A.N. Ray, the other Judges gave the following judgement that a shareholder was not entitled to move to the Supreme Court for enforcing the Fundamental Rights in the name of his company, until and unless the action which was being complained of, directly or indirectly violated the petitioner’s Fundamental Rights as well.


• A. N Ray- Supreme Court Observer http://www.scobserver.in
• Justice A N Ray- Indian Legal Solution https://indianlegalsolution.com
• 1973: When Indira Gandhi eroded the independence of the judiciary and Morarji Desai restored it http://www.oneindia.com
• How many times has the senior most judge of the Supreme Court been superseded? – Supreme Court Observer http://www.scobserver.in
• R C Cooper v Union of India ( bank nationalism case)
Image Source: Economic Times

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