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.
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His appointment superseded three senior judges of the Supreme Court, J M Shelat, A N Grover and K S Hegde.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.
Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala
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