Justice A.N Ray : Know Your Judges.

Justice A.N Ray

Author : Mr. Apratim De.

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

Early Life

Justice 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 ‘Two hours’ controversy:- It is said that Justice A.N Ray was not a Judge for the people rather was someone who worked for the welfare of the government. After his appointment as the CJI of India Justice Ray has always been into one or the other controversy from time to time.

So all this started from the time of the National Emergency which was proclaimed by the then Congress government in 1975.

So during this time the then PM Indira Gandhi had given two hours time to Justice Ray to decide that whether he want to become the next CJI of India or not. So according to the various judges and sources of the time it is believed that this was an indirect attempt by the government to overpower the judiciary and to take away the independence of the judiciary as it happened later on.

Also many believed that this was just a defence which was taken by Justice Ray to face the media and the people of the country though it was decided much before that he will be appointed as the next CJI.  Interestingly after the appointment Justice Ray had replied that if “I won’t have accepted the post than someone else would have been offered. I haven’t hankered for it.”


  • Also Justice A.N Ray’s appointment as the CJI of India had led to a lot of controversy because he was appointed as the CJI of India by superseding the three other senior most judges namely Justice J.M Shelat, Justice A.N Grover and Justice K.S Hegde respectively.

But later on this was challenged by the fact that as these three had resigned as an protest against the appointment of Justice Ray as the CJI so now it had made him (Ray) the next CJI of India legitimately as now after the resignation of these three judges (Shelat, Grover and Hegde) Ray becomes the senior most Judge.

Moreover it is believed that Justice Ray was appointed as the next CJI by sidelining the other three senior most judges because they have said that the parliament cannot amend the constitution (i.e. basic structure doctrine) while Ray gave a judgement contrary to this which meant that Ray was trying to favour the government while other three bring neutral became enemy to the government.

So this clearly indicated that “this was an attempt of not creating ‘forward looking judges’ but the ‘judges looking forward’ to the plumes of the office of Chief Justice”

Famous Cases

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.