Who is BV Nagarathna, the SC judge who sent Bilkis Bano rapists back to jail

Justice Nagarathna is also on the path to becoming the first woman Chief Justice of India in 2027.
Justice BV Nagarathna
Justice BV Nagarathna
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Justice BV Nagarathna, a judge at the Supreme Court of India, has been in the headlines for delivering a judgement that nullified remission orders that had prematurely released 11 convicts implicated in the Bilkis Bano case. The division bench led by Justice BV Nagarathna delivered a stern rebuke to the Gujarat government, holding it complicit in an "abuse of discretion" and "usurpation of power." The bench went on to declare that the court order facilitating remission had been obtained through fraudulent means, leading to a directive for the 11 convicts to surrender within a two-week window. 

Justice Nagarathna is on the path to becoming the first woman Chief Justice of India in 2027. However, her term will last only about a month before she retires. Here’s everything you need to know about Justice BV Nagarathna.

Early life and education

Born on October 30, 1962, Justice Bangalore Venkataramaiah Nagarathna is a current Supreme Court justice. Her father, Justice ES Venkataramiah, was the first judge from Karnataka to hold the position of Chief Justice of India. Hailing from Engalaguppe Chatra village in Pandavapura taluk, Mandya district, she received her education at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in New Delhi and graduated in BA history from Jesus and Mary College, University of Delhi in 1984. She earned her law degree in 1987 from the Campus Law Center, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.

Legal career

Justice Nagarathna joined the Karnataka Bar Council on October 28, 1987, and practised law in Bangalore, specialising in constitutional, commercial, insurance, service, administrative and public law, land and rent laws, family law, and arbitration, until her appointment as an additional judge on the Karnataka High Court on February 18, 2008. She became a permanent judge on February 17, 2010, and was appointed to the Supreme Court of India on August 26, 2021, taking the oath of office on August 31, 2021. 

Notable judgements

As a Supreme Court judge, her dissent in the demonetisation exercise case was her most prominent judgement to date. On the November 2016 demonetisation decision, Justice Nagarathna deemed it well-intentioned but unlawful, in contrast to the majority view of the other four judges on the Supreme Court bench who upheld its validity. She was of the opinion that the Union government should have pursued a legislative process to implement it rather than opting for a mere issuance of a gazette notification.

As a judge in the Karnataka High Court, she gave a significant judgement in 2012, where she emphasised the necessity of regulating electronic media, advocating for the curbing of sensationalism. She urged the establishment of an autonomous and statutory mechanism to regulate broadcast media. 

In a 2019 judgement, Justice Nagarathna ruled that a temple is not a commercial establishment, stating that its employees are not entitled to gratuity under the Payments of Gratuity Act but can avail similar benefits under the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment Act.

In a 2021 judgement in Karnataka HC, a division bench comprising Justices BV Nagarathna and MG Uma ruled that the entitlement to bail for an accused is contingent upon the completion of the mandate under Section 35 of the POCSO Act. The judges concluded that if the requirements specified in Section 35 have not been fulfilled, the accused does not possess the right to seek bail. According to Section 35, the Special Court must aim to finish the trial within a year from when they first recognised the case. If a child is involved, the court needs to record their evidence within 30 days of acknowledging the offence. Any delays that happen must be noted in writing

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