September 30, 2022

Justice Rama Jois: Harbinger of Dharma

On 16th February 2021 Justice Rama Jois Former Chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High court, Member of Parliament, and an eminent Indian legal jurist passed away. Condolences to this unsung legal luminary through an introspection of his distinguished career is appropriate and warranted. Expectation is, his work and life could be a pathway to budding advocates to emulate and refine their practice to harmonize individual growth with contributions to Indian legal system. 

Born on 27th July 1931, Rama Jois was not interested in wearing the Lawyer’s robes. He was a teacher actively involved in social activities. Discovering his aptitude for logic and lawyering, Sri Yadavrao Joshi, one of his mentors nudged the young man to join legal profession and also made necessary arrangements for the same. Soon after, Rama Jois under the stewardship of Advocate Sri Venkataranga Iyengar started his practice and appeared in both Karnataka High Court as well as the Supreme Court. 

The practice: Giant steps in Service law 

Dissecting every single Judgment where Rama Jois appeared would be unnecessary, a right mixture of cases where he appeared as junior and then as a senior would sufficiently throw light upon his journey. Two Judgments where Rama Jois appeared under the guidance of his senior Sri Venkataranga Iyengar are noteworthy. State of Mysore v. M.H Bellary wherein they had represented a government servant who was seeking re-enhancement of his remuneration, which was withheld in contravention to Bombay Civil Services rules 50(b). The Supreme court through Justice Rajagopala Aiyyengar decided in their favor as the appeal from the state did not have any merit and granted the increment in remuneration.

Further in T G Shivacharana singh and Ors v. State of Mysore Rama Jois challenged a government of Mysore rule wherein police inspector was prematurely relieved. Justice PB Gajendragadkar however negatived both the arguments that were raised by appellants as the issue of compulsory retirements under Article 309 was already settled and note 1 to Rule 285 which provided for retirement at age 50 was held to be not discriminatory. 

In 21st century sharp individuals can build up their practice with the help of a small device which fits into their pockets. Acquiring Knowledge doesn’t require one to visit law libraries, Google and India kanoon have made libraries archaic. Making your presence felt in the legal fraternity through Twitter and Facebook are yielding more results than goofing around the corridors of court. Unlike the current times, in 1950’s when he began his practice, your progress as an advocate was largely governed by the senior whom you joined. Naturally Rama Jois grew in the area of service law and constitutional law.

Righteous in Bar, Rigorous in Bench

Later, in Sankarnarayana and others v. state of Mysore a challenge to Mysore village offices abolition act 1961 involved Rama Jois taking the lead and questioning the validity of the act, the writ petition was filed on behalf of shanbhogs, patels and village karnams on the basis of being illegal due to automatic abolishment of posts, which again proved to be unsuccessful. But, in State of Mysore v. H Papanna Gowda Rama Jois was able to ensure that the appeal filed by the state was dismissed on the grounds that the Agricultural universities act was in contravention of Article 311 thereby cementing his legacy.

As a Judge, Justice Rama Jois delivered more than 430 judgments across different subject matters, amongst them his decisions involving Service law and Hindu law was hailed across bar and bench. Union of India v. M/s Alembic Glass industries, National Insurance Co. v. Dundamma, M/S Manakchand Motilal v. State of Karnataka are few of his decisions which have been repeatedly referred the courts. His judgments are not just an evidence of his scholarship but also for his literary flair. 

Post his retirement too Justice Rama Jois appeared in the Supreme Court arguing important constitutional matters such as PA Inamdar and TMA Pai foundation which have laid down important principles regarding reservation policies in educational institutions. Vajpayee government’s resurgence during the same time led to his designation as Member of Rajya Sabha and as the governor of Bihar and Jharkhand. This makes him unique. Very few Indians have had this opportunity of serving the top echelons of all the organs of the state especially with an unblemished record. 

Champion of Dharma

Interestingly, his literary scholarship are not restricted to his judgments, Justice Rama Jois contributed profusely to various dailies and journals highlighting contemporary legal developments. Amongst many books which he has authored ‘services under the state’ and ‘Legal and Constitutional history of India’ have become essential readings. Central to all of this was his association with the concept of Dharma, in his works as well as his life. In Kapila Hingorani v. State of Bihar the Supreme Court of India referred to his Human rights and Indian values, in AS Narayana Deekshitulu v. State of AP where the Supreme Court was primarily concerned with deciphering the scope of religion and dharma referred to the Justice Rama Jois’s book to address important questions surrounding dharma. Apart from the Supreme Court multiple high courts, jurists and authors have utilized his writings to further their reasonings on the element of Dharma. 

This unrelenting focus in finding the true contours of Ancient Indian legal system also led him to towards the establishment of Vijnaneshwar Government Law College Kalaburagi. He also did not think twice before accepting invitations from various law colleges and institutes to be resource person on topics connected to Dharma and law. Into his ripe old age though his body was falling behind, his mind and especially his spirit thought of ways to contribute to legal community and society at large. His career and life was just the beginning of a voyage towards bettering Indian legal system, post his death it is our duty to rejuvenate and assimilate the same. 

This article is written by Vivek Narayan, who is an Assistant Professor at KLE law college, Bengaluru.