From his observations on fundamental rights, women’s rights, gender awareness, to the recent verdict on abortion laws, here’s a look at what makes Justice Chandrachud an icon for the millennials.
By Srishti Ojha: Judge DY Chandrachud is soon to be sworn in as the 50th Chief Justice of India and will be at the helm of Supreme Court cases during pivotal events in the future. His tenure as the CJI was an anticipated one. Over the years, he has been called the liberals’ favourite, a progressive judge and one who is not afraid to speak his mind.
His dissent, well-crafted judgments, inspiring and empathetic observations have forced many to have high hopes for his tenure as the 50th Chief Justice of India. It’s no secret that Justice Chandrachud is popular among the millennials and the younger generation, many of whom have waited for him to grace the seat of the nation’s chief bailiff.
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In the present time and age, the younger generation prioritizes respecting choices, consents and opinions, challenging stereotypes, breaking the shackles of regressive beliefs and a progressive outlook. And Justice Chandrachud’s rulings in these years have addressed most of these aspects.
The inclination of young people towards him is largely due to his observations on crucial issues of fundamental rights, privacy, gender awareness and rights of women and LGBTQ+, among others. Here’s a look at some of them:
In August 2017, a bench of nine Supreme Court justices unanimously ruled that the right to privacy is a fundamental right.
The lead judgment, prepared by Justice Chandrachud on behalf of himself and three other judges, said privacy is attached to the person as it is an essential facet of human dignity. The pursuit of happiness was said to be based on autonomy and dignity, both of which are essential features of privacy and do not differentiate between individuals’ birthmarks.
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Judge Chandrachud was part of the Supreme Court constitutional bench that in a landmark 2018 verdict decriminalized same-sex consensual sex by knocking down parts of Section 377.
In his unanimous statement, he said that one hundred and fifty-eight years is too long for the LGBT community to endure the humiliation of denial. While it is difficult to right the mistakes of history, we can certainly set the course for the future.
Judge Chandrachud ruled that the choice of who to partner with, the ability to find satisfaction in sexual intimacy and the right not to be subjected to discriminatory behavior are intrinsic to the constitutional protection of sexual orientation.
He had said that members of the LGBT community have the right to equal citizenship, without discrimination, and to equal legal protection.
Speaking recently at an event on LGBTQ+ rights, Judge DY Chandrachud said that while the decision in Navtej was important, we still have a long way to go and that both structural and behavioral changes are essential.
He stressed that quality is not only achieved by decriminalizing homosexuality, but must extend to all spheres of life, including the home, workplace and public places. He said he disagreed with the Beatles song All you need is love, because maybe we need something more than love.
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In the recent ruling on abortion laws, Judge Chandrachuds fought for inclusivity, saying that the judgment would not be limited to cis-gender women, but would in fact apply to all individuals who may need access to safe medical termination of their pregnancy.
In the case involving the arrest of 5 activists in Bhima Koregaon, where the Supreme Court had refused to intervene, Judge Chandrachud had dissented and expressed his strong opinion about the importance of dissent in a democracy.
While he said that dissent is a symbol of vibrant democracy, he had said that opposition voices cannot be muzzled by persecuting those engaged in unpopular causes.
He also said that individuals who advance causes that may not be popular in the echelons of power are nevertheless entitled to the freedoms guaranteed by the constitution.
Judge DY Chandrachud also disagreed with the ruling of the majority constitutional benches that upheld the Aadhaar Act in 2018. He had said that in a digital society, an individual has the right to protect themselves by maintaining control over personal information.
While discussing how identity is necessarily a multiple concept, he had noted that the technology used in the Aadhaar scheme reduces several constitutional identities to a single identity of a 12-digit number, and infringes on an individual’s right to identify themselves through chosen means.
In yet another landmark judgment that led to the award of a permanent commission to women in the military, a bench headed by Justice Chandrachud had ruled that absolute exclusion of women from command duties was unjustified and against the constitution.
The verdict said it is an insult to both women and the military when women, their abilities and their achievements in the military are vilified.
Judge Chandrachud went one step further, speaking in the verdict about gender role stereotypes and saying that a change in mindset is needed to bring true equality in the military.
In the unanimous decision of SCs that decriminalize adultery and delete Section 497 of IPC, Justice Chandrachud in his unanimous verdict pointed to the aspects of individual dignity and gender equality, where he said the provision is based on the idea that by engaging a woman of a marriage loses, so to speak, its voice, autonomy and freedom of choice.
He stressed the need to ensure that patriarchal social values and legal norms should not further hinder the exercise of constitutional rights by the women of our country.
Calling Section 497 destructive for depriving a woman of her agency, autonomy and dignity, he had said that misogyny and patriarchal notions of sexual control have no place in a constitutional order that recognizes dignity as intrinsic to a person.
A bench headed by Judge DY Chandrachud recently issued a pivotal ruling regarding women’s rights to reproductive and physical autonomy, stating that all women, married or unmarried, have the right to a safe and legal abortion.
It also said the law should not rule on the beneficiaries of a statute based on scary patriarchal stereotypes of what constitutes permissible sex.
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