Majoritarian tendencies must be questioned, says Justice DY Chandrachud; nation forged on a promise of commitments made to every citizen

SUPREME Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud Saturday said majoritarian tendencies must be questioned because the nation was forged and united with a promise of certain commitments and entitlements to each and every citizen.

“A promise of religious freedom, a promise of equality between persons, irrespective of sex, caste or religion, a promise of fundamental freedom of speech and movement- without undue state interference and an enduring right to life and personal liberty. Majoritarian tendencies, whenever and however they arise, must be questioned against this background of our constitutive promise”, Justice Chandrachud said.

He said the Constitution did not just transform us from colonial subjects to free citizens but also undertook a massive challenge of confronting a polity that was plagued by oppressive systems of caste, patriarchy and communal violence.

He was speaking at an event to celebrate the 101st Birth Anniversary of former Chief Justice of India(CJI) Justice Y.V. Chandrachud who was Justice DY Chandrachud’s father. The event was organised in collaboration with Shikshana Prasaraka Mandali(SPM), a prominent Pune-based educational trust.

Hailing the activism of climate-activist Greta Thunberg, Justice Chandrachud said her example shows us how nobody is too young or too insignificant to effectuate big change.

Speaking about the Right to Privacy, he said that the Covid-19 pandemic had accelerated the penetration of technology in people’s lives and determines the shape and structure of our society.

“This right to privacy would embody our free ability to make our own decisions, access information and freedom from state or private surveillance”, he said.

Remembering Justice YV Chandrachud, Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said that he first met the former Chief Justice in Nagpur in a seminar. He later recalled his first visit to the Supreme Court as a student where he witnessed Justice Chandrachud preside over the hearing of the Special Courts Bill in Court No. 1. He believes himself to be lucky to argue his first case in the Supreme Court before the former CJI.

Justice Lalit said that many of his (Justice YV Chandrachud) judgments and opinions still define the laws in India. Citing an example, he said, “Ram Jethmalani tabled a bill in Parliament that Special Courts be constituted to hear the excesses during the Emergency. The President of India sought the advisory opinion from the Supreme Court on the correctness of the bill. Justice Chandrachud observed that Clause 7 of the Bill calls for the appointment of both retired and present Judges in the Special Courts. He said that the retired Judges appointed can be easily manipulated by the executive and thus affect the impartial nature of the courts. So his recommendation against this has been a consistent practice in all acts where Special Courts are formed under POTA(The Prevention of Terrorism Act), TADA(Terrorist and Disruptive Activities), NIA(National Investigation Agency) and so on.”

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Three more judgments given by Justice YV Chandrachud, according to Justice Lalit, were landmarks in India’s constitutional history. They were Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation, Minerva Mills Ltd. vs Union of India, and Sankal Chand Sheth vs Union of India.

Advocate Sadananda Phadke termed him as pride for all Punekars. He felt proud that the former Chief Justice started his education from his trust’s Nootan Marathi Vidyalaya and finished his education at ILS Law College, both in Pune. He admired him as a simple person and narrated a story where he once saw him playing cricket on the street of Pune’s Sadashiv Peth with a wooden bat having an iron hand at the time when he was about to be elevated to the Supreme Court.

Justice YV Chandrachud was born in Poona(now Pune) on July 12, 1920. He graduated with History and Economics from the Elphinstone College in Bombay(Now Mumbai) and later obtained his law degree from prestigious ILS Law College, Pune. He enrolled as an advocate in the Bombay High Court in 1943. He was later appointed as a Judge in Bombay High Court and elevated to the Supreme Court in 1972. He is the longest-serving Chief Justice of India having a tenure of seven years and four months and retired in 1985.