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Justice DY Chandrachud assumes the Charge of CJI

New Delhi: “The framers of the Constitution rejected the notion of a Hindu India and a Muslim India. They recognised only the Republic of India…A united India is not one characterized by a single identity devoid of its rich plurality, both of cultures and of values. Pluralism depicts not merely a commitment to the preservation of diversity, but a commitment to the fundamental postulates of individual and equal dignity.”

A list of various noteworthy verdicts so far delivered by Justice Chandrachud as well as the statements given in the judgements.

Speaking at the British High Commission event in August of this year, Justice Chandrachud said, “equality must extend to all spheres of life including the home, the workplace, the public place, that we occupy.” In 2017, Chandrachud was a part of the five men bench that struck down a part of Section 377 of the Indian Constitution which criminalised homosexuality.

Justice Chandrachud quoted musician Leonard Cohen in his judgement on homosexuality. He said, “Shadows of a receding past controls the quest of LGBTQ for fulfilment… Section 377 is based on deeply rooted gender stereotypes. It persecutes people. It is a majoritarian impulse to subjugate a sexual minority to live in silence. Human instinct to love has been constrained.”

In September 2017, Justice Chandrachud, a part of a five judge bench of the Supreme Court delivered their verdict in the Sabarimala temple entry case. The bench (aside from dissenting judge Indu Malhotra) stated that the temple’s practice of excluding women is unconstitutional.

Justice Chandrachud held that the exclusion of women between the ages of 10-50 years by the Sabarimala Temple was contrary to constitutional morality and that it subverted the ideals of autonomy, liberty, and dignity. He argued that Ayyappans or worshippers of Lord Ayyappa did not satisfy the requirement necessary to be categorised as a religious denomination and further said exclusion (of women) was not an essential religious practice.

Bringing up the Constituent Assembly debates, the judge said that there was a reason the term untouchability wasn’t given a specific meaning. This was done so as to ensure that the term was not understood restrictively.

He further held that Article 17 cannot be read to exclude women against whom social exclusion of the worst kind has been practiced and legitimised on notions of purity and pollution.

The Supreme Court in September 2018 declared the Aadhar programme and Aadhar Act, 2016 to be constitutional even as it imposed limitations on the project.

While four out of the five judge bench upheld the Aadhar project and act, Justice Chandrachud dissented on the grounds of privacy and welfare exclusion. In his judgement, Chandrachud called Aadhar a “fraud on the Constitution.”

Even as he stated that the purpose of the Aadhar Act was legitimate, he said that there aren’t enough robust safeguards as to “informed consent and indiviuals rights such as opt-out.” He also said that the mass-profiling had the “potential for surveillance” and that its architecture “posed risk on potential violation of leakage of database”.

Dissenting on a plea filed against arrest of Bhima Koregaon accused

Historian Romila Thapar and four others filed a petition regarding the arrest of five activists (Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navalakha, Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonzalves and Varavara Rao). The five were picked up by the Maharashtra Police for “terror acts” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The petition challenged the arrest as it was made in an arbitrary manner and violate the freedom of speech, equality before law, personal liberty and voice of dissent. The activists were arrested in relation to the Bhima Koregaon violence.

While the two of the three judge bench rejected the plea to look into the arrest, Justice Chandrachud in his dissenting opinion stated that in this particular case the investigation by the Special Investigating Team (SIT) is needed and the SIT should be constituted for the independent and fair investigation. He also stated that investigation should be monitored by the court in this case.

He further held that there were sufficient doubts regarding the impartiality of the Maharashtra Police. He observed that the remedies for which the petitioner stands before the court do not related to remedies which belongs to the criminal procedure.

As part of a five judge bench in November 2019, Justice Chandrachud overturned the September 2010 judgement of the Allahabad High Court which had ordered a three way division of the disputed 2.77 acres of land between the Ramlalla Virajman, the UP Sunni Central Waqf board and the Nirmohi Akhara sect. The court had ordered the disputed land (brought to limelight after the Babri Masjid demolition of 1992) to be handed over to a trust to build the Ram Janmabhoomi temple.

The bench said “on the balance of probabilities, there is clear evidence to indicate that the worship by the Hindus in the outer courtyard continued unimpeded in spite of the setting up of a grill-brick wall in 1857.” The bench argued that dividing the land will not subserbe the interest of either parties nor will it secure a lasting sense of peace and tranquility.

In September 2020, a three judge bench of the Supreme Court restrained Sudarshan News from broadcasting remaining episodes of a show that the channel claims “exposes” the “infiltration of Muslims” in the civil services. The show titled “Bindass Bol” was presented by editor-in-chief Suresh Chavhanke.

The bench headed by Justice Chandrachud observed that the show’s purpose was clearly to “vilify the Muslim community” and observed that it had made arbitrary claims “in wanton disregard of the truth”.

Several statements made in the episodes in question, which have been drawn to the attention of the Court are not just palpably erroneous but have been made in wanton disregard of the truth”, a three-judge Bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said.

In July 2022, Justice Chandrachud was part of the three judge bench granting interim bail to Alt News journalist Mohammed Zubair after an FIR was registered against him accusing him of hurting religious sentiments on Twitter. In September 2022, a Supreme Court judge headed by Justice Chandrachud allowed unmarried and single women whose pregnancies are are between 20 and 24 weeks to access safe and legal abortion care. The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 and its rules of 2003 prohibited unmarried women (pregnant between 20 to 24 weeks) to abort.

The legacy of Justice Chandrachud has only just begun. The judge is set to be the longest serving Chief Justice of India in the last ten years and as such, it could potentially set the trend for the future functioning of the Indian Judiciary.