New Delhi: A name that certainly didn’t get lost between the action laden week that the Supreme Court is witnessing is that of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. Backed by a strong judicial legacy and with just over 28-months as a sitting judge at the country’s highest court, he has succeeded at breaking the glass ceiling and distinguishing himself from the rest by speaking his mind and taking a progressive stand on pertinent issues.
Judge of the season, free voice and new dissenter – Justice D.Y. Chandrachud
He is known to not mince his words and can be seen to be charting his own way through the twenty five sitting judges of the apex court. In his short stint, he has been seen mainly as part of a bench presided by the Chief Justice Dipak Misra and other judges but this hasn’t stopped him from expressing himself on any issue- be it in agreement with other judges or as a minority view.
As somebody who is a proponent of free speech and equality in the courtroom, he demonstrates the same in his judgments and his contribution to matters of constitutional law, human rights, gender equality has come to become invaluable. He is known for his liberal stand on most sensitive issues and is not afraid to exercise judicial independence.
His ability to express his thoughts in a straightforward yet defined manner and author judgments that are free of complex legalese has made him popular with the masses who can be seen sharing his views on critical issues like privacy, Section 377, adultery etc on forums like Twitter.
According to senior advocate Sanjay Hegde, in a country where there is a great deal of pressure to conform, he is not afraid to be seen as a liberal and is not in any manner a follower of the ‘stiff upper lip’ school of judges.
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”. That explains his approach to judging, but he is firm when he comes to a conclusion says Hegde as somebody who has appeared before him in court for several matters.
Due to his non-conformist views, he has also emerged as the new dissenting voice in the Supreme Court after the retirement of Justice J. Chelameswar. In one such historical instance, he overruled a judgment of his father Justice Y.V. Chandrachud who at the time of emergency in 1975 had held that the right to liberty could be suspended during such time. He did not shy away from calling his father’s judgment ‘flawed’. Once again, he did not back down from being the sole voice of dissent against the government’s Aadhaar program and has beautifully explained why he believes it should be held unconstitutional.
Even during the Aadhaar hearings he stood out among the other judges for posing critical and insightful questions relating to privacy, data collection, authentication, biometrics to the government.
“The last few months have been the finest in Justice Chandrachud’s judicial work. He has consistently held the constitution in the highest regard. His exceptional dissent in Aadhaar has paved way for a challenge in the future. In the Bhima Koregaon issue too, he has recognized the power of dissent as a safety valve of democracy. I hope this is only the beginning of him being a vanguard to our Constitution. At times such as these where democracy is under attack we need more of such judges”, said lawyer and human rights activist, Nikita Agarwal.
It would not be a leap to say that he has been instrumental in shaping the privacy jurisprudence of the country. His views and legal acumen in the privacy judgment authored by him where he has recognized the importance of dignity, individual autonomy and personal liberty in great detail are going to serve as precedent for future cases.
The first of such kind was the decriminalization of Section 377, that partially emanated from the principles on sexual choice and autonomy laid down by him in the August privacy judgment where he termed sexual orientation as an essential attribute to privacy.
With the credits rolling in his name, Justice Chandrachud sets a fit example of the magnitude of change one can affect in such a short span of time and if we are fortunate enough, there will be more such strong judicial voices in the times to come.