As everyone is aware by now, Justice Dhananjaya Yashwant Chandrachud is set to become the 50th Chief Justice of India on November 9, 2022. Justice Chandrachud is a legendary legal luminary who knows his law and his court well. In the past six years, as a member of the Supreme Court (SC), Justice Chandrachud has delivered so many landmark judgments which have made a positive impact on the public and turned him into a hero in the eyes of many and, along with that, an eyesore for many others as well.
No doubt there are a few judgments by Justice Chandrachud which, in the eyes of many in the legal fraternity, are not quite fit (as anyone can have a different and even opposite opinion), but I won't go there because a justice is also a human being and making mistakes is part of what makes ushuman. So that might well be the case if someone feels that some judgment pronounced by Justice Chandrachud is not on par with their expectations, be it the Judge Loya case or the Ram Mandir case.
Every justice has their own style of working and their own merit, talent and understanding of the law and questions on facts of the case they are adjudicating. From the days of Justice Chandrachud's practice as an advocate and then after his elevation as a justice of the Bombay High Court, he has always worked on democratic values and tried to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution of India. The dissent by Justice Chandrachud in the Aadhaar judgment, that the Aadhaar Act being passed by the Parliament as a money bill was nothing short of a fraud on the Constitution, sums up his understanding of the law and the Constitution of India. He further attributed the linking of Aadhaar with any other identity card and with the PAN card as being completely against the right to privacy mentioned under the fundamental rights provided by the Constitution. He gave a completely different decision from the judgment his father, Chief Justice YV Chandrachud, delivered 41 years earlier and overruled it. In his judgment, Justice DY Chandrachud wrote, “The right to privacy is enshrined in the Constitution, it emerges from the guarantee of life and personal liberty under Article 21.”
Providing a permanent commission for women in the armed forces to declaring section 377 of the Indian Penal Code unconstitutional and providing the rights of the LGBT community are some of his landmark judgments which strengthen the faith of the common and the marginalised citizen in the judiciary. His recent judgment giving women the right to abortion is no doubt a remarkable judgment in the field of democratic feminism and makes his image much taller than that of some other legal personalities around the world.
Justice Chandrachud is a strict and disciplined justice who believes in the rule of law. He rarely allows adjournments in the cases he deals with, and follows the law very efficiently. He is a tall advocate of a free press and independent media and that is why his landmark judgments in the case of television anchor Arnab Goswami’s bail plea and in the recent case of fact-checker journalist Mohammed Zubair's bail plea have brought him international applause for upholding media freedom. Recently he did something that had never been done by any other justice in the history of the SC when he held hearings till 9pm for matters on the daily general cause list and not for some special matter. This was a bold decision and I was personally attending proceedings of that night court as my matter was also heard around 8pm before being reserved for judgment.
I would rather not go into the political situation prevailing in the country today but I must quote the lines Justice Chandrachud wrote in a judgment where he said, “Dissent is the safety valve of a democracy.” His vision for virtual courts and electronic case files instead of paper-book files is something else and very much the need of the hour. In my humble opinion it is evident that Justice DY Chandrachud is currently among our biggest advocates of fundamental rights and the Constitution of India, and always tries to protect their values for smooth functioning of our democracy and our judicial system. I have heard him say once in a lecture that the Indian Constitution is so large-hearted that it protect the rights of even those who try to break it or have no faith in it.
I can see a better running of the democratic system in India when Justice Chandrachud takes over as Chief Justice of India. I hope he will try his best to overhaul the complex registry system of the SC as well as the complications in the running of governments. My best wishes to him.
Ilin Saraswat is an advocate practising at the Supreme Court of India