18, Aug 2019 | Sonal Saigal
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud (59), often referred to as the “voice of the dissent” at the apex court, spoke on ‘Imagining Freedom Through Art’ at the seventh Literature Live on Saturday.
Well known for his views in judgements on Right to Privacy, decriminalisation of Section 377 and the Sabarimala temple case, the former additional solicitor general of India, who finished his schooling in Mumbai and practised law at the Bombay High Court, spoke about the urban fabric of the city that weaves together art, culture, business and politics.
Justice Chandrachud said, “It is here that Victorian architecture and skyscrapers sit side by side perhaps with a generous wink from the building regulations. As we commemorate the 72nd year of Independence, let us not gloss over the fact that the many Dharavis are a grim reminder of the incomplete task of freedom. Freedom which was achieved but sadly still to be realised.”
He said the instrumental power of art brings to the forefront not the act of doing something, but what the act really signifies. He said, “Art with its nuances of creation and creating, of metaphor and embedded meaning, can communicate a message where words fail. Art as a process — sight and form — enhances the understanding of the human condition through alternative processes and representational forms.”
He added that art serves an intrinsic purpose to allow the expression and shaping of identity, leaning towards the self actualisation of human beings as well as an extrinsic purpose of bringing into collective consciousness the vast oppressions that plague society. Justice Chandrachud said “all art is political” and spoke about it from three different dimensions: caste, disability and environment. He then spoke about Dalit literature and gave examples on how it draws its own identity from history and connotations.
He said, “For the disabled, art may be the only way of expressing freedom.” He mentioned the caption of the Amul ad on the Mandal Commission: “Caste no bar, Class no bar, Amul baar baar.” He went on to give examples of expressing messages on saving and safeguarding the environment through art. He said, “Any attack on art is attack on freedom.”
In conversation with noted corporate lawyer Zia Mody, Justice Chandrachud spoke about the law. He said a Supreme Court judge hears about 250 cases in week, but “law has its limitations in curing injustice”. He added, “Law must be a facilitator. It survives on social sciences.” The former Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court said, “We need to modernise the Indian judiciary.”
The event was organised by JSW and The Oberoi and was attended by personalities such as actors Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah, educationist Nandini Sardesai, theatre artist Dolly Thakore, senior advocate Iqbal Chagla, eminent journalist Mark Tully, independent journalist Kalpana Sharma, activist Teesta Setalvad, and adman Prahlad Kakkar.
The original piece may be read here.