13, Feb 2019 | CJP Team
Supreme Court Justice D Y Chandrachud, who is best known for penning dissenting judgments in landmark cases like Aadhaar and the arrest of well-known human rights activists, (where he stated “Dissent is the Safety Valve of Democracy“), reaffirmed his fierce commitment to defending constitutional values and democratic principles, with an extraordinary speech in Mumbai.
Speaking at the Bombay High Court at the Justice K.T Desai Memorial Lecture organized by the Bombay Bar Association on the subject of ‘Why Constitution Matters’, Justice Chandrachud began by tracing the genesis of the Constitution to the many episodes of India’s freedom struggle, including the struggle for ‘self rule’ where a ‘simple demand’ was made for a “governing document of the people, by the people and for the people”.
The entire speech may be viewed here:
Describing the Constitution as a document as a “home grown constitution, rooted in our soil” and as something that is common to all Indians, despite our diversity and differences, Justice Chandrachud, significantly, also drew attention to ‘parallel movements’ of social emancipation that accompanied the freedom movement, mentioning in particular Babasaheb Ambedkar and Jyotiba Phule.
Quoting eminent jurist Nani Palkhivala, Justice Chandrachud said, “The constitution represents the charter of power granted by liberty and not the charter of liberty granted by power.” He then made an extraordinary plea to the ‘people who work the constitution’ sometimes go terribly wrong!
Chandrachud’s words had weight, dignity and power and the audience listened in rapt attention as he said, “When we jail a cartoonist for sedition, or when jail instead of bail is given to a blogger who is critical of our religious architecture, when a mob lynches a person for the food when she or he eats, the constitution is lynched. When we deny to human beings the power of love for reasons of religion and caste, it is the constitution which is made to weep.”
At a time when the long shadow of extra-constitutional forces is steadily undermining India’s democratic institutions, often without as much as a whimper of protest from those at the helm, Justice Chandrachud’s extraordinary words will surely go down in history as a measure of the kind of personal and judicial integrity that make India what it is.
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