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Judgments Upholding Freedom Of Expression, Choice And Privacy: CJI Chandrachud Has Much To Live Up To 

He has been part of landmark judgments; take the Sabarimala case where the majority Bench in September of 2018 ruled the prohibition of women at the Sabarimala Temple as unconstitutional.

Supreme Court Judge Justice DY Chandrachud. (Image : ANI)
Supreme Court Judge Justice DY Chandrachud. (Image : ANI)

With being part of several Supreme Court Benches which have ruled in favour of gender and personal rights, the newest Chief Justice of India, Justice DY Chandrachud’s term will have many expectations to live up to.  

He has been part of landmark judgments; take the Sabarimala case where the majority Bench in September of 2018 ruled the prohibition of women at the Sabarimala Temple as unconstitutional. In 2018, he was also part of the Bench which decriminalized gay sex, holding Section 377 of the IPC as an ‘anachronistic colonial law,’ which violated the fundamental rights to equality, freedom of expression, life and privacy.

Or taking into perspective his most recent judgment in September of this year; where as part of a three judge bench ruled on the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act (MTPA) that unmarried women in a consensual relationship were entitled to safe and legal abortions. 

Justice Chandrachud also gave a concurring opinion in Shafin Jahan vs Ashokan K.M. where the woman’s choice of religion and marital partner were upheld. The case took much precedence with political accusations of love jihad – the parents of the woman in the case decrying she was brainwashed.

But the court in April of 2018 ruled that Hadiya, who had converted to Islam and married the petitioner Shafin Jahan, had made the choice as an adult – one who had the right to make decisions in marriage or religion, falling within the ambit of privacy.  

Justice Chandrachud in his order said a “grievous miscarriage of justice” had taken place in the case which “shall not again be visited either on Hadiya or any other citizen” adding further “what to my mind, is disconcerting, is the manner in 43 which the liberty and dignity of a citizen have been subjected to judicial affront.” 

Last month, he had during an address to students of the National Law University (NLU) in New Delhi, advised them to incorporate “feminist thinking” in the way they deal with the law. 

Aadhar constitutionality questioned and Right to privacy bestowed 

In total, Justice Chandrachud during his career in the Supreme Court, in under six years, has written 513 Judgments, and was a part of 1057 Benches, according to stats by Supreme Court Observer . In fact, it says, that among the sitting SC Judges, Justice Chandrachud has written the most number of Judgments, which includes a total of 45 matters of the Constitution where he has administered judgments, and 89 judgments related to criminal cases and 94 related to Service matters. 

Justice Chandrachud has also delivered judgments on the Constitutionality of Aadhaar Act where he was the sole judge from the 5 judge bench to dissent. While the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act was upheld by the other four judges, Justice Chandrachud spoke of the “need to harmonise the commitment to social welfare while safeguarding the fundamental values of a liberal constitutional democracy” he had also asked in his judgement whether “technologies which are held out to bring opportunities for growth, also violate fundamental human freedoms?”  

He also gave dissented in the Romila Thapar v Union of India which was on the arrest of 5 human rights activists for allegedly instigating violence at Bhima Koregaon and participating in a criminal conspiracy against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The petitioners has contended that arrests violated the accused of their fundamental rights to free expression and personal liberty guaranteed by Articles 19 and 21 of the Constitution and sought for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the arrest of the activists. 

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On September 28th, 2018, the Court delivered its Judgment where two of the judges allowed Maharashtra Police’s investigation to continue, while only Justice Chandrachud suggested for a SIT. 

Another major judgment was the 2017, nine-judge bench order of the Supreme Court where it was unanimously affirmed that the Constitution of India guarantees the fundamental right to privacy. Justice Chandrachud recognised the right to privacy and dignity as an intrinsic part of the right to life. He was also part of the five judge bench on the Babri Masjid / Ram Janmabhoomi site dispute, unanimously, in 2019, clearing the way for the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed sit at Ayodhya.