Justice DY Chandrachud is considered one of the most hailed and progressive voices in the Supreme Court. During his service in the Supreme Court, he has been on the highest number of Constitution Benches (five judges or more), which have been constituted to hear matters on constitutional questions. He has delivered various judgments on Indian constitutional law, human rights, gender justice, public interest litigation, commercial law, and criminal law.
Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, gained appreciation through his two popular dissenting opinions in the Aadhaar case and the arrest of activists for alleged involvement in the Bhima-Koregaon violence as he placed personal liberty above the government’s power to curb fundamental rights for the larger public interest. In this article, we will discuss CJI Chandrachud’s early life, his landmark judgments, the criticisms he faced, and many more.
Who is Justice DY Chandrachud?
In one of the landmark judgments, Justice DY Chandrachud overturned his father, former Chief Justice of India YV Chandrachud’s 1985 ruling, i.e., by striking down Section 497 IPC (adultery law), stating that it destroyed women's dignity and self-respect as it treated them as their husbands' chattel and offended their sexual freedom. This was not the first time he had differed from his father's view. Even in the right to privacy case, Justice DY Chandrachud had overruled his father’s 1976 decision stating that the judgment was flawed & life and personal liberty are inalienable to human rights. We can say that he acted unbiasedly, and many of his judgments have greatly impacted our society.
Justice DY Chandrachud Profile and Early Life
Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud was born in 1959 and is the son of YV Chandrachud, the longest-serving Chief Justice of India.
DY Chandrachud completed his LLB from Delhi University and went to Harvard for his LLM.
CJI Chandrachud was appointed a judge of India’s Supreme Court on May 13, 2016, by then President Pranab Mukherjee. Also, he will be in office until 2024.
CJI Chandrachud was also the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court from October 31, 2013, until his appointment to the Supreme Court.
Before this, he was also a judge in the Bombay High Court from March 29, 2000.
CJI Chandrachud was also appointed as the director of the Maharashtra Judicial Academy.
CJI DY Chandrachud practised law at the Supreme Court of India and the Bombay High Court.
He had also been a visiting professor of Comparative Constitutional Law at the University of Mumbai and the Oklahoma University School of Law, US & had given lectures in prestigious international universities like Harvard Law School, Yale Law School, etc.
CJI DY Chandrachud was also a speaker at conferences organized by bodies of the United Nations, including the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation, etc.
Justice DY Chandrachud in Supreme Court
As we know, Justice Chandrachud was uplifted to the Supreme Court in May 2016. Since then, he has been handpicked by three successive CJIs, T.S. Thakur, J.S. Khehar, and Dipak Misra primarily to sit with them in the Courtroom. Thereby making him a part of big judgments in SC.
In the past few years, he has been on benches that have delivered more than 220 judgments, such as judgments on privacy, euthanasia, decriminalization of homosexuality, adultery, entry of women into Sabarimala, the Hadiya case, the medical college cases, and the case of playing the national anthem in cinema halls.
Justice Chandrachud has been very engaging with the advocates. However, it is also nice to know that he also comes down heavily on senior advocates for speaking over him in court.
Landmark Judgments by Justice DY Chandrachud
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India (2018)
In this case, the 5 Judge bench referred this case to a 9 Judge bench for re-affirmation. Justice DY Chandrachud was the sole dissenter who held that Aadhaar was unconstitutionally passed as a Money Bill. He analyzed the idea of privacy as being based on autonomy and a significant side of dignity. Dignity cannot exist without privacy. Both reside within the inalienable values of life, liberty, and freedom, which is recognized by our Indian Constitution.
Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India (2018)
In this case, Justice Chandrachud wrote a separate opinion in the decriminalized section 377 of the IPC and made same-sex intercourse legal. It was unanimously held by the 5 Judges bench that section 377 is an ‘anachronistic colonial law,’ which violated the fundamental rights to equality, freedom of expression, life, and privacy. He added that this could only be seen as a first step in guaranteeing LGBT individuals their constitutional rights.
Shafin Jahan v Ashokan K.M. (2018)
This case upheld Hadiya’s religious choice and marriage partner. Hadiya had converted to Islam and married the petitioner Shafin Jahan, and it was alleged by her parents that she was brainwashed to marry the petitioner. Justice Chandrachud reiterated in this case that an adult’s right to decide marriage or religion falls within her right to privacy under the Indian Constitution.
Indian Young Lawyers Association v State of Kerala (2018)
Justice Chandrachud held that not allowing women between the ages of 10 and 50 to enter the Sabarimala Temple violated their constitutional morality. He further added that it subverted their autonomy, liberty, and dignity. He further held that the custom violated Article 17, which prohibits untouchability, as it assigns a notion of impurity to women.
Romila Thapar v Union of India (2018)
Justice DY Chandrachud showed his dissent in this case regarding the arrest of 5 human rights activists for allegedly inciting violence at Bhima Koregaon and participating in a criminal conspiracy against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He stated that the issue was whether the arrests violated the accused's fundamental right to free expression and right to personal liberty under Articles 19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution and passed the opinion that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) must probe the arrest of the activists.
Government of NCT of Delhi v Union of India (2018)
Justice Chandrachud, in this case, held that the Lieutenant Governor is not the executive head of Delhi. Since representative democracy is a crucial feature of the executive, it must be led by the Chief Minister and Council of Ministers. He held that the Lieutenant Governor is bound by the Chief Minister’s advice and has no independent power under the Indian Constitution.
Tehseen Poonawalla v Union of India (2018)
Justice Chandrachud dismissed the demand for an inquiry into the death of Judge Loya. Judge Loya was hearing the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. However, Justice Chandrachud was criticized for this step taken.
Abhiram Singh v C.D. Commachen (Dead) By Lrs.& Ors (2017)
A constitutional bench was constituted in the Supreme Court, which held that electoral candidates could not seek votes on religion. Justice Chnadrachud delivered his dissenting opinion in the case. He distinguished between blanket communal appeals and grievance-based communal appeals, stating that the former is solely prohibited under the Representation of People Act, 1951.
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017)
A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court was constituted unanimously, which held that the Indian Constitution provides the fundamental right to privacy. Justice Chandrachud authored the majority decision in this case, talking for himself and Justices Khehar, RK Agarwal, and Abdul Nazeer. He clearly stated that the right to privacy and dignity as an intrinsic part of the right to life.
Joseph Shine v Union of India (2018)
Justice Chandrachud agreed with the majority opinion in decriminalizing adultery. He observed that section 497 IPC violated Articles 14, 15, and 21 of the Constitution. He read down section 198(2) CrPC and held that decriminalizing adultery was rooted in patriarchal notions and had resulted in centuries of female subjugation.
Criticism of judgments by J. Chandrachud
Many liberals have applauded J. Chandrachud’s dissent on judgments such as Aadhaar and Bhima-Koregaon. A few judgments by him invited criticisms as well, such as the unanimous judgments in two most renowned cases, the death of judge B.H. Loya and the CJI being ‘master of the roster.’ He was criticized in these two cases as it was alleged that he acted unconsciously, resulting in relief for the government in the former case and relief for CJI Misra in the subsequent case. It was alleged that he acted biased.
Another of his ruling criticized by both the government and the public was the verdict banning liquor vends on highways. When this ruling attracted criticism, the Supreme Court substantially diluted its judgment but refused to recall it.