“The people who work the constitution may go terribly wrong and sometimes they do as 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 that she or he eats, it is the Constitution which is lynched. When we deny human beings the power of love for reasons of religion or caste, it is the Constitution made to weep.”
These were the words spoken by Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud. On February 10, Justice Chandrachud was invited to speak at the Justice Desai Memorial Lecture at the Bombay High Court. He was speaking on the topic of the Indian Constitution.
“Constitution, not a mere document”
Justice Chandrachud started his lecture with speaking of revered freedom fighter Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was incidentally tried in this very court and the same courtroom, a few decades ago.
He said that the Constitution was not conceived on December 9, 1946, when the Constituent Assembly sat together for drafting it. Rather, the seeds for the same were sown much earlier. “It first echoed in the battlefields of Bengal in 1857 rebellion,” he said. He further said that “Constitution is not a mere document” which signifies the transfer of power from the British crown to the Indian Republic, but it seeks to give the people the power of destiny. “This potential of this Constitutional document, in steering the course of the society it governs, lends it paramountcy in comparison to statute law,” he added.
He pointed a very poignant fact that the Constitution seeks to unify people beyond the immediate circle of acquaintance and aims to say that this is “something we have in common”. He said that the Constitution follows a “bottom-up” approach where the “people granted to themselves their structures of governance”.
He even quoted jurist Nanabhoy Palkhivala, “The Constitution represents the charter of power granted by liberty and not the charter of liberty granted by power. Liberty is not the gift of the state to the people, it is the people enjoying liberty as citizens of the free republic, who have granted power to the legislature and the executive.”
Justice Chandrachud concluded by saying, “Constitution works, even if it doesn’t matter to you. Constitution affects you, even if you don’t believe in it.”
About Justice DY Chandrachud
Justice DY Chandrachud was born on November 11, 1959, to Justice YV Chandrachud, the longest-serving CJI, and Prabha, a classical musician. A Harvard University alumnus, before becoming a judge in SC in 2016, Justice Chandrachud also served as the Chief Justice at Allahabad HC and a judge at the Bombay HC. During the last week of Dipak Misra as the CJI (his tenure was to end on October 2, 2018) when a lot of important cases like the Aadhaar law, Adultery law and live streaming of court proceeding were being heard, Justice Chandrachud emerged as the new dissenting voice.
In recent times too, some of the progressive thoughts he has expressed need to be heard and followed by one and all. On February 9, after four months of decriminalisation of the same-sex consensual relationships by the SC, Justice Chandrachud said that the real challenge still laid in the societal taboo against the LGBT community. In January, when Justice Chandrachud was addressing students of Gujarat National Law University during their convocation, called for de-construction of stereotypes of gender roles. He asked for men to participate equally in the fight for gender equality, as reported by NDTV.