Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud said on Saturday that regardless of the government’s electoral legitimacy, the Constitution is the polar star against which the compliance of every state action or inaction should be judged.
He also asserted that majority tendencies must be challenged in the context of “our founding pledge.”
“Any semblance of authoritarianism, repression of civil liberties, sexism, casteism, otherness because of religion or region upsets a sacred promise made to our ancestors who accepted India as their constitutional republic” said Judge Chandrachud.
He was speaking on the topic Students as Vanguards of the Constitution during a program organized by Shikshan Prasarak Mandali (SPM), a Maharashtra-based organization that works in the field of education, at the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the birth of his father, Judge YV Chandrachud, who was India‘s longest-serving Chief Justice.
India would have entered well into the 71st year of constitutional republic and it is understandable that many might, on occasion, think that the country’s democracy is no longer new and that the need to study constitutional history and to commit to its framework is not worth it, he said.
“However, it is important to recognize that in times of peace or crisis, regardless of the government’s electoral legitimacy, the Constitution is the polar star against which the conformity of every state action or inaction should be judged, âhe said. .
He said that India as a nation was united by the promise of certain commitments and rights to every citizen such as religious freedom, equality between people regardless of sex, caste or religion, fundamental freedom of expression and movement – without undue state interference – and an enduring right to life and personal liberty.
âMajority trends, when and how they arise, must be challenged in the context of our founding pledge,â he said.
Judge Chandrachud remembered Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar and said that before leading a fierce battle against castes, patriarchy and oppressive Hindu practices, his first struggle was to access education.
âAs a person from the Mahar caste, an untouchable Dalit caste, Babasaheb had great difficulty in accessing primary education. His main memories of his schooling are the humiliation and segregation where he had to attend his classes while sitting outside the classroom, and being careful not to touch the water or the notebooks that belonged to him. students of the upper caste, âhe said, addressing students at educational institutions managed by SPM.
Judge Chandrachud said that Ambedkar ultimately held 26 degrees and titles, becoming one of the most educated Indians of his generation and that his education was not only a vehicle for his personal advancement, but left its imprints in foreknowledge. , the nuance and transformative potential of the Indian Constitution.
He added that just like Ambedkar, several revolutionaries in India and in the world like Savitribai Phule, Jyotiba Phule, Nelson Mandela or Malala Yousafzai announced their emancipation movements through an initial quest and, at that time and under these circumstances, radical education.
âThese stories are useful reminders that the privilege of education we have today, are the fruits of the most daring struggles and represent the dreams of our ancestors. The mantle is only handed down, as each generation is entrusted with the task of improving our society, âhe said.
Judge Chandrachud said he firmly believes that students can play a pivotal role in heralding progressive policies and cultures by using their formative years to challenge existing systems and hierarchies.
While remembering the roots of the student movements in India and their contribution to the struggle for Indian freedom since the formation of the Academic Association in 1828, Judge Chandrachud said: âThis courageous quest for justice by the students was not only against colonial rule, but against future injustice. thus, including the Emergency in 1975 when a democratically elected government restricted several civil liberties and muzzled freedom of expression, providing justification for an alleged internal disruption.
He said that the Constitution, in addition to other rights, guarantees civil and political freedoms such as the right to vote, the right to substantive equality, the right to life, liberty and fundamental freedoms of speech and expression are explicitly guaranteed as available “fundamental rights”. to all citizens, and some even to non-citizens.
He said that any violation of these fundamental rights could be litigated in a high court or the Supreme Court, and that an effective remedy could be guaranteed.
Supreme Court Justice Justice UU Lalit, whose father, Senior Counsel Umesh Lalit, had worked with Justice YV Chandrachud, also highlighted the contribution of the former Chief Justice of India and said that more than a dozen Constitutional Bench judgments are the beacon that shows the way for future generations.
Hailing Judge YV Chandrachud as his hero, Judge Lalit said he not only had a legal background but also had enormous knowledge in dealing with the country’s social problems and that his historic judgments reflect this vision.
Judge YV Chandrachud was appointed Chief Justice of India on February 22, 1978 and retired on July 11, 1985.