Presenting judgments many times in stark contrast to those of his co-judges, the Supreme Court’s Justice Dhananjaya Yashwant Chandrachud has established that he intends to uphold the values of the Indian Constitution – even if his is the lone dissenting voice echoing in the chambers of country’s highest judicial body.
His judgments from the recent past have been consolation to many for his apparent willingness to stand up to government, tradition, and religion. His coming tenure as Chief Justice of India from November 2022 to November 2024, therefore, could be a much awaited one for long-oppressed sections of society.
Here are some key takeaways from his high-profile judgments:
The Hadiya Marriage Case
This case would decide if the Court had authority to annul the marriage of two adults on suspicion of ‘forced consent’. Justice Chandrachud in his judgment said:
Earlier this year on 8 March, the Supreme Court set aside the Kerala High Court's annulment of Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jahan and recognised their marriage, putting aside the allegations of love jihad.
Bhima-Koregaon Activists’ Arrests
In his minority judgment, Justice Chandrachud labeled the prosecution of the five activists “criminal”.
The Supreme Court on Friday, 28 September, ruled that the activists in the Bhima Koregaon case will continue under house arrest for four more weeks. The SC pronounced a 2:1 verdict on a plea by historian Romila Thapar and others seeking the immediate release of the five human rights activists.
Justice Chandrachud in his judgment ruled that individual liberty must be upheld.
The verdict by the Supreme Court on 9 March this year announced that, akin to the right to live, the Right to die with dignity is also a fundamental right. As a result, India’s highest judiciary body decided to allow passive euthanasia.
Justice Chandrachud’s judgment noted that liberty, dignity and autonomy are essential to the pursuit of happiness and to find meaning in human existence.
Right to Privacy
As part of a unanimous verdict, Justice Chandrachud again lauded the “dignity of the individual”.
On 23 August this year, the nine judges bench presiding over the judgment unanimously agreed that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right and that it is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Whatsapp-Facebook Privacy Case
On the Aadhaar Act
Justice Chandrachud in his judgment stated that “[mobile phones’] seeding with Aadhaar poses a grave threat to privacy, liberty, autonomy.”
One of the most contested segments of the Aadhaar Act 2016 – Section 57 – was struck down by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday, 26 September.
While ruling on the constitutionality of the Act, Justices Chandrachud and Sikri – part of the five-member bench – called Section 57 “unconstitutional” saying that no corporate firm can henceforth ask for Aadhaar details.
In a majority verdict, with the lone woman judge Indu Malhotra writing the only dissent, Justice Chandrachud ruled that excluding women from worship denied “one of the most basic postulates of human dignity”.
In a 4:1 verdict, the Supreme Court granted women of all age groups entry into Kerala's Sabarimala temple, breaking the temple's age-old tradition of restricting menstruating women from entering its premises.
The Matter of Judge Loya’s Death
One case that remains Justice Chandrachud’s Achilles’ heel is his judgment in the case around the death of CBI Judge BH Loya, who was presiding over the Sohrabuddin trial.
Along with the bench, Justice Chandrachud dismissed a probe to investigate CBI Judge BH Loya’s death, who died under suspicious circumstances, according to The Caravan’s report.
The petitioners who had moved the Supreme Court questioned why CBI Judge Loya’s name was entered wrongly in the hospital register by four men, raising suspicions of foul play. Justice Chandrachud had argued that under the normal course of human events, his four colleagues would be more concerned about getting Judge Loya attended to medically, than with filling up an admission form.
On 19 April, the Constitution bench dismissed the petition seeking investigation into Judge BH Loya’s death and “stated the death to be natural and such petitions to be an attack on the Judiciary”.