The Legacy of Justice Chandrachud: A Reflection on Constitutional Stalwart and the Contemporary Judiciary


In the annals of India’s judicial history, Justice Yashwant Vishnu Chandrachud stands as a towering figure, a beacon of judicial integrity, and a custodian of constitutional principles. As the longest-serving Chief Justice of India, his tenure from February 1978 to July 1985 was marked by a series of landmark judgments that continue to shape the nation’s legal landscape.

During his tenure, Justice Chandrachud presided over a period of political turbulence, witnessing the tenures of four Prime Ministers from diverse ideological backgrounds – Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi. His leadership during such a tumultuous era earned him the moniker “Iron Hand,” a testament to his unwavering commitment to upholding the rule of law.

One of Justice Chandrachud’s seminal contributions was in the Minerva Mill case, where he articulated the concept of the “Basic Structure” of the Constitution. This landmark decision established the limits on the government and Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution, safeguarding its fundamental principles from arbitrary changes.

In the Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation case, Justice Chandrachud expanded the right to life, recognizing the right to employment and residence as integral components. His rulings in the Puthuswamy case defined the “Right to Privacy,” emphasizing individual freedoms in the face of advancing technology.

Notably, in the Gurbaksh Singh vs Punjab case, he affirmed anticipatory bail as a civil right under Article 21, showcasing his commitment to protecting individual liberties. However, a nuanced critique arises from his stance in a Habeas Corpus case during emergencies, where he allowed the suspension of the right to life, a decision viewed by some as regressive.

Yet, Justice Chandrachud’s 338 judgments as a Supreme Court judge served as a lodestar for interpreting laws, consistently favoring democracy and civil liberties. His pivotal role in the Shah Bano case, which compelled constitutional amendments, remains etched in India’s collective memory, underscoring his profound impact on shaping societal norms.

Fast forward to the present, where his son, Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, ascends to the position of Chief Justice of India. However, a somber reflection sets in as the contemporary judiciary grapples with challenges to its credibility. The article posits that the judiciary, once synonymous with upholding justice against governmental overreach, now appears entangled in political dynamics, compromising its autonomy.

The decline in the judiciary’s credibility is portrayed as a longstanding issue, with references to the tenure of former Chief Justice Gogoi. The author asserts that this decline is irreversible and permanent, noting the Supreme Court’s perceived reluctance to challenge the government, even under the stewardship of a Chandrachud.

As the article nears its conclusion, the author juxtaposes the popularity of the current Chief Justice with the legacy of Justice Chandrachud Sr., emphasizing that the judiciary’s credibility is forged not through popularity but through a steadfast commitment to constitutional principles.

In a poignant closing, the author expresses concern for the current Chief Justice’s career, remarking that while his popularity may soar, the true measure of a jurist lies in the legacy of decisions and the ability to stand with justice, irrespective of political pressures.

In a nuanced exploration of the past and present, the article provides readers with a comprehensive understanding of Justice Chandrachud’s legacy and prompts contemplation on the contemporary state of India’s judiciary.

Courtesy: Manish Singh X post

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