Illuminating the Jurisprudential Odyssey of Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud

Introduction

Embarking on a legal odyssey that spans the realms of justice, equity, and constitutional interpretation, Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud stands as a stalwart in the Indian judiciary. This comprehensive exploration seeks to unravel the multifaceted facets of Justice Chandrachud’s illustrious career, shedding light on his early life, legal philosophy, landmark judgments, and the impact he has made on the Indian judicial landscape.

The time spent at Delhi University also exposed the Maharashtrian boy to the culture, diversity and stories of persons from different walks of life while also helping him acquire colloquial Hindi. It was also the Emergency years, and Chandrachud describes the atmosphere at the university as hushed, but notes that despite the curbs, vibrant meetings and gatherings happened, which set the tone for a society founded on the core values of liberty and free speech. These ideals have been at the heart of Chandrachud’s most significant judgments.

Chandrachud did his master’s in law and also obtained a doctorate in judicial sciences at Harvard University. He began his career as an advocate practising in the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. He has often spoken about having fond memories of the times he spent in the Bombay High Court, first as a lawyer and then as a judge. He was among the youngest to be designated a senior advocate at the age of 39 in 1998. He also served as additional solicitor general of India from 1998 to 2000, until he was appointed as a judge of the Bombay High Court. In 2013, he was appointed chief justice of the Allahabad High Court and was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2016.

Order of succession: Justice Chandrachud with outgoing Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit | PTIOrder of succession: Justice Chandrachud with outgoing Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit | PTI

Chandrachud, who is commonly referred to as ‘DYC’, is especially popular with the younger set. Law students and interns come to his court to hear him. The feeling is mutual as Chandrachud is described by his peers and juniors as being young at heart and keen to learn new things, be it in the field of law or even books, movies and music from the experiences of his judicial clerks who come from varied backgrounds. He always accepts invitations to speak at events in law colleges, but the same cannot be said about other events.

The multi-faceted man loves to read and travel but desists from socialising as it eats into his ‘me time’. If his original favourites in music included Bob Dylan and ABBA, he has kept up to date by listening to Coldplay and later on ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi.

Chandrachud’s family is originally from Pune; he was born and brought up in Mumbai. Both his parents were deeply immersed in Indian classical music. His father was trained in classical music, while his mother, Prabha, sang for the All India Radio. One of his prized possessions is an autograph from the legendary Kishori Amonkar. If music, besides law, formed the backdrop of his growing up years, there was also passion for cricket which he shared with his father. He was a big fan of Sunil Gavaskar and later Sachin Tendulkar, and his current favourite is Virat Kohli.

Senior advocate Ajit Bhasme, who grew up with Chandrachud in Mumbai and was two years his senior in school, remembers the judge as a good natured, sporty youngster who loved to play cricket in the building compound, his playmates including the likes of the children of film star Shashi Kapoor as also the kids from the servants’ quarters. “He is a hard worker. He has no vices except for his obsession with work,” said Bhasme. “He has the ability to build bridges and reach out to people who may not be in agreement with him. I am confident that as CJI he will be able to take along his judge colleagues and also reach out to the bar and resolve their issues.”

Chandrachud’s first wife, Rashmi, had died from cancer in 2007. Some years later, he married Kalpana Das, who was formerly working with the British Council. His elder son, Abhinav, practises law at the Bombay High Court and younger son, Chintan, is employed with a law firm in the UK.

Chandrachud, the judge with a vision for the future, is best understood when placed against the backdrop of the formidable legal legacy that he inherits from his father, who holds the record for the longest tenure as CJI―seven years. He has spoken about having imbibed from his father, whom he has described as his best friend, the importance of law having a human face. That said, it is also in having differed with his father’s judgments that he has established himself as a judge who is not afraid to offer a different opinion.

It is learnt that a fellow judge had even cautioned Chandrachud as he went on to overrule his father’s judgement with regard to adultery in 2018, saying that it was a well reasoned verdict. However, Chandrachud was convinced that it was erroneous. He was part of a five-judge Constitution bench that unanimously struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional, thus decriminalising adultery.

Step 1: Early Life and Legal Pedigree

Heritage and Upbringing: Delving into Justice Chandrachud’s heritage and upbringing provides insights into the formative influences that shaped his legal acumen. Hailing from a distinguished legal lineage, his father’s legacy as a former Chief Justice of India adds an enriching layer to his narrative.

Educational Journey: Tracing his educational journey, this section navigates through Justice Chandrachud’s academic pursuits, highlighting milestones, accolades, and the intellectual foundation that paved the way for his eminent legal career.

Step 2: Judicial Ascendancy

Judicial Appointments: Detailing Justice Chandrachud’s rise through the judicial echelons, this section outlines key appointments, from his tenure as a judge in the Bombay High Court to his eventual elevation to the Supreme Court of India.

Philosophical Tenets: Exploring Justice Chandrachud’s judicial philosophy provides an understanding of his interpretative approach, constitutional values, and commitment to upholding justice and individual freedoms.

Step 3: Landmark Judgments

Right to Privacy: Diving into Justice Chandrachud’s pivotal role in recognizing the right to privacy as a fundamental right showcases his commitment to protecting individual liberties, as evidenced in the landmark Aadhaar judgment.

Section 377 Verdict: Analyzing his stance on decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations under Section 377 reflects his progressive outlook and dedication to ensuring equal rights for all citizens.

Step 4: Legal Activism and Reforms

Legal Activism: Highlighting instances of Justice Chandrachud’s legal activism beyond the courtroom underscores his commitment to societal justice and the rule of law.

Calls for Judicial Reforms: Examining his advocacy for judicial reforms and transparency within the judiciary illuminates his dedication to enhancing the efficiency and accountability of the legal system.

Step 5: Legacy and Impact

Influence on Jurisprudence: Discussing Justice Chandrachud’s influence on evolving jurisprudential trends showcases how his judgments have contributed to shaping constitutional interpretations and legal discourse.

Public Perception and Recognition: Exploring the public perception and recognition bestowed upon Justice Chandrachud underlines his standing as a respected jurist and guardian of constitutional values.

DISCUSSIONS AND PROGRAMS

The Supreme Court of India scheduled a program to discuss various aspects of the Constitution to advance democratic ideals on November 26, 2022, in order to uphold the tradition of marking Constitution Day jointly by all three organs of the State. The Honorable Prime Minister gave the Inaugural Address and opened the event. The Valedictory Speech was given by Her Excellency the President of India. In November 2022, the Chief Justices’ Conference’s working sessions—which were presided over by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India—discussed a number of issues pertaining to “Envisioning a futuristic judiciary.”

This month, the Supreme Court of India hosted the first Annual Lecture on the subject of “The Role of Judiciary in a Changing World” by Hon’ble Mr. Justice Sundaresh Menon, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Singapore, to mark the 73rd anniversary of the founding of the Supreme Court of India.

Hon’ble Justice Sanjay T Tailor, Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District, led a group of 23 US State Court Judges, including Indian-American Judges, to meet with Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India to discuss matters pertaining to judicial functioning. The Supreme Court of India held its first-ever hackathon to find creative solutions and investigate workable ideas for improving and streamlining the current processes from “filing” to “listing” court proceedings. The event was a step in the process to improve organizational procedures and introduce changes to the Registry’s operations.

IT IMPLICATIONS

E-SCR

As a tribute to the country, on January 2, 2023, the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India introduced eSCR, the electronic version of Supreme Court Reports (SCR), the official journal of the Supreme Court of India. The site offers the ability to search judgements based on numerous criteria, including phrase, words, all words, the name of the Hon. Judge, bench strength, volume, citation, date of decision, etc. There are more than 34,000 judgments available online. The portal offers free access to Supreme Court Reports that have been released since 1950. 34,055 judgements total have been uploaded in English thus far. After 4 weeks of its debut, on January 26, 2023, the Supreme Court of India announced several additional features on the e-SCR webpage as an upgrade. The new service offers translated copies of Supreme Court judgments in Indian languages with the goal of facilitating access to judgments in scheduled languages. There are now 3132 decisions available in Indian languages (Hindi- 2952, Tamil – 52, Malayalam- 29, Telugu – 28, Odia -21, Kannada- 17, Marathi-14, Assamese & Punjabi- 4 each, Nepali, Gujarati & Urdu- 3 each, Garo and Khasi – 1 each).

Word proximity search, another function added to e-SCR, allows for the searching of words within specified vicinity. This function helps the user focus their search to produce more relevant results.

SLIPPING ONLINE APPEARANCE

The creation of the Advocate Appearance Slip Portal, which intends to do away with manual filing of appearance by the Advocates-on-Record, is one of the initiatives that have been pushed for guaranteeing smooth access to justice through the use of technology and to make the working of the Registry paperless. Since its introduction, 1,42,818 online appearance slips have been made, and at least as many paper appearance slips have also been archived.

DIGITALIZATION OF DOCUMENTS

In order to ensure that the judiciary makes the best use of technology, the process of scanning and supplying soft paper books for paperless court functioning was motivated by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India’s forward-looking view. The PIL department has also made significant technological advancements and is aiming toward petitions being processed electronically.

e-HRMS with e-OFFICE

Initiating the process of implementing e-HRMS in the Registry and implementing the e-Office module in a few administrative sections of the Supreme Court of India are two other quick-moving initiatives that are aimed at achieving not only an environmentally friendly, paperless operation of the Registry but would also go a long way in maintaining employee records and effective administration.

MODULE FOR ANNUAL PROPERTY RETURNS

The annual property returns for every officer and representative of the Registry can be submitted online. Another epaulette on the shoulders of the Registry to reduce paper use and make work processes more efficient and ecologically friendly is the joint initiative of the Computer Cell and the Vigilance Cell to establish the annual property module.

VIDEO-CONFERENCE

The Computer Cell was crucial in ensuring that the video conferencing (VC) infrastructure and services are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week in high availability mode following the Competent Authority’s decision to continue VC in physical-hybrid mode. 2,53,919 people attended VC proceedings at the Supreme Court of India between November 9, 2022, and February 15, 2023. 43 Constitution Bench proceedings have also been live-streamed throughout the same time period via YouTube and NIC’s webcast services.

SUPREME COURT ACCESSIBILITY COMMITTEE

A committee called the “Supreme Court Committee on Accessibility,” headed by Honorable Mr. Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, has been established with the broad objectives of conducting an accessibility audit of the Supreme Court’s facilities and operations, releasing a questionnaire for people with disabilities who visit the Supreme Court’s facilities (including employees, attorneys, litigants, interns, etc.), and preventing future problems from occurring. Surveys have been developed and agreed in meetings and will be posted on the Supreme Court website within a week to solicit input from stakeholders and experts in disability rights.

WORKOUTS & WELLNESS

For the officers and employees of the Registry, training courses in stress management, communication and presentation skills, organizational behavior & ethics and value in public governance, critical thinking, problem solving & decision making are now being held. The Supreme Court Staff is beginning to use the newly opened Health and Wellness Center, which includes rooms for yoga and cardio exercises in addition to standard gym equipment. For the employees’ health and wellbeing, the CGHS Wellness Centre’s amenities are being upgraded.

The Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) will soon be put in the CGHS Wellness Center at the Supreme Court under the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India’s direction

Conclusion

Justice Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud’s legal journey emerges as a saga marked by intellectual prowess, unwavering commitment to justice, and a progressive vision for the Indian legal landscape. From his early life and educational pursuits to landmark judgments and advocacy for legal reforms, Justice Chandrachud’s legacy is etched in the annals of Indian judiciary, symbolizing a beacon of justice, equity, and constitutional values.

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