DY Chandrachud, a judge on the Supreme Court who will take over as Chief Justice of India in November of this year for a two-year term, stated on Monday at a London event that there is a growing trend in India where courts are utilised as the only line of defence to settle difficult societal and policy-based challenges.
These statements were given by Justice Chandrachud during a lecture he gave on the subject of “Protecting human rights and preserving civil liberties: The role of courts in a democracy” at King’s College in London.
“The growing litigious trend in the country is indicative of the lack of patience in the political discourse. This result is a slippery slope where courts are regarded as the only organ of the State for realization of rights – obviating the need for continuous engagement with the legislature and the executive,” Justice Chandrachud said.
The Supreme Court, he said, “must not transcend its function by deciding issues needing the involvement of elected officials,” even though it must defend individuals’ fundamental rights.
A democratic society, which at its foundation must resolve disputes through public deliberation, conversation, and citizen involvement with their representatives and the Constitution, would not be served by doing so in addition to being a departure from the Court’s constitutionally mandated function.
He also covered a number of Supreme Court rulings that were important in defending citizens’ fundamental rights in his speech. He discussed diverse assessments of LGBTQ rights and gender rights.
“The struggles of the LGBTQ community have found a voice in the courts. The members of the LGBTQ community have lived, thrived, endured and loved through the beginning of time…in the face of stigma and prejudice, many have been forced to live their lives closeted from the ‘straight’ society. In turn, they have created their own communities, found liberation in solidarity as they together resisted the heteronormative order and have crafted their own language of ‘being’ when the labels that the society gave them fell short of the diversity that they had to offer to the world. LGBTQ liberation movements are gaining momentum today in India and have achieved certain legal milestones.”
When asked about the Supreme Court’s delay in taking up the Uttar Pradesh bulldozer demolitions case, he said, “Priority was given to the subject by the vacation bench. The initial step was the issuance of a notice. The topic was discussed even while on vacation.”
When questioned about other topics like the hijab and Article 370, he responded that it would not be appropriate to comment because the cases are still pending in court.
Justice Chandrachud discussed the rulings in Anuj Garg v. Hotel Association of India, Babita Puniya v. Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Lt. Col. Nitisha v. Union of India, Patan Jamal Vali v. Union of India, and others.
In Anuj Garg, the prohibition on the employment of women in liquor shops was overturned. In Babita Puniya, women were declared eligible for permanent commission in the armed forces (where the concept of intersectional discrimniation involving caste, gender and disability was disability was discussed).
Justice Chandrachud also cited rulings concerning the rights of people with disabilities. In the case of Vikas Kumar v. UPSC, the court determined that a person with writer’s cramp is entitled to the use of a scribe while taking the Civil Services Examination.
The Court addressed workplace discrimination against people with mental health issues and interfered with the disciplinary actions taken against a person with a mental handicap in Ravindra Kumar Dhariwal v. Union of India.
The recent rulings recognising the rights of sex workers and emphasising the importance of a proper evaluation of character antecedents and mitigating circumstances in death penalty cases were also reviewed.