Majoritarian Tendencies Must be Questioned to Protect the Constitution: SC Judge Chandrachud

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Supreme Court judge Justice D Y Chandrachud.

The Constitution “drafted in 1950, would not be compatible with our lives today if we considered it as dead letter that would have to be applied as a rigid formula for evaluating realities that were previously unfathomable said Justice Chandrachud

NEW DELHI — Majoritarian tendencies must be questioned against the constitutional promise of securing to the country’s citizens religious freedom, equality between persons irrespective of sex, caste or religion, fundamental freedom of speech and movement. And all this without undue state interference and an enduring right to life and personal liberty, Supreme Court judge, Justice D Y Chandrachud, said on Saturday.

He was speaking at a webinar in memory of his father, former Supreme Court judge, Justice YV Chandrachud on the occasion of his 101st birth anniversary celebration. The event was organised by the Pune-based Shikshan Prasarak Mandali, reports The Indian Express.

Justice Chandrachud said that “any semblance of authoritarianism, clampdown on civil liberties, sexism, casteism, otherisation on account of religion or region is upsetting a sacred promise that was made to our ancestors who accepted India as their constitutional republic”.

“Our nation was forged and united with a promise of certain commitments and entitlements to each and every citizen. A promise of religious freedom, a promise of equality between persons, irrespective of sex, caste or religion, a promise of fundamental freedom of speech and movement — without undue state interference and an enduring right to life and personal liberty.

“Majoritarian tendencies, whenever and however they arise, must be questioned against this background of our constitutive promise.”

Justice Chandrachud stated that viewing the Constitution as the “primary spirit of counter-majoritarianism” will help achieve inclusive scientific progress in a globalised and increasingly privatised world.

“Just like technology, the Constitution also could not predict the extent of globalisation and privatisation that we are witnessing today. The Constitution envisaged our newly independent state as the predominant actor, employer and developer of our society. Naturally, several of our fundamental rights and guarantees, in their literal word, seek to protect us from the potential tyranny of the state,” he said.

“However, the constitutional spirit seeks to protect individuals from hegemonic power structures, irrespective of their forms…. Presently, in a globalised and increasingly privatised world, the idea of liberty for some, such as powerful corporations, may not necessarily result in dignity or life for most, especially the marginalised classes and sections of society. In viewing our Constitution as the primary spirit of counter-majoritarianism, we can equip ourselves with a unique lens to view the world and balance competing interests, where we undoubtedly make scientific progress, but in a manner that benefits all of humanity, and not just a narrow section.”

He said, “It is important to recognise that in times of peace or crisis, irrespective of the electoral legitimacy of the government, the constitution is a north star, against which the conformity of every state action or inaction, would have to be judged.”

The Constitution, Justice Chandrachud said, “didn’t just transform us from colonial subjects to free citizens, but also undertook a massive challenge of confronting a polity that was plagued by oppressive systems of caste, patriarchy and communal violence.”

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