“Our ability to recognise others who are different is a sign of our own evolution. We miss the symbols of a compassionate and humane society only at our peril”.
Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud in Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1
Journey to becoming Supreme Court Judge
Justice Dr. Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud was born on 11-11-1959 to former Chief Justice of India, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud. He practiced law at the Bomaby High Court and Supreme Court of India. He was designated as Senior Advocate by the Bombay High Court in June 1998 and in the same year was appointed as the Additional Solicitor General of India. He appeared in several important cases involving Rights of Bonded Women Workers, Rights of HIV Positive Workers, Contract Labour and Rights of Religious and Linguistic Minorities.
On 29th March 2000, Justice Chandrachud was appointed as Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court. On 31st October 2013, he took oath as the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court until he was appointed as a Judge of the Supreme Court on 13th May 2016. 
♦Did you Know? Justice Chandrachud is likely to serve as the Chief Justice of India for a period of 2 years starting from November, 2022 to November, 2024. His father, Justice Y.V. Chandrachud, was the longest serving Chief Justice of India. [Read more about Justice Y.V. Chandrachud here]
Recent and Notable Judgments that Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud has been a part of
The Secretary, Minister of Defence v. Babita Puniya, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 200
In this major verdict, the bench of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi, JJ., ordered that the permanent commission will apply to all women officers in the Indian Army in service, irrespective of their years of service. Holding that the blanket non- consideration of women for criteria or command appointments absent an individuated justification by the Army cannot be sustained in law, the Court said that the Army has provided no justification in discharging its burden as to why women across the board should not be considered for any criteria or command appointments. Command assignments are not automatic for men SSC officers who are granted PC and would not be automatic for women either.
Rajesh v. State of Haryana, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 900
The 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee, JJ., summarised the principles relating to conduct of a Test Identification Parade (TIP) and held that
“… the identification in the course of a TIP is intended to lend assurance to the identity of the accused. The finding of guilt cannot be based purely on the refusal of the accused to undergo an identification parade.”
K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Privacy- 9 Judge), (2017) 10 SCC 1
Justice Chandrachud was part of the 9 Judge Bench which unanimously held that, Right to Privacy is a basic fundamental right. The Bench, which also comprised of J.S. Khehar, CJ. and J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, R.K. Agrawal, R.F. Nariman, A.M. Sapre, S.K. Kaul and S.A. Nazeer, JJ., observed that Right to Privacy forms an intrinsic part of Art. 21 and freedoms guaranteed in Pt. III. It permeates core of Preambular philosophy underlying “liberty” and “dignity” as also human concepts of “life” and “personal liberty” enshrined in Art. 21 and wide ranging freedoms guaranteed under Pt. III, considered essential for a meaningful human existence. Dr. Chandrachud, J., writing for himself and on behalf of J.S. Khehar, CJ, R.K. Agrawal and S.A. Nazeer, JJ, said that Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. He added,
“While the legitimate expectation of privacy may vary from the intimate zone to the private zone and from the private to the public arenas, it is important to underscore that privacy is not lost or surrendered merely because the individual is in a public place. Privacy attaches to the person since it is an essential facet of the dignity of the human being”.
♦Did you Know? The Privacy case also marked a unique moment in judicial history of India; as Justice Chandrachud overruled the ADM Jabalpur decision in which his father, Late Justice Y.V. Chandrachud was part of the majority. Terming the judgments rendered by the majority as “seriously flawed”, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., observed that-
“H.R. Khanna, J. was clearly right in holding that the recognition of the right to life and personal liberty under the Constitution does not denude the existence of that right, apart from it nor can there be a fatuous assumption that in adopting the Constitution the people of India surrendered the most precious aspect of the human persona, namely, life, liberty and freedom to the State on whose mercy these rights would depend”.
Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 1
In this landmark 5 -Judge Bench decision which became instrumental in upholding the rights of the LGBT community, Dipak Misra, CJ., and R.F. Nariman, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., held Section 377 IPC to be unconstitutional insofar it criminalised gay sex between consenting adults. The Bench reversed the 2-Judge Bench decision in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation, (2014) 1 SCC 1.
In his concurring opinion, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., while stating that, “It is difficult to right the wrongs of history. But we can certainly set the course for the Future”, held that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders have a constitutional right to equal citizenship in all its manifestations. Sexual orientation is recognised and protected by the Constitution.
Joseph Shine v. Union of India, (2019) 3 SCC 39
The 5-Judge Constitution Bench held Section 497 IPC and Section 198 (2) CrPC to be unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15 (1) and 21 of the Constitution. Dipak Misra, C.J., delivered the leading judgment for himself and A.M. Khanwilkar, J. While R.F. Nariman, Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra, JJ., each delivered their separate concurring opinions. Referring to several foreign courts’ judgments and opinions of celebrated authors, Dr. Chandrachud, J. observed that,
“If the ostensible object of the law is to protect the ‘institution of marriage’, it provides no justification for not recognising the agency of a woman whose spouse is engaged in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. She can neither complain nor is the fact that she is in a marital relationship with a man of any significance to the ingredients of the offence. Section 497 is founded on the notion that a woman by entering upon marriage loses, so to speak, her voice, autonomy and agency. Arbitrariness is writ large on the provision”.
Krishna Kumar Singh v. State of Bihar, (2017) 3 SCC 1
Stating that re-promulgation of ordinances is a fraud on the Constitution and a subversion of democratic legislative processes, the 7 Judge Bench held that the Ordinance making power does not constitute the President or the Governor into a parallel source of law making or an independent legislative authority Justice Chandrachud writing down the majority judgment for himself and S.A. Bobde, A.K. Goel, U.U. Lalit and L. Nageswara Rao, JJ., laid down the principles for promulgation of ordinances.
Common Cause v. Union of India, (2018) 5 SCC 1
The 5-judge Constitution Bench of Dipak Misra, CJ., and AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, JJ., held that the right to die with dignity is a fundamental right as held in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1996) 2 SCC 648 and that ‘passive euthanasia’, both, voluntary and involuntary, is permissible. In his concurring opinion, Dr. Chandrachud, J., observed that,
“While upholding the legality of passive euthanasia (voluntary and non-voluntary) and in recognising the importance of advance directives, the present judgment draws sustenance from the constitutional values of liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy. In order to lend assurance to a decision taken by the treating doctor in good faith, this judgment has mandated the setting up of committees to exercise a supervisory role and function”.
Shafin Jahan v. Asokan K.M, (2018) 16 SCC 368
The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, JJ., terming the instant case to be perfect example of, “patriarchal autocracy and possibly self-obsession with the feeling that a female is a chattel”, set aside the verdict of Kerala High Court wherein it had annulled the marriage between two consenting adults, namely, Hadiya and Shafin Jahan. Noting that the Kerala HC erred in its decision, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., in his concurring opinion, came down heavily upon the Kerala HC, stating that,
“The schism between Hadiya and her father may be unfortunate. But it was no part of the jurisdiction of the High Court to decide what it considered to be a “just” way of life or “correct” course of living for Hadiya. She has absolute autonomy over her person. There was no warrant for the High Court to proceed further in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226. The High Court has entered into a domain which is alien to its jurisdiction in a habeas corpus petition. How Hadiya chooses to lead her life is entirely a matter of her choice”.
K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Aadhaar-5 Judge), (2019) 1 SCC 1
The 5- Judge Bench comprising of CJ Dipak Misra and A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, JJ., by a majority of 4:1, upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. Justice Chandrachud gave a 23-point conclusion to the opinion wherein he dissented from the majority. In his opinion, the entire Aadhaar programme, since 2009, suffers from the constitutional infirmities and violations of fundamental rights-
“Creating strong privacy protection laws and instilling safeguards may address or at the very least assuage some of the concerns associated with the Aadhar scheme which severely impairs informational self-determination, individual privacy, dignity and autonomy”.
In a sharp criticism on passing of the Aaadhar Act as Money Bill within the meaning of Art.110 of the Constitution, Dr. Chandrachud, J., observed that-
“There is a constitutional trust which attaches to the empowerment of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha to decide whether a legislative measure is a Money Bill. Entrustment of the authority to decide is founded on the expectation that the Speaker of the Lok Sabha will not dilute the existence of a coordinate institution in a bicameral legislature. A constitutional trust has been vested in the office of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. By declaring an ordinary Bill to be a Money Bill, the Speaker limits the role of the Rajya Sabha. This power cannot be unbridled or bereft of judicial scrutiny”.
Jindal Stainless Ltd v. State of Haryana, (2017) 12 SCC 1
The 9-judge bench, by a ratio of 7:2, upheld the validity of the entry tax imposed by the States on goods imported from other States. It was held that taxes simpliciter are not within the contemplation of Part XIII of the Constitution of India and that the word ‘Free’ used in Article 301 does not mean “free from taxation”. Delivering a dissenting opinion Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., observed that,
“In order to determine whether a law providing for the imposition of a tax constitutes a restriction on the freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse, the principle that must be applied is whether the direct and inevitable effect or consequence of the law is to impede trade and commerce. The direct and inevitable consequence for the purposes of Part XIII of the Constitution is not the same as an infringement of the fundamental right to carry on an occupation, trade or business under Article 19(1)(g)”. He further observed that, “Article 301 sub-serves the constitutional goal of integrating the nation into an economic entity comprising of a common market for goods and services”.
Abhiram Singh v. C.D. Commachen, (2017) 2 SCC 629
In a 4:3 verdict, the 7-Judge Bench held that an appeal in the name of religion, race, caste, community or language is impermissible under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and would constitute a corrupt practice sufficient to annul the election in which such an appeal was made regardless whether the appeal was in the name of the candidate’s religion or the religion of the election agent or that of the opponent or that of the voters’. Writing the dissenting opinion for himself and Adarsh K. Goel and U.U. Lalit, JJ.; Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., observed that ‘his’ as in Section 123(3) of RP Act does not refer to the religion, race, caste, community or language of the voter. Dr. Chandrachud, J., made a very significant observation in his dissent-
“Our Constitution recognises the broad diversity of India and, as a political document, seeks to foster a sense of inclusion. It seeks to wield a nation where its citizens practise different religions, speak varieties of languages, belong to various castes and are of different communities into the concept of one nationhood. The Indian State has no religion nor does the Constitution recognise any religion as a religion of the State. India is not a theocratic State but a secular nation in which there is a respect for and acceptance of the equality between religions”.
Romila Thapar v. Union of India, (2018) 10 SCC 753
In the instant case wherein 5 human rights activists were charged and arrested under the provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 and the 3 Judge Bench of the Court with a ratio of 2:1 (Dipak Misra CJ., and A.M. Khanwilkar, J.) rejected their prayer seeking appointment of SIT and court-monitored investigation; Justice D.Y. Chandrachud dissented with the majority. He observed that, “Dissent is a symbol of a vibrant democracy. Voices in opposition cannot be muzzled by persecuting those who take up unpopular causes”. Taking the view that a Special Investigating Team should be appointed to pursue the matter, Dr. Chandrachud, J., stated that,
“The purpose of the direction which I propose to give is to ensure that the basic entitlement of every citizen who is faced with allegations of criminal wrongdoing, is that the investigative process should be fair. This is an integral component of the guarantee against arbitrariness under Article 14 and of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. If this Court were not to stand by the principles which we have formulated, we may witness a soulful requiem to liberty”.
*Editorial Assistant, EBC Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
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