Upholding Human Rights in the Face of Judicial Decision: Chief Justice DY Chandrachud's Perspective
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
In the intricate tapestry of legal deliberations surrounding LGBTQ+ rights in India, the recent pronouncements by the Supreme Court have ignited a fervent discourse on the essence of human rights and equality. As days sheds light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the wake of the Supreme Court's verdict, the responses from Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, add a layer of complexity to the ongoing narrative.
Last week, the Supreme Court, through a unanimous stance, denied the explicit existence of a fundamental right to marry and rejected the recognition of marriages between queer persons under the Special Marriage Act 1954. The limitations imposed on the judiciary's authority to award legal recognition to queer persons' right to marry, along with the divergence in opinions regarding adoption rights for unmarried non-heterosexual couples, highlighted the intricate web of challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Transgender persons in heterosexual relationships found themselves subject to varied perspectives within the judiciary.
Responding to the unfolding discourse, Chief Justice DY Chandrachud emphasized the unique strength of the judiciary in not being elected by the people. In a speech at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, he underscored the judiciary's role as a stabilizing force, guided by constitutional morality rather than popular morality. He asserted that judges, unburdened by electoral considerations, focus on broad values like fraternity, liberty, and equality, aiming to exercise a stabilizing influence on the legal system.
Addressing the legislative and executive accountability to the public, Chief Justice Chandrachud highlighted the judiciary's accountability to constitutional morality. He noted that while a judgment cannot be overruled directly by the legislature based on perceived correctness, the legislature has the power to enact laws to cure any identified deficiencies. This demarcation between the roles of the judiciary and the legislature forms a crucial aspect of his perspective.
Furthermore, the Chief Justice advocated for the necessity of retirement for judges, emphasizing the importance of passing on the mantle to succeeding generations. This, he argued, allows for a continuous evolution of the legal framework, acknowledging and rectifying errors of the past.
In conclusion, the responses of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud offer a nuanced perspective on the delicate balance between the judiciary, legislature, and societal expectations. It is necessary to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, it becomes evident that the interpretation of laws and the protection of human rights require a delicate interplay. While human rights must be upheld, Chief Justice Chandrachud's insights underscore the importance of judges remaining objective and interpreting the law, regardless of public sentiments. As the legal discourse unfolds, it is crucial to foster a comprehensive understanding that respects the inherent dignity and rights of all individuals, aligning with established human rights principles.
Bar and Bench. (4 November 2023). Judges go by Constitutional morality, not popular morality: CJI DY Chandrachud. Available at https://www.barandbench.com/news/judges-go-constitutional-morality-not-popular-morality-cji-dy-chandrachud.
India TV. (4 October 2023). CJI Chandrachud says judges don't think about how society would respond while deciding cases. Available at https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/cji-dy-chandrachud-judges-supreme-court-judgements-cases-cricket-world-cup-2023-latest-updates-2023-11-04-901152.