According to the Constitution, every action of the state should be assessed: Justice Chandrachud

New Delhi: Supreme Court Justice DY Chandrachud on Saturday said that irrespective of the electoral legitimacy of the government, every action or inaction of the state should be assessed in accordance with the Constitution. He also said that the majoritarian tendencies should be questioned against the backdrop of our constitutional promise.

Justice Chandrachud said, “The end of totalitarianism, curtailment of civil liberties, discrimination on grounds of sexism, casteism, religion or region is a sacred promise made to our forefathers who accepted India as a constitutional republic.” He was speaking on the topic ‘Students as protectors of the Constitution’ at an event organized by Shikshan Prasar Mandali (SPM), a Maharashtra-based organization working in the field of education, on the 101st birth anniversary of his father Justice YV Chandrachud.

Justice YV Chandrachud was the longest serving Chief Justice of India. He said that India is in its 71st year as a constitutional republic. On many occasions it can be felt that the democracy of the country is no longer new and the need to study the constitutional history and engage with its framework is not that meaningful.

Fundamental freedom

“However, it is important to recognize that in times of peace or crisis, regardless of the electoral legitimacy of the government, every action or inaction of the state has to be assessed in accordance with the Constitution,” he said. He said that India is united as a nation on the promise of certain commitments and rights such as religious freedom, equality among individuals irrespective of gender, caste or religion, fundamental freedom of expression and movement, without undue interference of the state. It is a permanent right to life and personal liberty.

“As and when majoritarian trends raise their heads, they should be questioned against the backdrop of our constitutional promise,” he said. Justice Chandrachud remembered Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and said that his first struggle was to get access to education, before starting the fight against casteism, patriarchy and oppressive Hindu practices. Addressing the students of an educational institution run by the SPM, he said, “As a man belonging to an untouchable Dalit Mahar caste, Babasaheb struggled a lot to get access to primary education.

“Her most important memories of schooling are those of humiliation and isolation, where she had to sit outside the classroom and study. It was ensured that he could not touch the water or notebook belonging to upper caste students. Justice Chandrachud said Ambedkar eventually received 26 degrees and titles. He became one of the most highly educated Indians of his generation. He did not get education only for self-progress but he left his mark on the constitution on the strength of his transformative ability.

He said that like Ambedkar, many revolutionaries in India and the world such as Savitribai Phule, Jyotiba Phule, Nelson Mandela and even Malala Yousafzai started a revolutionary quest for education through their liberation movements. “These stories are useful reminders that the privilege of education we have today is the fruit of the most daring struggles and represents the dreams of our ancestors,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud said he firmly believes that students can play a vital role in initiating progressive politics and cultures by using their formative years to question existing systems and hierarchies.

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