Justice Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud was on Wednesday administered oath as the 50th Chief Justice of India. President Droupadi Murmu administered the oath of office to the new CJI at a swearing-in ceremony held in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He succeeds Justice Uday Umesh Lalit.
Since his elevation as a Supreme Court judge in 2016, CJI Chandrachud has been part of several significant judgments of the top court that have dealt with matters both social and political.
Here is a look at some of the most notable judgments the new CJI has been part of:
–Decriminalisation of adultery (2018): In Joseph Shine vs Union of India, the apex court on September 27, 2018, decriminalised adultery, and unanimously struck down Section 497 of the Indian Penal Codeas violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. Justice DY Chandrachud had concurred with the majority opinion, and held that the man is not the “owner of his wife’s sexuality”; by marrying, a woman does not consent to refrain from sexual relations outside of marriage.
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–Constitutionality of Aadhaar Act (2018): In the Justice KS Puttaswamy versus Union of India case, Justice Chandrachud, who was the sole dissenter, held that Aadhaar was unconstitutionally passed as a Money Bill, and had also reviewed arguments on specific provisions of the Act which affected an individual’s privacy, dignity, and autonomy. The SC had delivered its judgment on September 26, 2018.
–Decriminalising homosexuality (2018): In the Navtej Johar versus Union of India case, the Supreme Court on September 6, 2018 had struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalised homosexuality, and thereby made same-sex intercourse legal. A five-judge bench led by then CJI Dipak Mishra, and also comprising Justice Chandrachud, had pronounced the landmark judgment, which had major implications on the LGBTQIA+ community. Chandrachud had held that Section 377 was an ‘anachronistic colonial law’, which violated the fundamental rights to equality, freedom of expression, life and privacy.
–Ayodhya Title Dispute: In a unanimous verdict, the Supreme Court had on November 9, 2019, cleared the way for the construction of a Ram Temple at the disputed site in Ayodhya. A five-judge bench, which Chandrachud was part of, further directed the Centre to allot a five-acre alternative plot to the Sunni Waqf Board for building a mosque.
–Sabarimala Case: Justice DY Chandrachud had concurred with the majority verdict in the Sabarimala case holding the practice of prohibiting women of menstruating age from entering the Sabarimala temple discriminatory and violative of a women’s fundamental rights.
–Hadiya Marriage case (2018): In the Shafin Jahan versus Ashokan KM case, the Supreme Court had on April 9, 2018, upheld Hadiya’s choice of religion and her choice of partner. Hadiya (originally named Akhila Ashokan) had converted to Islam and married petitioner Shafin Jahan at the age of 25. Allegations were made by her parents that she was “brainwashed”. The order was pronounced by Justice Chandrachud.
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–Judge Loya case: In the Tehseen Poonawalla vs Union of India case, the Supreme Court in 2018 dismissed petitions seeking an SIT probe into the death of Judge BH Loya. In December 2014, Judge Loya who was presiding over the CBI court hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, in which home minister Amit Shah was the main accused, passed away in Nagpur, where he had travelled for a colleague’s daughter’s wedding. A three-judge bench of then CJI Dipak Misra, and Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.M. Khanwilkar, was hearing writ petitions, seeking an independent probe into the death.
–Fundamental Right to privacy (2017): In the Justice KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India case, on August 24, 2017, the Supreme Court unanimously recognised privacy as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution, within Article 21 in particular and Part III on the whole. The landmark judgment was cited as precedent in several other important judgments.
–Special Status for Delhi (2018): A five-judge bench on 4 July, 2018, unanimously held that the Chief Minister is the executive head of the National Capital Territory. The contention between the Delhi Chief Minister and the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi eventually led to a legal controversy on the status of the NCT. The issue pertained to the administrative powers of the Governor in light of the special status of Delhi as a UT. The Bench ruled that the Governor is bound by the aid and advice of the council of ministers.
–Votes based on religion (2017): The Supreme Court in 2017 ruled that election candidates cannot seek votes on the grounds of the religion, caste, creed, community or language of voters. Justice Chandrachud, in a dissenting opinion, held in the minority opinion, that “Discussion on caste, creed, religion is constitutionally protected within and outside elections and this cannot be restricted,” and, “It is a matter of free speech and through this legitimate concerns of the society are addressed.”
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Besides these, the new CJI has also been part of several other landmark judgments, including expanding the scope of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act and the corresponding rules to include unmarried women, even transgenders, for abortion between 20-24 weeks of pregnancy, women officers in Army getting permanent commissions and command postings, recognised the ‘living will’ made by terminally-ill patients for passive euthanasia, among others.
Notably, a bench headed by him had also ordered the demolition of Supertech’s twin towers in Noida, Uttar Pradesh in August for violation of norms.