When Justice Ranjan Gogoi took over as Chief Justice of India (CJI), there was much expectation that he would reign in the systematic undermining of the Constitution of India and the rule of law by the BJP government. Particularly so because he was one of the 4 judges who called an unprecedented press meet against nefarious practices by the then CJI Misra.
When he did become CJI, he turned out to be a first-class scoundrel. Not only was he involved in sexual harassment and then being the judge in the case, but also set bad partisan precedents like accepting information in sealed envelopes, without divulging its contents to the opposite side, which was unheard of. He is also responsible for engineering the shameful Ayodyha verdict that defies all established jurisprudence, and was rewarded with nomination of BJP as a Rajya Sabha MP.
Justice DY Chandrachud comes with far more credibility than any recent CJI’s. He has made landmark rulings, even upturning earlier rulings by his illustrious father, Y V Chandrachud. The only significant deviation in the present CJI is being part of the unsigned, shameful Ayodhya verdict.
A lot is expected of him because India today needs a Supreme Court that will restore India into its cohesive, democratic and Constitutional state that existed before the rise of the present fascist regime in 2014. Since then, the regime is systematically destroying the rule of law, parliamentary processes and the Constitution through various actions to make India a fascist and discriminatory Hindu state.
As a result, you have extra-Constitutional bodies and criminal gangs allied with ruling BJP governments at the centre and in the states acting as a state within the state, and wantonly undermining democracy and Constitutional rights through machinations, violence and terror. Communal and caste crimes by these outfits in collusion with the state have become the norm under BJP rule, examples being the arbitrary demolition of homes of Muslims and negligence of attacks on Dalits and minorities.
There are also several critical cases pending including CAA-NRC legislation, Gyanvapi Mosque and abrogation of Article 370 that are anti-constitutional which the Court has to sort equitably along with the diabolical Electoral Bond Scheme.
In addition, there are issues Supreme Court has to take up suo moto, including regular burning of the Constitution by Sangh Parivar outfits and the open militancy of these groups, along with state suppression of opponents, including politicians and dissenting journalists and activists through abuse of law.
To top it all, besides lower courts, there are judges in the SC and HC allied with the ruling party, favoring it and its co-conspirators, giving legal protection and granting favors to outright criminal MPs, MLAs, crony businessmen, Godmen and others convicted of heinous crimes.
All of this has to be reversed, and to accomplish this, Chandrachud will have to take a puritan Constitutional stand on all issues. His is a battle between Constitutional Democracy and fascism and he can win only by sticking to the Constitution to the letter and in spirit. He cannot give the government any leeway as his predecessors did at the expense of the nation.
That he is the right man for the job was illustrated by the BJP’s reaction before his imminent elevation to CJI. BJP is aware that he is of a different breed and also has the rich judicial legacy from his father to emulate. The government would prefer not having him as CJI, particularly considering his past rulings. He was part of the benches that delivered crucial judgments including, among others, rulings against the government on the Aadhaar scheme and the Sabarimala issue, besides passing orders to relieve the misery faced by the common man during the Covid crisis.
That is why just before his elevation, the BJP IT cell ran a smear campaign against him, to scuttle his elevation to CJI, but the Electoral College had already decided to elevate him.
Importantly, unlike his last two predecessors who had short tenures to effect any substantial changes even if they wanted to, Justice Chandrachud has close to 2 full years to accomplish all this. He made a good start by paying obeisance to Mahatma Gandhi and the National flag- the two icons of Constitutional democracy that the BJP-RSS seek to destroy and replace with their fascist ones. Through this, he has made a statement of sorts to the BJP-RSS about his ideological position.
Further, talking to the press after his elevation to CJI, Justice Chandrachud said, “Serving the ordinary citizen is my priority,” while also promising reforms in judicial processes and registry. He said, “My work, not words, will speak.” One certainly hopes so.
There’s no doubt he has a tough job at hand, with several scoundrels already ensconced in the Supreme Court and a government that will try to scuttle his efforts, but he has the powers vested in him by the Constitution, in addition to public support and that of the legal fraternity, with him.
Probably, his most important role will be to ensure free and fair Lok Sabha elections in 2024 and the ensuing assembly elections before that. So far, most elections have been sullied with charges of widespread malpractices, many of them caught on video. The Election Commission of India since 2014 has been a tool of the government, extensively favoring it in every aspect. The first institution the CJI has to sort out is this one with the powers he has on hand.
And it’s implicit that for Justice Chandrachud to accomplish the tasks at hand, he has to strictly stick to the Constitution to the letter and in spirit in all matters. India is currently at the crossroads towards a future of fascism or one of Constitutional Democracy and only the Supreme Court can ensure it remains the latter. How he deals with all the related issues will decide how history will remember and judge him.
Oliver D’Souza is an award winning author, and a journalist and activist. He can be contacted at: [email protected]