MUMBAI: “Our constitution works even for those who may not believe in it,” said Supreme Court Judge D Y Chandrachud underlining how and why the Constitution matters in a democracy. “Our Constitution has been working all this while.”

He said this as he mentioned an anecdote of a scientist explaining to a friend how a horseshoe on his door works even when one doesn’t believe in superstitions. Justice Chandrachud at one stroke made the distinguished gathering of high court Judges present and past, former SC judges and lawyers both, applaud and contemplate.

He was delivering the Justice KT Desai Memorial lecture at the central court hall of Bombay HC on Monday. The topic was close to his heart. “it is wisdom of people that the Constitution trusts,” he said adding how “Democracies thrive when constitution thrives,” and likewise will fail when Constitution fails

Inclusiveness is one of the mainstays of the Constitution. He said, in writing the section 377 judgment he believed “we” in “We the people” is an “ever inclusive and ever expansive we”.

At the event,former Chief Justice of India, SP Bharucha also released a book ‘Dimensions of Justice: Justice K T Desai Memorial Lectures’. And while senior counsel Rajni Iyer hosted the event, senior counsel Milind Sathe as Bombay Bar Association chief introduced Justice Chandrachud as one who needs no introduction to the legal fraternity, and Bombay high court Chief Justice Naresh Patil mentioned how the Indian Constitution despite not having press freedom as a written guarantee has been held by the apex court to grant such freedom to the fourth pillar of democracy, which has and can be bold, fearless and independent.

Justice Chandrachud, while enumerating the salient features that makes the Constitution supremely relevant said, contemporary globalisation has meant that identity and citizenship are rapidly shifting. “While state-nationalism remains a strong force, there are concurrently many other modes of connection that are shaping people’s sense of personal and collective identities.”

He added, “The burgeoning of multi-faceted and inter-sectional identities accompanied by an acknowledgment of the inherent fluidity in various identities, lends to the indispensable requirement of a Constitution that keeps pace with these identities.”

He spoke of how the Constitution of India is “a text that governs over 1.2 billion people, in twenty-nine States, speaking twenty-two constitutionally recognised languages and hundreds of dialects, and practising virtually every mainstream religion of the world.” “Indian Constitutionalism has been described as a boisterous and contentious enterprise that strives to endow the largest, most diverse and complex democracy with legal form.”

But he said, The Indian Constitutional project did not commence on December 9, 1946 when the Constituent Assembly sat in New Delhi for its very first session,” said Justice Chandrachud “It first echoed in the battle fields of Bengal in the 1857 rebellion. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the same person whose famous trial took place in this Courtroom was amongst one of the first to call for
purna swaraj. For many decades prior to the coming into force of our Constitution, the Indian self-rule movement was a mass movement and it encompassed many sections of the Society. The call was simple – a governing document of the people, by the people, of the people and for the people.”

Increasingly so, the Constitution is recognising diverse identities of its citizens. An important example is the recognition of different gender and sexual identities. While the break from a heteronormative framework has been gradual, the Courts have played an important role in recognising the autonomy of individuals within the Constitution to determine their orientation as well as gender identity, said the Judge.

These new range of legal relations are “brought about by new labor markets, new industries and commodities, new forms of secular and religious violence, new cultural and sexual politics, new reproductive technologies, new materialist understandings of agency, and a rethinking of the autonomous subject/citizen with increasing attention being given to a blurring of conventional divides between the human and non-human.” Emerging changes in science and technology pose a challenge to our legal and constitutional values by disrupting conceptions of the very definition of personhood and identity.



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