Our Constitution is a moral education document: CJI Chandrachud

“Our Constitution was designed not for people as they were, but what they ought to be. It is the flag-bearer of our fundamental rights. It guides us in our daily life”

December 17, 2022 03:43 pm | Updated 07:26 pm IST - Mumbai

File picture of Supreme Court Justice D.Y. Chandrachud

File picture of Supreme Court Justice D.Y. Chandrachud | Photo Credit: R. V. Moorthy

The Chief Justice of India (CJI), D. Y. Chandrachud on Saturday said, “Our Constitution is a moral education document which was aimed at creating a moral code of conduct in our society.”

“Our Constitution was designed not for people as they were, but what they ought to be. It is the flag-bearer of our fundamental rights. It guides us in our daily life,” he said. He was in Mumbai delivering the Ashok Desai Memorial Lecture on his 90th birth anniversary, a former Attorney-General of India.

The CJI went on to say, “We rectified the injustice, section 377 (unnatural offences, of the Indian Penal Code) was based on morality of a bygone era. Constitutional morality focuses on the rights of individuals and protects it from popular morality notions of the society.” Referring to striking down of the provision of adultery in IPC, he added, “The values of a progressive Constitution serve as a guiding force for us. They convey that our personal and professional lives aren’t divorced from the Constitution.”

The 50th CJI said, “People have faith in the courts for protecting their personal liberty. Difference between law and morals is nebulous. Legal positivists have said that law and morality are connected.”

He cited an article were a 15-year-old girl was a victim of honour killing in Uttar Pradesh by her parents in the year 1991. “They would be justified because their morals are like that. But that won’t be the similar approach of rational thinking people. Every year, hundreds of young people die because of their love with someone else,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud also questioned, “Who decides the code of conduct or morality? The dominant groups, which overpower the weaker ones.”

He mentioned Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, who used to talk about why lower caste Hindus weren’t allowed to get educated among other things.

The lecture was titled, ‘Law and Morality - Bounds and Reaches’. Justice Chandrachud said Desai often defended rights of the marginalised section of the society and cites a case, where Desai defended the theatre play of Vinay Tendulkar, which was considered to be vulgar. Talking about the play, he said, “Under the garb of morality, the State tries to violate freedom of speech and expression.”

Justice Dipankar Datta of the Bombay High Court, he is elevated to the Supreme Court, acting chief justice of the High Court, Justice S. V. Gangapurwala, chief justice of the Karnataka High Court, Justice P. B. Varale, first woman chief justice of the Bombay High Court, Sujata Manohar and retired justice of the Supreme Court, B. N. Srikrishna were also present at the event.

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