SCO Daily: Who Is Chief Justice Chandrachud?

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud began his 2-year term as the Chief Justice of India today. So who is CJI Chandrachud?


Welcome to the new CJI!

Justice D.Y. Chandrachud began his 2-year term as the Chief Justice of India today. Taking over the office from Former CJI U,U. Lalit, expectations are high from this Judge who ‘overturned’ the popular Beatles lyric ‘‘All you need is love, love; Love is all you need’ to  ‘so we need a little more than love. Structural changes, as well as attitudinal changes, are essential’. Constitution Benches, Collegium, Listing systems, E-Functioning—there is indeed a long laundry list of structural and attitudinal changes CJI Chandrachud is expected to attend to in the next two years. 

So who is CJI Chandrachud? Let’s find out!

Son of a professional singer at the All India Radio, and a former Chief Justice of India, CJI Chandrachud is an alum of St. Stephens College, Delhi, Faculty of Law at Delhi University, and Harvard University. He was an advocate for 11 years, and was Additional Solicitor General of India in 1998 during the first NDA government before he began his career as a Judge. He served 13 years as a Judge of the High Court of Bombay, and was made Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court in 2013. 3 years later, in 2016, CJI Chandrachud was elevated to the Supreme Court. 

In 6 years at the Supreme Court so far, CJI Chandrachud has written around 513 Judgments, putting his tally of Judgments authored per year above all his colleagues at the SC. At the end of his first year at the Supreme Court, he authored the majority opinion in the nine-Judge Bench Puttaswamy case, recognising the Right to Privacy and Dignity as an intrinsic part of the Right to life.

Justice Chandrachud played a key role in several landmark judgments in 2018. He was part of the Constitution Bench which de-criminalised consensual sex between persons belonging to the same sex, by striking down certain parts of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. The same year, in the Hadiya Marriage case, Justice Chandrachud stated that a  woman’s choice to marry, irrespective of the religion of her partner, lies outside the control of the State. Finally, in 2018, Chandrachud J concurred with the majority opinion in decriminalising adultery. He found that decriminalising adultery was rooted in patriarchal notions and had resulted in centuries of women’s subjugation.

He was also on the 5-Judge Bench that delivered the Ayodhya Title Dispute verdict, which awarded the contested Babri Masjid land title to the deity, Shri Ram Virajman. Incidentally, the Judgment was delivered 3 years ago to the day. 

As his tenure begins, CJI Chandrachud inherits 69,781 pending cases and a host of new reforms from the former CJI U.U. Lalit. CJI Lalit’s tenure, though short, saw changes in listing of cases, revival of Constitution Benches, and a meticulous attempt at reducing pendency. However, CJI Lalit had a 74 day tenure. The onus to ensure that these reforms last at the Supreme Court falls squarely on the new CJI. In the Ceremonial Bench held to bid CJI Lalit farewell, CJI Chandrachud assured ‘a sense of continuity in the reforms’ made by his predecessor. How true that claim will hold, is yet to be seen.