As the Supreme Court delivered its verdict today on activists arrested over alleged Maoist links, it was a dissenting judgment that became the headliner. "Political opinion cannot be muzzled," said Justice DY Chandrachud, speaking for the activists whose house arrest was extended by the two other judges in the three-member bench.
"If this court does not stand by liberty, dignity, dissent now we may as well compose a requiem for these rights," said the judge.
The five activists have been accused by the Maharashtra police of helping Maoists and of a role in a plot to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The court's majority verdict held that the arrests were not because of dissent but because of evidence of their links with the banned CPI (Maoist) group.
Justice Chandrachud, 59, disagreed. "A plot to assassinate the Prime Minister cannot be vague allegations bereft of materials," he said.
"Police briefing in media has become a manner of manipulation, besmirches the reputation, leads to trial by media."
Before long, Justice Chandrachud was all the buzz on social media. Some called him a hero, others criticised him.
In the second major verdict today, which ended a ban that prevented women and girls between 10 and 50 from entering the renowned Sabarimala temple of Kerala, Justice Chandrachud was not the dissenting judge but his comments were evocative. "Religion cannot be a cover to deny women the right to worship," he said.
The judge has been in the news since last year, when he overturned his father Justice YV Chandrachud's infamous verdict backing the suspending of fundamental rights by the Indira Gandhi government during the Emergency of 1975. He called it an emotional moment in his life.
Justice Chandrachud Junior called his father's judgement "seriously flawed". He said: "Life and personal liberty are inalienable to human rights."
Yesterday, Justice Chandrachud undid another one of his father's judgements - the adultery law that punishes men and not women for adultery, unconstitutional and scrapped it.
In 1985, Justice YV Chandrachud had ruled that the law is constitutionally valid and promotes the stability of marriage.
His son demurred: "The law destroys women's dignity and rights as she is treated as the property of her husband."
Earlier this week, in the Aadhaar verdict in which he was outvoted 4 to 1, Justice Chandrachud said the billion-member programme is unconstitutional and its data had the potential for surveillance.
"Constitutional guarantees cannot be compromised by vicissitudes of technology," said Justice Chandrachud. He also held that treating Aadhaar as a money bill to bypass the Rajya Sabha amounted to subterfuge.
A student of economics at St Stephens, Justice Chandrachud is a passionate champion of human rights. He studied law in Delhi and completed his doctorate at Harvard. He is in line to become the Chief Justice of India in 2022. It will be the first example of a father and son both becoming Chief Justice.
Justice Chandrachud has been on high-profile cases with Chief Justice Dipak Misra, so his judgements have often made news.
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