The new Progressive CJI

In all fairness – and in the of justice, fairness is everything – the nomination of Dhananjay Yeshwant
Chandrachud as the 50th Chief Justice of (CJI) is very much appreciated. Wednesday, after taking the
oath of office, he emphasised that his major responsibility would be to “guarantee that the public has trust in the
court.” The consolidation of institutional religion will be a crucial task.
Although Chandrachud is described as a ‘liberal’ Supreme Court justice, he lacks the apparent ideological
baggage that the label has come to connote in some circles. The judge who handled the Supreme Court’s
decision that Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalised consensual sexual contact between
adults of the same sex, was unconstitutional – “the state has no interest in personal affairs” – may be better
described as “progressive.”
Chandrachud faces several obstacles, such as presiding over high-stakes lawsuits involving the
constitutionality of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, the validity of the presently revoked Article 370, which
grants and a unique status, and the viability of the electoral bonds system. Nevertheless,
maybe his greatest problem is not to empty the Augean stable of the judiciary, but to bring it under control.
As of the previous month, 336 of the 1,108 vacant judge slots at 25 high courts remained unfilled. As
president of the collegium, Chandrachud will be responsible for nominating 17 justices to the supreme court,
which is now operating with only 17 of its maximum capacity of 34. Priority is given to expeditiously processing
the mountain of pending cases in the courts.
As a progressive, his attitude on the right to privacy (Aadhaar), adoption of live-streaming in courts, and view
that ‘dissent is a sign of a vigorous democracy’ augur well for the judiciary and justice in India. Chief Justice
Chandrachud is a progressive leader.