In a compelling and insightful address at the Justice E S Venkataramiah’s Centennial Memorial Lecture organized by the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Chief Justice of India (CJI) D. Y. Chandrachud delved into the intricate fabric of societal hierarchies, prejudices, and discriminations that transcend both public and private spheres.
CJI Chandrachud emphasized the imperative need to examine whether our legal and societal frameworks foster an inclusive environment across all divides. He questioned the adequacy of laws and policies in upholding the constitutional tenets in both public and private spaces, urging for a reevaluation of existing norms.
One of the focal points of his address was the evolving concept of justice, highlighting its subjectivity and evolution over time. He pointed out the need for an open mind to transcend societal teachings and assumptions, reflecting on the dynamism seen in legal amendments and overturning judgments.
Furthermore, CJI Chandrachud shed light on the gender pay gap prevalent among Indian women, especially those from marginalized communities. He underscored that despite legal strides, achieving true equity demands persistent advocacy and systemic changes to dismantle entrenched biases and ensure equal opportunities for all.
Drawing attention to the intersectionality between public and private spaces, CJI Chandrachud elucidated how societal hierarchies permeate both realms, leading to inequities. He highlighted how laws often treat actions based on their physical location, overlooking the overlapping nature of these spaces.
The Chief Justice emphasized the need to move beyond the dichotomy of public versus private and address grievances that affect individuals in both spheres. He cited examples where roles ascribed to women in these spaces infringed upon their rights, stressing that the law must intervene in both public and private domains to ensure justice for all.
CJI Chandrachud referenced a Ministry of Women and Child Development report, revealing the frequent abandonment of women inmates by their families, signaling the critical need for legal protection and support in such scenarios.
Moreover, he critically analyzed how certain institutions, such as marriage, have been prioritized over individual rights in legal decisions, emphasizing the imbalance between safeguarding institutions and protecting individual liberties.
Addressing the inequality prevalent within households, CJI Chandrachud elucidated instances where familial choices perpetuated disparities, such as favoring a male child’s education over a female child’s.
He reinforced these arguments by referencing legal precedents, including the 2022 Deepika Singh case, which underscored the evolving societal norms and the law’s adaptability in response to changing paradigms.
Towards the conclusion, CJI Chandrachud highlighted the barriers faced by individuals with disabilities, emphasizing the Supreme Court’s efforts to enhance accessibility through measures like sign language interpretation for lawyers with hearing impairments.
In a poignant conclusion, CJI Chandrachud called for an evolution in the legal landscape that celebrates differences, eradicates biases, and ensures substantive equality. He urged legal practitioners to champion change, envisioning a future where the rights of every citizen, irrespective of ability or background, are not merely protected but celebrated.
The Chief Justice’s thought-provoking lecture provided a comprehensive view of the multifaceted challenges embedded within societal structures, compelling legal professionals and society at large to introspect and actively work towards a more equitable and just future.