Yashwant Vishnu Chandrachud was born in Pune on July 12, 1920 and received his early education in Nutan Marathi Vidyalaya, Pune.
He graduated in 1940 from the Elphinstone College, Bombay and obtained LL.B. from the University of Bombay (Law College, Poona) in 1942.
He was the 16th Chief Justice of India, serving from 22 February 1978 to the day he retired on 11 July 1985.
In the Kesavananda Bharati case, Justice Chandrachud held, “if the State fails to create conditions in which the fundamental freedoms could be enjoyed by all, the freedom of the few will be at the mercy of the many and then all freedoms will vanish.”
In the Minerva Mills case, he said: “Constitution is a precious heritage; you cannot destroy its identity. This harmony and balance between fundamental rights and Directive Principles is an essential feature of the basic structure of the Constitution.”
In the Maneka Gandhi case, he held that “Indian citizens are entitled to exercise right to free speech and expression wherever they choose, regardless of geographical limitations and the Constitution does not confer any power on the executive to prevent the exercise of such a right on foreign soil.”
Other important judgments by Chief Justice Chandrachud include:
- Chandrachud Commission
- Olga Tellis and ors Vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation and ors
Justice Chandrachud was a rare combination of unquestionable integrity, erudition and friendliness, who earned respect from all who interacted with him.
Glimpse of Interview taken by India Today.
Q. Judicial delays, political pressures, decreasing dignity of the judge’s office – these are considered as problems confronting the judiciary. In which order of importance do you place them?
A. I disagree with the basic premise underlying this question. I have not seen acceptable evidence of political pressures on the judiciary. I do not also agree that the judge’s office has suffered indignity. In so far as delays are concerned, law’s delays are quite notorious. I should have thought that the major problem confronting the judicial system today is the enormous flow of work which is difficult to dispose of within a reasonable period. Appointment of more judges is not the answer because what is needed is the appointment of judges who are competent.
Q. Aren’t judges themselves sometimes responsible for delays? Or do lawyers indulge in filibuster?
A. Judges cannot be fully absolved from the responsibility for delays. It is now time that at least the Supreme Court stops delivering judgements in every case that is argued before it. In judgements of affirmation, a simple order should suffice. But judges are, after all, human beings and the desire for immortality is a common human failing. We seek immortality through the pages of law reporters and our judgements are frightfully long, almost so long as to discourage the most ardent follower of law from reading them. So much scholarship is often wasted on the desert air and full many a judgement is born to blush unread.
Insofar as litigants are concerned, whether it is a private party or government, they are equally to blame for delays. Government counsel ask for adjournments even more than the counsel for private parties do.
Q. What exactly do you mean when you say that the judiciary is facing a threat from within? Are the judges getting increasingly spineless?
A. The threat from within is the result of materialistic ambitions and lack of contentment. One must cultivate a philosophical attitude and learn to take life as it comes in order to be able to maintain one’s independence and serenity which are so essential for a judge. Judges know how to take care of their spines. There are isolated defaulters but they are exceptions. At the back of such defaults is the patronage which the Government commands
Q. At the same time the court has also taken cognizance of a national problem like the electoral rolls revision in Assam. Can the Supreme Court intervene in, say, the reservation controversy? What are your views on reservations?
A. Reservations is not a purely political issue. It involves consideration of constitutional provisions and the judges cannot keep themselves aloof. My view is that the policy of reservations in promotional posts requires a fresh look. It is also necessary to apply the ‘means test’ at some stage in order that the benefits of reservation are not monopolised by affluent families.
Justice Chandrachud always believed that the judiciary was almost totally free from corruption until a decade back. Unfortunately, today we hears whispers of a fall in judicial rectitude. As a Retd. Judge he is not in a position to say that every one of such allegations is well-founded but there is a reason to suppose that occasionally judges invite suspicion by the way they conduct themselves. Caesar’s wife has to be beyond suspicion.
He believes that increasing judges’ emoluments will be no remedy because people with unlimited wealth can also be corrupt.