Reformist judge DY Chandrachud to be India's 50th chief justice

Judge is seen as an advocate for social reform and upholding human rights

The Supreme Court in India's capital New Delhi. Reuters
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Reformist judge Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud has been appointed as the new chief justice of India — the country's most senior legal position.

Mr Chandrachud, 62, is widely seen as an advocate of social reform and upholding human rights.

He has promoted women's rights — in areas ranging from temple access and permanent commissions in India's Armed Forces to abortion rights — and considers dissent a “safety valve” of democracy.

President Droupadi Murmu late on Monday appointed Mr Chandrachud as the 50th chief justice of the country's top court. He will take the role next month, after the retirement of current chief Uday Umesh Lalit on November 9.

Mr Chandrachud will remain on the top post for almost two years — the longest tenure of a chief justice in almost a decade.

Mr Lalit had a brief tenure of 74 days.

Known for making a number of landmark judgments supporting human rights, Mr Chandrachud is the senior most Supreme Court judge after Mr Lalit.

He was elevated to the apex court in May 2016.

“The president is pleased to appoint Dr Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud, judge of the Supreme Court, to be the chief justice of India with effect from 9th November, 2022,” the Ministry of Law and Justice said.

Harvard training

Mr Chandrachud was born in Bombay, now Mumbai, in 1959, to Yashwant Vishnu Chandrachud — India’s longest-serving chief justice and Prabha, a classical musician.

After completing school, he graduated in economics and mathematics and received his law degree from the University of Delhi. He later achieved a Master of Laws degree and a Doctorate of Juridical Science from Harvard Law School.

He practised law at the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. He was designated a senior advocate by the Bombay High Court in 1998.

Mr Chandrachud served as India’s additional solicitor general from 1998, after which he was appointed as a judge of the Bombay High Court in 2000.

He was appointed as the chief justice of the Allahabad High Court in 013.

Mr Chandrachud was appointed as a judge of the Supreme Court of India in 2016.

This is the first time that a father and a son will have held the chief justice position.

Liberal reputation

Since joining the apex court in 2016, Mr Chandrachud is seen as having delivered judgments based on protecting personal liberties, with a close reading of the constitution.

Mr Chandrachud has delivered crucial verdicts, including a landmark ruling on the right to privacy as a fundamental right, decriminalising homosexuality, decriminalising adultery and allowing women to enter Sabarimala temple in southern Kerala state, among others.

He also gave a landmark ruling directing the Indian Armed Forces and the Indian government to grant permanent commissions to women officers in the armed forces.

Recently, he ruled that all women, irrespective of their marital status, have the right to seek abortion up to 24 weeks into their pregnancy.

Mr Chandrachud has also spearheaded the top court’s efforts to embrace technology in judicial work and agreed to live-stream court proceedings through YouTube.

“Citizens have a right to know about and to follow court proceedings. It will subserve the cause of access to justice,” Mr Chandrachud said.

Updated: October 18, 2022, 10:03 AM