Presiding over the murder of freedom

Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, Y.V. Chandrachud passed away yesterday, and as is the case with any larger than life personality, eulogies flowed. While some newspapers did mention his indirect link to India’s darkest hour – the Emergency of 1975, others have cleanly swept it under the carpet. Perhaps they don’t want to relive those hours of their own history which saw them capitulate to Indira Gandhi. The Emergency gave her the power to rule by decree and she and her government used it to target her political opponents. Politicians in India, however, are hardly subject to shabby treatment even if they are enemies. As always, it was the common man who bore the brunt of the brutes in uniform – illegal detentions and all.

If there is one thing that can save people from a rabid government, it is a functioning judiciary and its unswerving belief in the most important guardian of individual freedom – the writ of habeas corpus. On 28th April, 1976, however, the Supreme Court of India abdicated its responsibility and threw the citizens of the country to the wolves, all in the name of upholding the constitution. It struck down the habeas corpus by declaring that no court could entertain any writ of habeas corpus as long as the Emergency was in effect. Y.V. Chandrachud was one of the five judges on the bench which passed this judgment. As is probably known, there was only one dissenter and that person was Justice H.R.Khanna who passed away a few months back.

Jos. Peter D ‘Souza had this to say in the PUCL Bulletin of June 2001-

28th April, 2001, we complete twenty-five years of this horrific day when four of the five senior most Judges of the Supreme Court of the world’s largest democracy could unabashedly declare that under those circumstances no one could seek the assistance of any court in India to try and save his liberty, life or limb threatened to be taken away by the State. A day, which produced a judgment so shameful that even Hitler would have blushed, had he the opportunity to peruse it!
A.D.M. Jabalpur vs Shukla – When the Supreme Court struck down the Habeas Corpus

Chandrachud was not the Chief Justice at that time and he might have done a lot of good work before and after this judgment. Regardless of these facts, the judgment that killed freedom will always be attached to his name and will forever remain a black mark on the history of India’s Supreme Court.

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