“Indian Constitution Is A Feminist Document”: CJI Chandrachud

CJI Chandrachud

New Delhi: Mentioning how the rights which we now consider as universal were not universal all the time, Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud on Friday delivered the 8th Dr L M Singhvi Memorial Lecture hosted by the OP Jindal Global University (JGU), on the theme ‘Universal Adult Franchise: Translating India’s Political Transformation into a Social Transformation’. Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankhar was the chief guest of the event. Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankhar also addressed the gathering at the Memorial Lecture and defined that power resides with the citizens in a true democracy through their electoral mandate.

The Lecture commemorated the life and work of diplomat, jurist, lawyer, and Parliamentarian L M Singhvi (1931-2007). Addressing an august gathering of distinguished guests from the Indian legal and political fraternity at Dr Ambedkar International Centre, Justice Chandrachud said, “In India, we find a historic social system in which power was concentrated in the hands of the upper class of society. The rights which we now consider as universal were not universal all the time. They were denied to the oppressed. This was the norm across the world. Those who did not hold power were subjected to several levels of oppression against this power hegemony. Unfortunately, the exercise of democracy was used to retain power by the few the right to vote was controlled and exercised by only those individuals who had already succeeded in society because of their social power and cultural capital. For instance, the right to vote was exercised only by those who had certain properties or educational institutions or qualifications which one the result of not their individual effort but were a reflection of the influence and hegemony their communities had on society. As a result, the idea of democracy itself was controlled by the elites of society. Voting rights were denied to women and members of the marginalized communities because the elite did not want to share the power with them.”

“When the negotiations to give rights to Indians and to draft the constitution were happening in the 20th century, Indian leaders such as Dr B R Ambedkar led a strong demand that the conception of free India cannot happen without giving universal adult franchise. The marginalized communities had to struggle every inch to claim equal rights therefore, the idea of a universal adult franchise is not just a political idea, it’s a social idea and vision at its core. The introduction of universal adult franchise was truly a revolutionary idea at the time when such a right had recently been extended to women, people of color, working class in supposedly mature western democracies. In this regard, our Constitution was a feminist document as well as an egalitarian and socially transformative document, it was a break from the colonial and pre-colonial legacy. The boldest move adopted by the Indian constitution that was a product of Indian imagination. Universal Adult Franchise was a solid determination of India’s founding leaders to create a democratic state. Universal Adult Franchise helped establish a sense of belonging and responsibility among citizens as equal stake holders in the country’s progress. The Indian experiment with the Universal Adult Franchise contradicts all myths against it. Therefore, we must reject every form of elite understanding of the democratic process which we keep hearing constantly that only educated are better decision-makers,” he said.

He added how Indian social leaders, such as Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule, coming from the marginalized communities demanded equal citizenship for the oppressed and started initiatives that could educate the masses about their rights. He spoke about the idea of Universal Adult Franchise (UAF) was deliberated and included in the constitutional discourse, leading to the drafting of India’s constitution, as well as how the idea of Panchayati Raj along with UAF led to the deepening of India’s democracy. Speaking about Dr L M Singhvi, he said, “An astute jurist, a fierce parliamentarian, and a prolific writer, Dr Singhvi was an encyclopedia of knowledge in Indian history and culture. He played an important role in shaping Indian public life through his career as a lawyer as well as a distinguished parliamentarian.”

Speaking at the event, Vice President of India Jagdeep Dhankhar stated, “It was my great privilege to have known Dr L.M. Singhvi. He was a distinguished advocate and a leading Parliamentarian who worked towards translating India’s political transformation into social Transformation. We are the world’s most vibrant democracy that is representative to an ideal level. It is indicated in the preamble of our constitution – we the people. That means the power resides in the people – their mandate, their wisdom. Indian parliament reflects the minds of the people. The harmonious working of these institutions is vital for the growth of democracy. Any incursion, howsoever subtle, in the domain of one by another has the capacity to unsettle the apple cart of governance. We started with the Constituent Assembly in which members were enormously talented from all sections of society. But progressively with each election our parliament reflects authentically the mandate and wisdom of the people. And now what we have in the parliament is fairly representative. at a global level we do not have a parallel on that count. I am delighted to be a part of the Singhvi Endowment lecture organised by O. P. Jindal Global University and their Vice Chancellor Prof C. Raj Kumar.”

Professor (Dr) C. Raj Kumar Founding Vice Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University said, “It was my great privilege to have known Dr L.M. Singhvi. He was a distinguished advocate and a leading Parliamentarian who worked towards translating India’s Political Transformation into social Transformation. India is a vibrant democracy with our Parliament becoming increasingly inclusive and diverse after each election. It truly represents the mandate of our citizens. We as a nation are on the rise and this rise is unstoppable. Our strength was clearly demonstrated in our handling of the Covid-19 pandemic especially when compared to other countries. We have developed an ecosystem for effective governance, and it is essential to keep our national interest above all. Power resides with our citizens through their mandate and resolve and this power is reflected through the most scientific mechanisms: legislation! We are proud of the Indian Judiciary which has contributed to protect the rights of our citizens. I am delighted to be a part of the Singhvi Endowment lecture organised by O.P. Jindal Global University and their Vice Chancellor Prof. C. Raj Kumar.”

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Welcoming the distinguished gathering to the 8th Dr L.M. Singhvi Memorial Lecture, leading advocate, author and legal luminary and his son, Dr Abhishek M. Singhvi reminisced how his father was a man of ideas and intellectual scholarship and that it took him just a few hours to draft the Constitution Day Charter to commemorate the day the Constitution Day. “He was awarded the rank of a Cabinet Minister to work towards Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas on 9th January, when our Father of the Nation Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India to lead the freedom movement. He was also seminal in the process of creating an ombudsman which led to the establishment of the Office of the Lokpal and the Lokayukta.”
Dr Singhvi also recently established a Rs 2 crore endowment at OP Jindal Global University to provide access to a world-class education for disadvantaged young people.

This story is provided by OP Jindal University. ANI will not be responsible in any way for the content of this article.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by HW News staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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