Dominant groups morality creates bias against weaker sections: CJI Chandrachud

Dominant groups' morality creates bias against weaker sections: CJI Chandrachud

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Hundreds of people are killed every year for falling in love or marrying outside their castes or against the wishes of their families, Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud said on Saturday while delivering the Ashok Desai Memorial Lecture in Mumbai on ‘Law and Morality: The Bounds and Reaches’.

The CJI, while saying that people’s confidence for the protection of liberties rests on the judiciary, rued how “adequate morality” of dominant groups creeps into lawmaking to perpetuate biases against weaker and vulnerable sections of the society.

Adequate morality

The CJI defined “adequate morality” as the morality of men, the upper castes, and able-bodied persons, Hindustan Times reported. “Even after the framing of the Constitution, the law has been imposing ‘adequate morality’, that is, the morality of the dominant community. In our parliamentary system of democracy, laws are passed by the vote of majority. Therefore, the discourse around public morality often finds its way into the law enacted by the majority,” he said.

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The CJI’s statements come at a time when several states, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka are coming up with stringent laws against religious conversions.

“Morality appeals to our conscience and often influences the way we behave…We can all agree that morality is a system of values that prescribes a code of conduct. But, do all of us principally agree on what constitutes morality? That is, is it necessary that what is moral for me ought to be moral to you as well?’ he asked.

The myth of consent

CJI Chandrachud pointed out that vulnerable groups often are placed at the bottom of the social structure and that their consent, even if attained, is a myth. “Dominant groups, by attacking the etiquette of the vulnerable groups, often prevent them from creating an identity that is unique to themselves,” he said.

“To counter the social morality of dominant groups that are imposed under the garb of common morality, there is a need to shift the conversation towards the values enshrined in the Constitution,” he added

Guardian of liberties

The CJI said the confidence of citizens in the due process of law and the protection of liberty rests in the judiciary which is “guardians of liberties”.

This remark comes a day after a bench led by him ordered the immediate release of a man sentenced to a total of 18 years in jail under nine separate cases of electricity theft in Uttar Pradesh.

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“Yesterday in a seemingly innocuous case, where an accused was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in sessions trial for theft of electricity, the trial judge forgot to say that the sentences will run concurrently,” he said.

The CJI further said there is no case which is “small enough, or big enough” for every court in the nation, be it the district judiciary, the high court, or the Supreme Court, “because it is in us that the confidence of the citizens, in the due process of law and the protection of liberty, rests”.

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