Basic structure of Constitution guides like north star: CJI DY Chandrachud

CJI Chandrachud likened the basic structure of the Constitution to a North Star, saying that it guides the judges in interpreting the Constitution.

New Delhi,UPDATED: Jan 22, 2023 19:47 IST

Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud. (PTI photo)

By Srishti Ojha: The Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud on Saturday said that the basic structure of our Constitution, like a North Star that guides the judges in interpreting the Constitution. “The basic structure of our Constitution, like a North Star, guides and gives a certain direction to the interpreters and implementers of the Constitution when the path ahead is convoluted,” the CJI said.

The statement came a few days after Vice President Jaideep Dhankar criticised the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict in the Kesavananda Bharati case on the basic structure doctrine.

Delivering the 18th Nani Palkhivala memorial lecture, organised by the Bombay Bar Association, CJI Chandrachud said that this year marks fifty years since our country firmly established the doctrine of basic structure in our legal landscape.

The CJI, in his address, noted that the identity of the Indian Constitution has evolved through the interaction of Indian citizens with the Constitution and accompanied by judicial interpretation. The craftsmanship of a judge lies in interpreting the text of the Constitution with the changing times while keeping the soul intact.

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He said the basic structure or the philosophy of our Constitution is premised on supremacy of the Constitution, the rule of law, separation of powers, judicial review, secularism, federalism, freedom and dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.

While talking about Nani Palkhivala’s legacy in an interconnected world, the CJI also charted out the migration of the doctrine of basic structure and how it has taken different avatars around the world.

DY Chandrachud said that migration, integration, and reformulation of the doctrine of basic structure in constitutional democracies across continents is a rare success story of diffusion of legal ideas in our interconnected world.

He added that what has been successfully adopted in India is its own unique formulation of the basic structure theory.

The CJI also said that the journey of basic structure doctrine has shown that it might be beneficial for a judge to look at how other jurisdictions have dealt with similar problems before them.

“Some scholars of comparative constitutional law understand this typical problem-solving approach to be the classical functionalist methodology of comparative law. Nonetheless, the larger picture of legal culture and local dimensions of law which are dictated by the context should never be obfuscated. Law is always grounded in social realities. Just as a house must be in harmony with its environment and context, so must law and legal ideas become part of the landscape and embody and express the local values,” CJI DY Chandrachud said.

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Jan 22, 2023

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