Hundreds of young people die in India due to dishonour killings merely because they love someone or marry outside their caste or against their family’s wishes, Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said on Saturday, in a speech on “Law and Morality”, according to legal news website Bar and Bench. Referring to several cases linked to morality, like the ‘breast tax’, section 377 that criminalised homosexuality, ban on bar dances in Mumbai, and striking down adultery, he said the dominant groups decide the code of conduct and morality, overpowering the weaker groups.
“Members of weaker and marginalised have little choice but to submit to the dominant culture for their own survival. Vulnerable sections of society are unable to generate a counter culture because of humiliation and separation at the hands of the oppressor groups. The counter culture, if any, that the vulnerable groups develop, is overpowered by the government groups to further alienate them,” the CJI said, adding that the vulnerable groups are placed at the bottom of the social structure, and that their consent, even if attained, is a myth.
“Is it necessary that what is moral for me has to be moral for you?” he asked.
He cited an article which spoke about how a 15-year-old girl was killed by her parents in Uttar Pradesh in 1991.
“The article stated that villagers accepted the crime. Their actions were acceptable and justified (for them) because they complied with the code of conduct of that society in which they lived. However, is this the code of conduct that would have been put forward by rational people? If this is not a code of conduct that would have been put forward by rational people? Many people are killed each year for falling in love, or marrying outside their caste or against their family’s wishes,” he said.
The CJI was delivering the Ashok Desai Memorial Lecture, organised by the Bombay Bar Association in Mumbai. Mr Desai was a former Attorney General of India, and
During his speech, the CJI also highlighted the Supreme Court judgment that decriminalised homosexuality in India.
“We rectified the injustice. Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC) was based on morality of a gone era. Constitutional morality focuses on rights of individuals and protects it from popular morality notions of the society,” he said.
On a Constitution bench judgment which unanimously struck down Section 497 of the IPC, which penalised adultery, he said, “The values of a progressive constitution serve as a guiding force for us. They convey that our personal and professional lives aren’t divorced from the Constitution.”
The Indian Constitution was designed not for people as they were, but how they ought to be, he said, adding that, “It is the flag bearer of our fundamental rights. It guides us in our daily life.”
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