The Supreme Court judge also justified the court’s intervention in the Covid vaccination policy. He said the court prima facie found fault in the policy of the Centre for being discriminatory and it could not stand as a “silent spectator” in a humanitarian crisis. He said the court adopted a “bounded deliberative approach” and the policy was changed for the betterment for the citizens.
“The criminal law, including anti-terror legislation, should not be misused for quelling dissent or for harassment of citizens. As I noted in Arnab Goswami v. State of Maharashtra and others, our courts must ensure they continue to remain the first line of defence against the deprivation of liberty of citizens,” the Supreme Court judge said.
“Deprivation of liberty even for a single day is one too many. We must always be mindful of the deeper systemic implications of our decisions,” Justice Chandrachud said while speaking at the Indo-US Joint Summer Conference on legal ties.
Justice Chandrachud, who has passed various judgments to protect personal liberty and freedom, referred to orders by the apex court to protect the rights of the poor and marginalised sections during the Covid pandemic and how the SC‘s intervention led to change in vaccination policy of the Centre.
“The role of the Indian Supreme Court and its involvement in aspects affecting daily lives of the population of India cannot be understated. While being acutely aware of this responsibility, the judges of the Supreme Court of India are careful to maintaining the separation of powers. Many of its interventions have changed the course of Indian history — be it in protecting civil and political liberties which cast a negative obligation on the state or in directing the state to implement socio-economic rights as affirmative obligations under the Constitution,” he said
“While some have termed these interventions of the Indian Supreme Court as ‘judicial activism’ or ‘judicial overreach’, the court plays the role of a counter-majoritarian institution,” he said, countering the charge. “It is the court’s duty to protect the rights of socio-economic minorities. As the guardian of the Constitution, it has to put a brake where executive or legislative actions infringe on fundamental human rights,” Justice Chandrachud said.
“…the court’s approach of questioning the rationale of the policy decisions of the government helped in grounding the dialogue between the government and the court regarding the existence of the policy within the constitutional framework,” he noted in the case of vaccine policy. The Centre thereafter revised its policy, bearing responsibility of procuring 75% of the vaccines and administering them free of cost to persons above the age of 18 years, while also capping the price that could be charged for the remainder 25% of vaccines, he said.