"In The Age Of Fake News, We Need Journalists More Than Ever To Document The Unseen & Expose Fault Lines In Society":Justice Chandrachud


9 Aug 2022 6:57 AM GMT

  • In The Age Of Fake News, We Need Journalists More Than Ever To Document The Unseen & Expose Fault Lines In Society:Justice Chandrachud

    "In the age of fake news and disinformation, we need journalists more than ever to document the unseen and expose the fault lines in our society", Justice D. Y. Chandrachud has remarked.The Supreme Court judge was delivering his address at the 11th Convocation and Founder's Day Ceremony at the O. P. Jindal Global University.Following are the excerpts from his address : "In a few days, India...

    "In the age of fake news and disinformation, we need journalists more than ever to document the unseen and expose the fault lines in our society", Justice D. Y. Chandrachud has remarked.

    The Supreme Court judge was delivering his address at the 11th Convocation and Founder's Day Ceremony at the O. P. Jindal Global University.

    Following are the excerpts from his address : 

    "In a few days, India will celebrate the 75th Independence Day, a momentous occasion for all of us. In the 75 years, India has taken strides in all spheres towards achieving our constitutional ideals and values, and yet Independence Day should not become another ritualistic celebration of our freedom celebration. Rather, it should become a site for critical introspection of our progress and fulfilling the values of our Constitution which our Constitution makers, both women and men, aspired to achieve. I could not have a more suitable audience before whom I say this- I have before me several thousand students, all with the potential to make a positive difference to the world. You have the ability to transform the privilege of education into making your neighbourhood and world a better place each day of your life," Justice Chandrachud urged the students.
    "After being affected with Covid twice in one year, I always ask myself one question every night before I end my day and that question is that if this indeed was to be the last day of my life, have I done something little today to transform, not just my loved ones, but those around me, possibly even those who I have never met. Even 75 years after Independence, many communities in India are effectively waiting to test the fruits of democracy which was inherited by us because of our hierarchical social and economic structure. Many of our citizens are deprived of equality in social and economic spheres. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar warned us that our structures of political democracy are precarious until they are not supported by social democracy. He defined social democracy as a way of life which recognises liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. But it is not just the responsibility of the government or of the judiciary to promote social democracy and social justice. The branch of the State to which I belong, the judiciary, has a vital role to play in fostering social democratic values. However, the quest for a constitutional culture is not limited to courtrooms or to the black letter of the law. It exists in all of us. When Benjamin Franklin was leaving the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman accosted him and asked about the type of government the Constitutional Convention had deliberated upon. He replied, 'A republic, if you can keep it". His reply is prescient for all of us in India today. Our constitutional culture does not maintain itself, it is for each one of us as citizens to participate in the slow but vital task every day of transforming our Constitution from a charter of ideas to a reflection of reality", continued the judge.
    "The realisation of those values begins at home in the lives of each one of you. As citizens, we hold the responsibility and the duty which accompanies it as inheritors and guardians of our Constitution to imbibe and to inculcate constitutional ideals into our daily lives, to promote social harmony, inclusion and plurality. It ought to be regarded as a constitutional duty. It is even a moral obligation. As all of you are in true sense a representative of a new India, as you exit the hallowed halls of your university, you should introspect how your actions could contribute to strengthening the constitutional ethos of social democracy in India. Social democracy is not a form of government but a medium to secure social justice. Social justice in turn ensures that equal social and economic opportunities are available to all the people in our society regardless of religion, race, caste, sex, gender, place of birth, or sexual orientation. Our laws provide for formal equality of opportunity. However in reality we live in an asymmetrical world where opportunities are unequally distributed. Such opportunities open many doors for the 'haves' but shut the doors for the 'have nots'. In our quest for social justice, we must strive to provide equal opportunity to persons especially from marginalised backgrounds to empower them to effectively enjoy their own sense of liberty. As you enter into the next stage of your life where many of you will undertake different professional responsibilities, as lawyers, journalists, as policymakers, as economics, as academicians, as entrepreneurs and business managers, I exhorted you to contribute towards strengthening democratic structures in India and across the globe in your own meaningful way. I understand that all of you have evolved from different circumstances, you have your dreams to realise and responsibilities to discharge. A small contribution on your part will create a big difference in someone else's life. In doing so, you elevate your own sense of being", canvassed Justice Chandrachud.
    "If you are a practising lawyer, you can aim to devote your life to the protection of the defenceless by providing legal aid. If you work in a corporate law firm, you can strive to make your work spaces equitable and accessible. Many lawyers and legal academicians are taking active steps to bridge the issues of under-representation of marginalised communities in the legal profession in India. I would particularly like to mention the CEDE. initiative started by Anurag Bhaskar, my former judicial clerk and presently an assistant professor at Jindal global Law school. The CEDE initiative attempts to set up a network of lawyers and Law Firms who are willing to provide internship opportunities to students from marginalised communities. Anurag has transformed his Dalit status to transform Indian society. Professor Shamnad Basheer understood the structural obstacle to entry to premier law schools in India which disadvantages students from underprivileged backgrounds. This inspired him to set up the 'Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access'- the IDIA network, which provides coaching assistance to underprivileged students and continued support after their entry into law schools. At the University, effort should be made in terms of affirmative action and financial assistance to provide greater impetus to participation of underprivileged students in premier academic institutions. The privilege of higher education must liberate and not reinforce unequal social structures in India", illustrated the judge.
    "Those entering the profession of journalism can empower students and people by becoming their voice. The true purpose of journalism is to purvey information, opinion and ideas so that people can make informed choices and exercise their liberties. The Supreme Court in its judgment of Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India observed that India's freedom will rest safe as long as journalists can speak truth to power without being chilled by the threat of reprisal. In the age of fake news and disinformation, we need journalists more than ever to document the unseen and expose the fault lines in our society", emphasised Justice Chandrachud.
    "Policymakers and economics amongst you can devise policies with empathy towards the marginalised and the under-represented. Welfare and inclusion must not become forgotten ideals of the past. Policymakers can formulate policies to politically and socially empower the disenfranchised. Economic theories must try to increase access to economic resources and opportunities for women and the underprivileged", continued the judge.
    "Architects can ensure that they construct green buildings with the purpose of creating a positive impact on the climate and the natural environment. You can also ensure that the buildings which you designed are accessible to persons with disabilities. The ideals of social justice require all of us to contemplate the obstacles there are to full and effective empowerment of all our citizens and to take effective steps to address these obstacles. By doing so, we are treating each person as an end in itself rather than as a means to the ends of others or our own", explained Justice Chandrachud.
    "Business managers and entrepreneurs can ensure they provide more employment opportunities to women and people from marginalised backgrounds, especially in key managerial positions. Although the free market economy has increased opportunities for everyone, it has also created a myth of merit which disadvantages the underprivileged in participating in the core domains of life such as education and employment. All of us have to realise that some freedoms limit the freedoms of others. The freedom to hire people from elite social economic backgrounds limits the opportunities of others to similar employment opportunities", elaborated Justice Chandrachud.
    "Teachers and educators are the guiding force for students. Good education plays a vital role in the expansion of capabilities and expands the freedom a student will have in the future. Through education, teachers and educators must strive to develop the judgment of students to value the appropriate use of their capabilities and to foster their vision for a more just and liberal society, with the sole intent that they may not abuse their freedom", continued the judge.
    Justice Chandrachud proceeded to discuss that irrespective of our academic or professional backgrounds, all of us are capable of following constitutional ideals in our own meaningful way- "In the 75th year of independence, we must also introspect if women are provided adequate opportunity to effectively exercise their freedoms and to participate in the public life of the nation. In the field of law, women are grossly underrepresented. Recent statistics of the government of India show that women lawyers constitute 15% of all lawyers in India. Even the laws which have been enacted to enhance the freedoms and capabilities of women are inadequate and limited. To give you just one example, last month a case came before my court where an unmarried 24-months pregnant woman was denied the right to terminate her pregnancy under the medical termination of pregnancy act 1971. We considered in our interim order the legislative intent of Parliament and purposively interpreted the provisions of the act to uphold the right of unmarried women to seek a safe termination of pregnancy. But what really bothers me is that in this case, the petitioner had access to effective legal representation to scale the legal and social barriers. But think about many such women across India who find themselves in similar situations without access to aid, social or legal. This highlights that although women may have access to material choices, the exercise of such choices is dependent upon material preconditions. It is our moral and constitutional responsibility to understand these obstacles and address them to effectively empower women to enjoy their freedoms and participate in public life. In addition to our professional lives, we must also strive to inculcate the ideals of the Constitution in our personal life. We must every appreciate every person for their equal worth, regardless of their religion, race, caste, sex or gender. We must exercise our liberty to speak against patriarchy, casteism, homophobia and such other harmful attitudes against the marginalised. And most importantly, we must, fellow citizens, treat our own people as our own and to respond to their sorrow and suffering with the fraternal sense of obligation".
    "In today's age of social media, we are trapped in information bubbles which leads to intellectual isolation. I exhort you to break free from the shackles of algorithms and to reach out to those on the other side of the spectrum and understand their perspective. If we can follow these ideals, the dream of achieving a social democracy can become true work-in-progress. India needs the services of well trained and well equipped personnel such as you for attaining its economic and social transformation. Independence did not just mark a freedom from colonial rule, independence was a watershed in a social transformation which our society intended to achieve", articulated the judge.
    "As I reach out to the parents across the stadium, I reach out to my own parents. You are fortunate to have your parents in the stadium. My parents are way above the twinkling stars. But I am today where I am and I exist today because of the unstinted dedication, the care, the love and the compassion which my mother showed to me as a sickly, young child who was given a wrong antibiotic in the 1960s and I survived to see the day thanks to just the love and affection which my parents gave me. I would like to congratulate your resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which has transformed our lives. These unprecedented times have also made us aware of our innate ability to adapt and to be empathetic to others. We count on the blessing of life itself, countless others across the world have not been as fortunate", expressed Justice Chandrachud.

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