Justice Chandrachud: Being tolerant doesn’t mean blind conformity

Being accepting or tolerant of others’ opinion does not mean “blind conformity” or “not standing up against hate speech”, Supreme Court judge Justice DY Chandrachud said Saturday.

“The words famously attributed to Voltaire, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend your right to say it’ must be incorporated into our being. Make no mistake, being accepting and tolerant of the opinions of others, by no means translates into blind conformity and it does not mean not standing up against hate speech,” Justice Chandrachud said during a convocation address at Gujarat National Law University in Gandhinagar Saturday.

“Stepping into the world as fresh graduates, amid the increasing noise and confusion, of political, social and moral clashes of ideology, you must be guided by the thought of your own conscience, and equitable reason. Speak truth to power. Maintain your composure in the face of unspeakable social injustices and use your good fortune and privilege to remedy them,” he said in the pre-recorded video message.

Justice Chandrachud emphasized that law must not be confused with justice and also pointed out that the students, over the course of their career, would often realize that “what is legal is probably unjust, whereas what is just may not always be legal.”

Citing several examples, including the striking down of Section 377, lack of child labor legislation for the longest time, and minimum wages being a result of recent labor movements across the world, he said, “All these issues existed simultaneously with the institutions of law . However, we now agree that they were unfair. There continue to be laws as well as lack of regulations, which push the marginalised, deeper into the pockets of marginalisation.”

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It is also important to look for ways in which laws can be reimagined and redefined to make them better and more just, he added. “At all junctures where you do have the opportunity of working towards social justice, and furthering rights in small and big ways, you must remember the importance of differentiating between law and justice and (using) the law as a step to advance justice… the journey to justice does not stop at a midpoint, or where we feel that we are being less unjust than the others,” he said at the 11th convocation of the GNLU where 247 students received degrees for UG, postgraduate, doctoral and MBA programs.


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