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State must side with weaker population in democracy: CJI

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New Delhi: Chief Justice of India (CJI) D Y Chandrachud on Saturday said the state must side with the weaker population, which may be a numerical or a social minority so that all citizens feel free in a democracy.
Speaking at Justice Keshav Chandra Dhulia Memorial Essay Competition here, the CJI said the majority will have its way in a democracy, but the minority must have its say.
He said democracy must engage with all its stakeholders in order to be more than a mere approximation of majoritarian preferences.
This engagement may or may not lead to an outcome right away but will definitely remain etched as a historical fact capable of being resurrected in the future, the CJI said.
“For all citizens to feel free in a democracy, the state must side with the weaker population which may be a numerical or a social minority. This may at first appear to be at odds with the democratic principle of majority rule. However, a mere rule by the majority can be established by many forms of government,” he added.
The CJI said the “beauty of a democracy is the sense of moral status with which all citizens can participate in a country and the consensus in its decision making”. “In a democracy, the majority will have its way, but the minority must have its say,” he added.
Elaborating his view, the CJI said if a democracy cannot safeguard discourse around the needs of all its people, it falls short of its promise and thus in order to resolve their discontents, a democracy must begin with hearing them.
“Merely because a body is elected does not ensure that it acts in the best interest of those who it governs. Democracy is messy and imperfect but inherent in it are the postulates of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity,” he added.
Talking about the vitality of dissent, the CJI said dissent in a democracy, even those which are unpopular and unacceptable, give us windows to the future.
“If democracy means that the views of the majority prevail then it necessarily implies that a deliberating and eventually, a dissenting minority. And this can at times be more powerful than a dumb, unthinking accepting majority, ruled by slogans. A servile and subservient population guarantees a weakened democracy,” he said.
The CJI said dissent emerges from profound questions about the working of the society.
“Abolition of slavery, annihilation of caste, emancipation of gender minorities and religious harmony were all once dissenting opinions. However, these dissents hold the power to fundamentally restructure our society by sparking an important conversation,” the CJI said.
“These dissents emerge not from thin air but from a democratic culture of fierce debates. Therefore, a society which does not encourage its citizens to critically think, question the powers that be and engage in non-conformist democratic discourse will fail to progress because it will fail to create dissenters,” he added.

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