Justice Chitambaresh
Justice Chitambaresh | Kerala High Court website
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India’s courts have often been referred to as the custodians of the Constitution. So, it is expected from individuals who hold the office of a judge that they will uphold the values of the Constitution, not only in their judgments, but also in their conduct in public life. The recent remarks of Justice V. Chitambaresh, a sitting judge of the Kerala High Court prove us wrong.

In upholding the Brahmin caste, Chitambaresh let down democracy.

The Constitution, in the words of political scientist Rajeev Bhargava, was designed to “to break the shackles of traditional social hierarchies and to usher in a new era of freedom, equality, and justice”. This was made possible by the enactment of provisions, which sought to bring into, or closer to, the mainstream society those social groups and individuals “that would have remained at society’s bottom or at its edges”. These provisions primarily include abolition of untouchability, providing of reservation to socially backward groups, and prohibition of discrimination on basis of caste, among other provisions. The Constitution envisions caste equality, where no caste is considered supreme.

This feature of the Constitution was shaped by various struggles against structures of hierarchy and oppression. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud aptly highlighted this in his concurring opinion in Navtej Singh Johar v Union of India: “Throughout history, socio-cultural revolts, anti-discrimination assertions, movements, literature and leaders have worked at socializing people away from supremacist thought and towards an egalitarian existence. The Indian Constitution is an expression of these assertions. It was an attempt to reverse the socializing of prejudice, discrimination, and power hegemony in a disjointed society”. The Constitution, thus, entrusts public office holders with the responsibility of “drawing a curtain on the past” inequalities and prejudices.


Also read: Who is a Brahmin? One who eats veg, loves Carnatic music, has clean habits, says Kerala judge


Justice V. Chitambaresh’s remarks on Brahmins are not only contrary to the above values of the Constitution, but also unbecoming of the constitutional post which he holds. Speaking at the Tamil Brahmin’s Global Meet, Justice Chitambaresh began his address by extolling the virtues of Brahmins. The judge said that Brahmins are “twice born” and possessed certain “distinct characteristics”. He also asserted that a Brahmin should “always be at the helm of affairs”. Justice Chitambaresh then called on the Brahmin community to agitate for economic reservation, rather than caste or communal reservation. He observed, “It’s time for you (Brahmins) to deliberate as to whether reservations should be on the basis of community or caste alone”.

While he maintained that he is not expressing any opinion on the same considering the fact that he is holding a constitutional post, he should have never asked for reconsideration of reservation in the first place. A constitutional office holder should have never talked about virtues and entitlements of a particular caste, which in our history represents a thought of supremacy. Justice Chitambaresh’s words are reiteration of the trenchant thought that believes in caste hierarchy, and considers reservation, provided to socially backward social groups, a threat to that hierarchical supremacy. Considering the fact these remarks come from an office in the higher judiciary, which is often criticised for being non-representative of the marginalised social groups, this is definitely going to send a wrong message to these groups.


Also read: The nauseating nepotism and caste-based discrimination that exists in Indian judiciary


This is not the first time a constitutional officer has behaved this way. In the 1950s, when former President of India Rajendra Prasad had publicly bathed the feet of two hundred Brahmins in Varanasi, socialist leader and thinker Ram Manohar Lohia had openly criticised him for perpetuating caste system. He stated, “To bathe another’s feet publicly is vulgar… To bathe another’s feet on the ground that he is a Brahmin is to guarantee the continuance of the caste system, of poverty and sadness”. Lohia was particularly critical that Dr Prasad did so while holding the highest post of the Indian Republic, and remarked, “The spirit, of which such evil acts are born, can never plan the country’s welfare nor adventure with joy. It will ever keep the vast millions lowly and submerged. It will deny them social and economic equality, just as much as it denies them spiritual equality”.


Also read: No Dalit judge in the country’s top court that passed order on SC/ST Act


In 2015, Justice J.D. Pardiwala of the Gujarat High Court had written in his judgment, in a completely unrelated matter, that reservations have destroyed the country. However, after 58 members of the Rajya Sabha moved a notice to impeach him for the said remarks, the judge deleted the remarks from his judgments, stating them as not “relevant and necessary” while deciding the petition.

In 2018, Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit of the Supreme Court called the implementation of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 as “perpetuating casteism” and an adversary of “constitutional values”. Later, on his retirement day, Justice Goel compared the working of the Act with the wrongs done during the Emergency.

A sitting high court judge, who professionally weighs his thoughts and words, can have no justification for making remarks contrary to constitutional and egalitarian values. Justice V. Chitambaresh’s words must be strongly condemned, especially by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and his colleagues in the Supreme Court.

The author is LLM’19 postgraduate from Harvard Law School. Views are personal.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Utter nonsense! He was speaking at a Tamil Brahmin meet. Does he have no right to speak about his religion, caste or his religious leanings in an event hosted by the faithfuls of that religion with that very specific purpose?! Justice Chidambaresh also reminded himself that he holds a constitutional post and that he was not airing his opinion. I salute him for he is no hypocrite!

  2. This is why low bred brahmins will continue to leech off others. Anyone who calls himself a Brahmin is obviously perpetuating the caste system. When will these illiterates learn progressive values?

    • You see SC intellectuals always abusing brahmins instead of doing anything for their society. SC beurocrates are always partial and against brahmins.
      The judge was speaking at a brahmins gathering and was expressing his views as a brahmin and citizen of India. He never uttered a word against and caste or community. The writer of this article is biased and anti brahmins. These people always abuse and blame brahmins for everything. Caste based reservations is not their birth right .Reservations should be for poor irrespective of caste.

  3. All Brahmans think thesemselves so superior. In the current scenario, such biased, narrow-mind views should not be allowed. First let us disbar all brahman associations. They are perpetuating casteist ideology which is a blight on modern India.

  4. I cannot under stand how brhamins are twice born , Scripture says that they are born through brahmas mouth. No mention of second birth.The name of mother is known but who was the father? From Brahma one can know the gender also man capable of giving birth.The vitues of brahamins are end less one has to read the jotirao Fule.in original.But one thing is certain that for the backwardness and poverty of this Indian society not brahamins but brahminism is responsible unfortunately the judge belongs to both.The most heinous crime.

  5. Much is made about the concept of “twice born”, which is a medical impossibility except in rare cases. Lots of hate mongers masquerading as liberals complain that brahmins are “twice born”. How can anyone object to a mere philosophy? People are free to call themselves “ten times born” who is stopping them? It is simply crying, whining and throwing tantrums for the sake of it. And how foolish can a person be to take it seriously. Somebody wrote something in some unknown century and now so-called intellectuals are beating their chests about it. At the cost of repeating, such people can call themselves “ten times born”. I am sure no one will have any objection.

  6. This is an example of What they don’t teach you at Harvard ..? The author is a rabble rouser a busy body who is sitting at home and beating his 🐕 when he doesn’t write rubbish. This is what the judge said “Brahmins must be at helm of affairs…. that a Brahmin is someone who has all good qualities rolled into one.

    The judge began by describing who’s a Brahmin according to him: “Who is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is twice born because of Poorva Janma Sukrutham (the result of good deeds he did in the previous birth). He has got certain distinct characteristics – clean habits, lofty thinking, sterling character, mostly a vegetarian, a lover of Carnatic music – all good qualities rolled into one is a Brahmin. There are innumerable ‘agraharams’ (Brahmin-only housing areas) in Kerala which need to be preserved. There is a rich cultural heritage, the ‘agraharams’ have to be declared as heritage zones and we shall not allow any flats to be built in between the houses in agraharams.”

    Judge then went on to merely suggest

    “It’s time for you (Brahmins) to deliberate as to whether reservations should be on the basis of community or caste alone.
    He added a caveat : Occupying a constitutional post, it may not be proper for me to express any opinion, I am not expressing my opinion at all. But I am only kindling your interest or reminding you that there is a platform for you to agitate or to voice your concerns about economic reservation alone and not caste or communal reservation. Of course, there is a 10 percent reservation for economically backward classes. A son of a Brahmin cook, even if he falls within the non-creamy layer zone will not get any reservation whereas a son of a timber merchant who belongs to other backward communities will get reservation if he’s within the non-creamy layer zone. I am not expressing any opinion at all. It’s for you to deliberate and put forward your views. As Mr Raman said, it is the child who cries who gets the milk. Time has come for us to play the orchestra and not continue to play solo,” he said.

    He also stressed on the need to conserve Vedic schools and claimed that a Brahmin should be at the helm of affairs since he’s so “superior”.

    “More of Veda patashalas which are now dwindling should be encouraged; the rich cultural heritage should be protected. It may be noted that a Brahmin is never communal, he is always considerate, he is an ahimsa vadi ( a non-violent person), he loves people, he is one who liberally donates for any laudable cause. Such a person should always be at the helm of affairs for which the Tamil Brahmin meet will definitely be a pointer,” he said.

    Please let me know which part of what is said is not part of innumerable Supreme Court verdicts on caste based reservation in education or employment. You claim to be a lawyer from Harvard. Shame on you !

    • All of what he said isn’t part of any judgement of court except for reservations for OBC/SC/ST and creamy layer, else there’s no record of Brahmin being mentioned asholding whatever qualities he (Judge Chitambaresh) ascribes to them here in any supreme court or higher judiciary on reservation or constitution. These are his own personal views and statements like such “There is a rich cultural heritage, the ‘agraharams’ have to be declared as heritage zones and we shall not allow any flats to be built in between the houses in agraharams.”, are segregationist and caste supremacist, how else would you say it’s not a supremacist view of caste, even with statements such as ” “Who is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is twice born because of Poorva Janma Sukrutham (the result of good deeds he did in the previous birth).” This debunks the whole point that caste recognition is based on “Karma” or profession of the person in present instead of him/her being born to parents of certain caste and gotra. He’s not merely saying that anyone who holds that characteristics viz a viz good hygiene, proper etiquette and manners, and other qualities qualifies as Brahmins, when he explicitly mentions one being born to such and such family or parents due to his “Poorvajanam Karm” which in-turn resulted him/her inheriting those values. These views if he truly believes in it are not problematic for a Supreme Court jude as essentially these are not too far removed from race realists/white supremacists (where only Whites hold superior attributes, except here it’s his utopian Brahmin) and his biases may interfere with providing fair decisions and recruitment of deserving non-Brahmins candidate.

  7. ” In the doctrine originated by St. Paul, it signifies the wiping away of past sins and the rebirth of the individual into a new life. Judaism practiced is it also wrong can body comment on it. In Hinduism it is upanayanam

  8. This justice follows the Constitution just out of compulsion. Otherwise his loyalty lies with mannu smiriti. And this judge happens to be just the tip of the iceberg.
    But, if he knows history then, he might be knowing that the March of history could not be stopped by the fedual order, the believers of slavery, the autocratic monarcial system, British imperialism and many more….

    • What is manusmriti? I have heard of it many times from casteist politicians and read the constitution which governs the nation. But could not find reference to it.

  9. The article doesn’t say how this Judge’s views about who a Brahmin is, offends other caste persons. Granting that such caste based opinion is unwelcome in a democracy, I would have appreciate the Author’s view, if he or people of his ilk had written this kind of article when judges of other castes, especially Dalit judges wrote their biased judgments. See the judgment of Justice Rathnavel pandian in Indra Sahni case to know how the judges bend backwards to perpetuate casteism. Egalitarianism gave us judges of doubtful integrity like KG Balakrishnan, CS Karnan, and PD Dhinakaran.

    • All of what he said isn’t part of any judgement of court except for reservations for OBC/SC/ST and creamy layer, else there’s no record of Brahmin being mentioned upholding whatever qualities he (Judge Chitambaresh) ascribes to them here in any supreme court or higher judiciary judgement on reservation or constitution. These are his own personal views and statements like such “There is a rich cultural heritage, the ‘agraharams’ have to be declared as heritage zones and we shall not allow any flats to be built in between the houses in agraharams.”, are segregationist and caste supremacist, how else would you say it’s not a supremacist view of caste, even with statements such as ” “Who is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is twice born because of Poorva Janma Sukrutham (the result of good deeds he did in the previous birth).” This debunks the whole point that caste recognition is based on “Karma” or profession of the person in present instead of him/her being born to parents of certain caste and gotra. He’s not merely saying that anyone who holds that characteristics viz a viz good hygiene, proper etiquette and manners, and other qualities qualifies as Brahmins, when he explicitly mentions one being born to such and such family or parents due to his “Poorvajanam Karm” which in-turn resulted him/her inheriting those values. These views if he truly believes in it are not problematic for a Supreme Court jude as essentially these are not far removed from the race realists/white supremacists line of thinking (where only Whites hold superior attributes, except here it’s his utopian Brahmin).

  10. Biased journalism to create unnecessary controversy out of nothing! I was a recent regular to this site and now I may spare my time on other sites where they don’t have a “hidden agenda”. Good luck if this is what you want to promote as news thePrint!

  11. Another Harvard trained NRI lawyer living in the USA and not in India but has likely enjoyed the benefits of reservation which is a consequence of centuries of caste discrimination.
    Would like to know how long he has actually lived in India before forming his opinion on the benefits of reservation and whether he even remembers Ambedkar’s own restrictions on caste based reservations that are not being followed?
    I wish THE PRINT would pursue neutral, objective and professional journalism through experts and people who work on the ground in India.
    Why is it that so many of your contributors are US trained NRIs from specific communities?
    Why don’t you add the real life work experience of the authors on the ground in India in the author description? Where is Shekar Gupta and where are these people?
    Sekhar Gupta sir, I am genuinely disappointed in the people you have chosen to author your articles. A journalist, scientist, doctor, judge, lawyer etc should have a balanced perspective and draw his opinion from all points of views but your NRI authors are clearly lacking in objectivity as well as real life experience.
    I do not support the judges statements but I definitely do not agree with the author’s criticism of it.

  12. It would be better if the article described the comments and then explained what is wrong with those comments. Instead, this article has turned into a diatribe. To quote somebody controversial and biased like Rajeev Bhargava doesn’t help your cause either.

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