WHEN you hold this small leather-bound book in your hands, you are holding the very destiny of this nation written 62 years ago. Would the founding fathers have ever imagined the tribulations, the controversies, the confrontations that would arise when the provisions are implemented? At the same time, they would, undoubtedly, have conceived of the vast benefits that the disadvantaged sections of society would derive through the implementation of the provisions of the Constitution of India.
By distributing powers between the Centre and the States and through separation of powers between the three organs of State, the founding fathers would have been satisfied that the nation would march forward in tranquillity and peace without any conflicts between the State and the Centre or between the different organs of State. Could they have been more mistaken? From the earliest years itself, the legislative wing and the executive wing of the State on the one hand, confronted the judicial wing on the other, with the accusation that they had vastly encroached upon the powers not given to them but given to the executive. The then Law Minister on 28th October 1976 issued a strident warning to the judges of the Supreme Court, and I quote:
“An atmosphere of confrontation was sought to be created by those whose duty it was to see that they did not encroach upon the field which did not legitimately belong to them. Nothing should be left undone now to ensure that such a situation did (sic, does) not recur. If even after the amendment confrontation continues, then I think it will be a bad day for the judiciary”.
“We are trying to save them from the temptation to intrude into powers which do not belong to them. What we are doing today is not to save the people from the judges but really enabling the judges to save them from themselves”.
This was said during the Emergency, which hit the nation like the Tsunami and brought about the realisation that the Constitution could be subverted. It is true that the Supreme Court did not rise to the occasion, but in the aftermath of the lifting of the emergency, this one wing of the State, the Judiciary, spearheaded by the Supreme Court of India, established its primacy, by ensuring that the vast rights bestowed on the people by the Constitution, including human rights, freedom of speech and the right to life and liberty were all rendered sacrosanct.
Today, therefore, this little book in our hands has revolutionised the lives of the people. We have a long march ahead and day-after-day the sacred words of the Directive Principles of the Constitution have brought solace to the billions of people of this country; and that is why I believe that every Indian, whether he be a lawyer, judge or not, should have a copy of this little book, small in size but huge in its human dimensions. I believe that this elegant book should be in the pockets of every Indian, enabling him to derive inspiration from the greatness of the ideas contained in the Constitution of India, which we, the people of India, have given unto ourselves.
— K.K. Venugopal, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India
Preface to the Tenth Edition
IT IS NO mystery to the court practitioner that the specialist is an open critic of those who talk the Constitution. The foremost Constitutional vidwans are usually those who have a bird’s eye view of other disciplines, but are scarcely experts of any particular field. With the exception of the great Nani Palkhivala whose mastery of taxation was the stuff of legend (and Brabourne stadium audiences) all the other diamonds in the firmament?—?Sorabjee, Nariman, Venugopal, Desai and Parasaran?—?stoked their reputations on the pure anvil of the Constitution. Not for them the dull throb of the CrPC to be cast in the way of erring constables, or the scalpel of the CPC to leave plaintiffs floundering. They did not plague the corridors of the tribunals or travel the corners of the nation week after week in pursuit of lucrative pay cheques. (Ok, sometimes they did!) But it is not surprising that this domain is not an attractive proposition. It involves hard work with literally thousands of pages of judgments to be read, many going back almost a century and even across continents. It requires constant updating and expansion, as almost every branch of law and every aspect of human endeavour comes within its wide chapeau. And yes, it doesn’t pay. But yet, just to be a part, however infinitesimal, of its development is a reward in itself.
The craft of a Constitutional lawyer is an unforgiving one. As you leaf through this book, little does it reveal of the hidden truths that are the products of seven decades of judicial interpretation which actually unravel its true fabric. From those hoary days in the Hall of Princes when M.K. Nambiar expostulated on illegal detention with only the bare text in his hand, to earlier today, when the Article 239-AA battle between the Centre and the Delhi Government has been referred to a Constitution Bench, the evolution of this, the most fundamental of laws, will always remain incomplete.
Like layers of fine woven silk, this progress is not born out of a desultory analysis of printed words, but more of the intermingling of society, polity, and the myriad vagaries of the human mind. At a given point of time, in a certain courtroom, before a judge of a particular mindset comes a question that requires an answer. In the formulation of that response, the coming together of the legal argument, the judicious reflection, the telling inquisition and an advocate’s acumen creates pure theatre.
I am well aware that this poetic invocation may seem numbingly at odds with what passes for another arid day in court. But pause for a while and consider peeking through a rear window at that famous address on Tilak Marg. There sits a man or woman, close to their sixth decade on God’s good earth, sitting back in calm repose. A pen stands poised at the paper’s edge, wielded by a dutiful stenographer who awaits the Lordship’s words. Swimming through the judicial mind are concepts from far and wide — from those early days of college through the first forays at a Senior’s chamber or library, through the days of toil and struggle, all the way up to the arguments advanced a few hours ago. Cases have been cited, flagged, and marked. Notes have been pencilled, sometimes as with Justice Gogoi, in multiple hues. The ideas are beginning to form, slowly at first, but with gathering conviction, they arrange themselves in orderly fashion. The clouds begin to part, and a clear picture emerges. It is time.
“Write”, says the judge.
— Gopal Sankaranarayanan, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
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