New Delhi: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi Monday said it was in “our best interest” to heed the advice of the Constitution as not doing so would result in a “sharp descent into chaos”.
The Constitution proved critics like Rudyard Kipling wrong as it worked well for last 70 years and not only united 1.3 billion people, but also gave them a ‘national identity’, the CJI said later in the day, addressing the valedictory session of the Constitution Day celebrations here.
Justice Gogoi, in his inaugural address on Constitution Day function at ‘Vigyan Bhavan’ here, said, “It is in our best interest to heed the advice of the Constitution. If we do not, our hubris will result in sharp descent into chaos.”
The Constitution Day, also known as ‘Samvidhan Divas’, is celebrated on November 26 to commemorate the Constitution being adopted. Referring to Kipling’s criticism and apprehension that the Constitution might not work in a vast country like India, he said, “Had he been alive today, he would have been surprised to find that India is a well-functioning polity and this is no mean achievement for the world’s largest democracy.
“The Constitution is working and working well for 1.3 billion people… and the credit mainly goes to the framework of the governance which is laid down in the Constitution,” Justice Gogoi said.
Referring to B R Ambedkar, the CJI said the success of working of the Constitution does not depend on its nature and would rather depend on the “people who work for it”. “The Constitution has successfully united immensely diverse people into one nation. Notwithstanding, the caste, creed and religion, we are a community because we share the same Constitution. The Constitution has the very basis of national identity. It is the source of our Indian-ness.
“The Constitution has succeeded in working well for almost 70 years now. The credit for this lies partially with the members of the Constituent Assembly.” Justice Gogoi termed the journey of India as a republic as “remarkable” in last 70 years and said despite “flaws and shortcomings”, the citizens had accepted and amended it time and again and given new meaning to it.
“Despite flaws and shortcomings, it is the spirit of the Constitution. It would not be an exaggeration to say that our Constitution is intricately intertwined with every sphere of life, be it political, social or economical. In each moment of crisis we have turned to it for refuge. This is because of our unshakable belief in Constitution in its ideals such as rule of law, democracy, human rights and so on,” the CJI said.
The constitutional texts, the people, who worked for the ideals, and their undying spirit for the constitutionalism ensured the longevity of the Constitution, he said, adding that citizens were blessed to have such a “rich inheritance” which needed to be passed on to future generations.
Justice S A Bobde, who would be succeeding the CJI, in his speech referred to the efforts put in by members of the Constituent Assembly in drafting the Constitution and specially mentioned 15 women members and their contributions.
He also referred to the 2008 Mumbai terror attack and said the strike and its aftermath established that there was rule of law in the country as the Bombay High Court worked during the ongoing strike when all the terrorists were at large and gunshots and explosions were being heard.
“I remember when these terrorists were still at large in the city, we could hear gunshots and bombs exploding. We decided as a court to sit through the morning without staff …” Justice Bobde said.
He said then there was clamour for the sole surviving accused to lynched, but the rule of law prevailed, as a proper trial was conducted and the terrorist was executed by following the law and procedure.
“That judgement was subject to two appeals which eventually resulted in the execution. This I think is a recent example as to how deeply entrenched the rule of law is and this is what we as courts should and do stand for,” he said. Justice A K Sikri, who also spoke at the concluding session, said the Constitution had endured, but there were “miles to go”.
He became emotional while talking about the constitutional rights and the plight of yet “bonded labourer, the pavement dweller sleeping on railway platforms, the rickshaw puller, landless farmer and the homeless wanderer living in hellish cesspool”. He said these people “remind us today that they were amongst those people who on November 26, 1959 enacted, adopted and gave to themselves the Constitution”.
Attorney General K K Venugopal referred to the pendency of 29 million cases in the country’s courts and said the judiciary and the government would have to come together and cooperate to find a solution to the problem so that the fundamental right to speedy justice was made available to all.
Senior advocate and Supreme Court Bar Association President Vikas Singh said the apex court lawyers should also be considered for appointment as judges in higher judiciary.