by Justice Markandey Katju
Cite as : (2005) 3 SCC (J) 15
Hon'ble Mr Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Judge, Supreme Court of India, Hon'ble Mr Justice Ar. Lakshmanan, Judge, Supreme Court of India, my brother/sister Judges, Mr Jaganath Patnaik, Chairman, Bar Council of India, Mr R. Dhanapal Raj, Chairman, Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, Mr S.K. Kharventhan, former Chairman, Bar Council of India, Chairmen of State Bar Councils, Members of the Bar Council of India and Tamil Nadu, Mr N.R. Chandran, Learned Advocate General, Mr President and Office Bearers of the various Bar Associations. Learned Members of the Bar, ladies and gentlemen,
I am grateful to the Bar Council of India and the Tamil Nadu Bar Council for having invited me here.
The topic of legal education is a very wide topic having several facets. Since time is short, I would like to speak on only one of these facets, namely, the teaching of Constitutional Law in our Law Colleges.
Unfortunately, the Constitution is not taught in our Law Colleges in the manner it should be. No doubt students are taught about the fundamental rights in Part III of the Constitution, the directive principles in Part IV, etc. However, what is not usually taught is the real significance of the constitutional document.
The Constitution of India is a remarkable document, and it stands as a lasting monument to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers. In my opinion, it is the Constitution which ensures the unity, integrity and progress of our country.
A striking feature of our country is its tremendous diversityso many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, cultures, etc. This may be contrasted with China. Although China has 125 crore people as compared to India with a population of 105 crore, 95% Chinese belong to one ethnic group known as Han Chinese, and they have a common script.
On the other hand, India has tremendous diversity. Hence the only policy which can keep our country together and lead it to progress is the policy of secularism and equal respect for all. These were the ideals which our great emperors Ashok and Akbar taught us.
When India gained independence in 1947 the subcontinent was engulfed in religious madness, with widespread massacre in the name of religion. It was difficult to retain a cool mind when passions were inflamed, but it was the greatness of our political leaders at that time that they proclaimed India as a secular State even though the majority population was Hindu in spite of Pakistan having declared itself an Islamic State. Hence India does not belong to Hindus alone, it belongs equally to Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, etc. and all are equal before the law.
Our Founding Fathers made freedom of religion a fundamental right under Article 25 and also provided in Article 15(1) that no citizen shall be discriminated by the State on the grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth, or any of them.
By setting up modern ideals like freedom of speech and expression in Article 19(1)(a), equality in Article 14, individual liberty in Article 21 and secularism in Articles 15(1) and 25, the Constitution of India is keeping the country together, and pulling society forward towards creating a modern India.
For instance, equality is a basic concept in the modern world, after the pronouncement in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, and the Declaration of the Rights of Man by the French National Assembly in 1789 during the great French Revolution.
By establishing a federal structure the Constitution caters to regional aspirations. This, too, was necessary in a country like ours with so much diversity. The federal system ensures that the Naga people will have their own State Government, the Bengali people will have their own, and so will the people of Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, etc. apart from there being a Central Government.
Article 301 of the Constitution enshrines the principle of economic unity of our country. By providing that trade, commerce and intercourse shall be free throughout the territory of India, it establishes that India is one economic unit, and not that each State is a separate economic unit. This ensures that goods manufactured in a factory, say, in Karur or Coimbatore can freely be sold in U.P., Punjab or Bengal. This is necessary for the growth of modern, large-scale industry. Also, it ensures the political unity of India, for political unity is dependent on economic unity.
To conclude, our Constitution is truly a great document, and its teaching should be done in the manner I have suggested so as to impress upon the minds of the young law students its contribution towards the unity, integrity and progress of our country.