On the Occasion of the Inauguration of the Fourth Commonwealth Law Conference
On 6th January, 1971, in New Delhi
by V.V. Giri
President of India
Cite as : (1971) 1 SCC (Jour) 11
I have great pleasure in inaugurating this the Fourth Commonwealth Law Conference. Indeed, I consider it a great privilege to be associated with this Conference. This august assembly represents distinguished celebrities in law from different parts of the world. You meet here as a Commonwealth Conference symbolising the most diverse and the most widespread voluntary association of States and nations, of which perhaps there is no parallel. We have always welcomed and constantly advocated such association for finding a durable solution to human problems. I am, therefore, glad that India has the honour of hosting the Conference this year and this ancient city of Delhi has been chosen its venue. I would like to greet you all on my own behalf and on behalf of the Government of India as well as the people of this ancient land and wish you all a Happy New Year.
The Indian system of jurisprudence originated hundreds of years ago with Manu, the great codifier and law-giver, who laid the foundations of the rule of law for our people to follow. However, the law and the adjudicatory machinery that we have today in India are not the pure and exclusive gifts of Manu. We take pride in our composite culture which was evolved through centuries of recorded history. Our culture glories in taking the best from the traditions of the Buddha, the Englightened, and the Licchavis who had faith in the council-based parliamentary system. The conception of the supremacy of the law was thus familiar in ancient India. Never was the King placed above the law. Again and again is the law declared to be above the King and as the King of Kings. Coming nearer, the supremacy of the law, the rule that every person must be presumed to be innocent until he is proved to be guilty, the maxim that you must hear the other side before your pronounce judgmentthese and other principles which we almost take for granted in our courts of law today, have come to us, to a very great extent in their present form, from England. All this springs from the recognition, not merely in theory but in daily practice, of the value of the human personality.
In spite of tensions and turmoils in our political evolution, we Indians, as a rule, have been great respecters of law. We have a heritage which is steeped in the concept of dharma. Dharma completely identifies and integrates both law and authority. The sanctity of law was inherited by us from the Code of Manu which prescribed, several centuries ago, the essential need of the twin instrumentalities for the proper administration of justice, namely, danda or sanction of authority, and dharma or legal regulation prescribing a code of conduct. According to Manu, lex is born first and then it is followed by rex to give respect to law. But the exercise of rex is always subject to lex, and herein lies the principle of the rule of law. Where law has embedded in it the sanction of authority, it becomes the quintessence of wisdom. The lesson is that laws should be so formulated that they at once evoke the highest respect of its subjects.
Our great saints, philosophers and leaders, right from the Buddha and Ashoka to Gandhi and Nehru, have always been champions and supporters of free exchange of ideas and thoughts. During the last quarter of a century since we attained independence, we have had to face a host of problems of gigantic dimensions and have endeavoured to solve them through constitutional processes. The success or otherwise of our endeavours will be judged by history. We have framed a Constitution with a federal structure enshrining the basic rights of our people to justice, freedom, liberty and equality in all respects.
Mr. Chairman, the greatest links between the Commonwealth countries are common law and a constitutional system based on respect for the rule of law. These two are surely great inheritances and must be made to serve the common man so as to achieve the highest aim of reaching the state of 'satyam, shivam, sundaram,' (Truth, Human Welfare and Beauty). I hope your deli-berations will aim at the highest objectives for the benefit of man. This unique gathering of Law Ministers, Judges and Advocates has a great role to play in several aspects of human life. For example, although the role of law-making belongs to the Legislature, lawyers can and do play a significant role in bringing about desirable legal reforms. It has to be remembered that social need and social opinions are always in advance of law. The lawyers as social physicians and social engineers, may help the legislators to bring about utilitarian reform and overall improvement of law.
Justice and liberty go together. There can be no real justice without liberty, and similarly no real liberty without justice. Your great legal hierarchy may help in this regard by developing and maintaining a tradition of fairness and tolerance.
Furthermore, with the recognition of the right of all the nations and peoples to freedom, it has become imperative to adhere to the principles of natural justice and equity in matters both municipal and international. Law, though mostly national in origin, has assumed an international outlook as well. Human nature, being the same everywhere, does not recognise geographical or political boundaries and the fundamentals of justice hold good for mankind as a whole. Your deliberations on "Law and the Common Man" along with the sub-topics of "Law's Delays and Cost of Litigation", "Ombudsman: Citizens' Grievances", "Legal Aid", Enforceability of Basic Human Rights", may prove beneficial in this regard to all the countries, both in and outside the Commonwealth.
Mr. Chairman, the seventies have been declared "the Development Decade" and the most pressing problem facing most of the countries today is that of raising the standards of living of their peoples. Economic co-operation amongst the various Commonwealth countries and even beyond is most desirable and the existing ties need to be further strengthened.
Economic development, with the twin aims of maximisation of production and maximisation of welfare, is very important. And, with my fifty years of experience as a trade unionist, I can say with emphasis that much more so is the task of amelioration of the lot of the socially under-privileged and economically backward sections of the society. Gandhiji constantly reminded us: "The highest moral law is that we should unremittingly work for the good of mankind". And, be insisted:
"If I want freedom for my country, believe me, if I can possibly help it, I do not want that freedom in order that I, belonging to a nation which counts one-fifth of the human race, may exploit any other race upon earth, or any single individual. If I want that freedom for my country, I would not be deserving of that freedom, if I did not cherish and treasure the equal right of every other race, weak or strong to the same freedom."
In this context, I am glad to see that you have very rightly included the topic of 'Social Legislation in the Commonwealth' in your programme. We should not forget the citizens' right to the basic human freedoms. It is then alone that we can expect to reach the goal of a really free, democratic, egalitarian and secular society and in the bringing about of such a society, the lawyers can and should play a very important role.
I am specially pleased to note that you are also organising a Commonwealth Education Conference as part of this Law Conference. If law has to strive to keep pace with everchanging social needs and social opinions, it is equally essential that legal education must also do so. Law is no longer confined to its philosophy, principles, theories and the pieces of legislation passed by the legislatures of various countries but is growing as a science or rather, I should say, a technology whose practice and application are as much important and relevant as the principles thereof. As in every other field of science and technology, it also needs constant research and continuing advanced studies for its development and refinement. There is also need for a close watch over the maintenance of standards of legal education and the formulation and review of the curricula. It may be profitable in this respect to consider the establishment of a body to co-ordinate the work and task of the lawyers, law teachers, scholars, academicians and perhaps the administrators of justice both within the country and within the Commonwealth as well.
The subjects listed in your programme for the Legal Education Conference will be very helpful to the universities as well as the governments let alone the legal profession. I congratulate you on this very sound and wise decision to deliberate on this aspect.
Mr. Chairman, the members of the noble profession of law have been the greatest champions of justice and freedom everywhere and at all times. Being in constant touch with the common man and aware of his problems, they have also been in the forefront of many movements for social reform. True to your tradition and also, if I may say so, to your duty as the watch-dogs of justice and freedom, you have included a wide range of subjects in your programme. Let the exchange of ideas and thoughts and pooling together of experience create an ocean of knowledge, the churning of which may yield to us all the nectar of wisdom.
In concluding this inaugural ceremony for which you have so kindly invited me, I can do no better than to offer my sincerest prayers for the success of your deliberations. I do pray that the end product of your conference will be such as to confer lasting benefit on mankind not only in the Commonwealth but throughout the world. We have a famous saying in our scriptures:
Where there is Law, there is Victory and I have no doubt that your efforts will surmount all difficulties and prove victorious.