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Speeches At The Laying Of The Foundation Stone For The Supreme Court Annexe
April 15, 1976
Excerpts from the Welcome Address of the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India, Shri A.N. Ray

Cite as : (1977) 1 SCC (Jour) 3

On behalf of my colleagues and myself I welcome the Prime Minister. I also welcome all ladies and gentlemen who are our esteemed guests.

At the outset let us recite a prayer from the Rig Veda which is acknowledged to be the oldest book of Humanity and which is the spiritual heritage of our country.

Samani Ba Akuti Samana Hridayani Bah,

Samanamstu Bo Mano Yatha Bah Shusahasati.

It means this. Let our resolution be the same. Let out hearts be the same. Let our mind be the same. Let there be unity and common endeavour.

This invocation is for all of us who work here. It is for the purpose of sustenance and strength in our work and stability and serenity in our attitude to work.

Each nation writes its autobiography in great books, great works of art, great deeds and great institutions. The Supreme Court is our national autobiography on moral law based on justice and fair society. Our Dharma or moral law sustains the whole creation. It is the bond which keeps society together. The discovery of this truth of moral law is the greatest discovery of man. It is said that eternal truths and rights of things exist independent of our thoughts and wishes. These are fixed and inherent in the nature of man and the world.

Our motto "Wherever there is Dharma there is victory" means moral law which is written on the tablets of Eternity brings success to the pure and the righteous. Another motto to guide is that righteousness always triumphs. These thoughts keep us collected in the midst of troubles and give faith in a man and moral order of the society.

The Bench and the Bar cooperate in the administration of justice. It is necessary for both to assist each other in rising to the heights of justice. The people and the State always engage our thoughts in the administration of justice. In this task we have to master not only tenets of law but also to fulfil the law in us. Inner sanctions in place of external sanctions and self-restraint in place of external restraint are the two principal aids.

In order to have full use of our human faculties we have to be conscious of our powers as a complete moral and intellectual being. This is an assertion of the dignity of man. Intelligence which comes out only of our senses is not pure intellect. Pure intellect is philosophical reason. As Swami Vivekananda said: "Real inspiration never contradicts reason by fulfils it." This can be achieved by having faith in one's self and discernment which means abstention from certain things and observance of other things. In short, there must be a mission to communicate in our work.
  * * *

Einstein said: "I saw a new heaven and new earth and the old heaven and the old earth had passed away." In order to have this vision for building up and rationalising law and its process we need conviction of mind, courage in action and ceaseless work. We are participants in the living stream of our national life steering the law between the dangers of rigidity and formlessness. The perpetual question is: What was done, what is being done and what will be done? The quest is always for knowledge. Tradition of the past is to be balanced with continuity of the present and vision of the future. Two qualities are to assist us. One is understanding and the other is human sympathy.


I bring to you all and to this function connected with the nation's highest court of law the greetings of the executive branch of Government. I feel privileged to participate in this function. Our people look to the judicial system for the realisation of their aspirations for the social, economic and political justice which are enshrined in our Constitution.

We consider law to be the bedrock of civilisation, holding societies together. But as societies grow and change, concepts of what is just and right also change. In early times, law was a device for the defence of the rights of the few. Today's effort is to make it into an instrument for the safeguarding of the interests of the many. As I have said previously, law must become a tool for social change. Similarly, the Constitution cannot be a sealed book. It must be a living document, serving, growing and evolving society.

Law is a skein of duties. It is an expression of the individual's concern for others and of society's concern for individuals. Hence laws impose limitations on selfish or arbitrary action. These checks are essential for orderly existence. During our struggle for Independence, Mahatma Gandhi's definition of freedom was voluntary discipline and restraint. A well-adjusted society achieves balance between the legislature which makes laws, the executive which implements laws and the judiciary which interprets laws.

There is no inherent confrontation between the legislature and the judiciary, nor confusion between legislative and judicial functions. The ultimate responsibility of Parliament and of the courts is to preserve the nation and to avert clashes which might weaken its foundations. Differences of opinion, even tensions, will arise, but sagacity lies in the avoidance of destructive collisions. Someone has remarked that judges think of the past, while legislators think of the future. But an outstanding judge, Mr Justice Learned Hand of U.S.A. maintained that judges "must be aware that there are before them more than verbal problems; more than final solutions cast in generalizations of universal applicability. They must be aware of the changing social tensions in every society which make it an organism; which demand new schemata of adaptation; which will disrupt it, if rigidly confined".

Members of the Bar are no less vital parts of the judicial system. The role of lawyers in our freedom movement and out intellectual renaissance has been distinguished and influential. No wonder that people look to them or conscientious alertness on their behalf. The various schemes of legal aid to the poor which are now being mooted are timely and welcome. But we expect that the fine intricacies of law are not used merely to help out those who have the power of the purse. The law must give protection to the unlettered and the underprivileged as well.

This is our intention in urging those who administer justice to recognise and reflect the spirit of the age and be aware of the voices of the people.

A political system survives not by its abstract virtues but by its capacity to fulfil the just aspirations of its people. Especially in a country like ours, grappling relentlessly with problems old and new, the political system should effectively diffuse economic power and opportunities. The judicial arm of government must ensure expeditious, inexpensive and sympathetic justice. Can true justice be blind and harsh? The traditional image of blindness in relation to justice implies not the inability to see, but ability to impartial. We expect justice to be fair, clear-eyed and compassionate.

A wall must higher than those of caste and religion has divided the privileged few from the majority of the poor and deprived. The whole thrust of Mahatma Gandhi's leadership was to weaken, and ultimately knock down, that wall. His reference to a Talisman has often been quoted. His Talisman was to recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom we may have seen, and to ask ourselves, if the step we contemplate is going to be of any use to him.

Because Mahatma Gandhi could in his inimitable way convey this vision to the Indian people, they in turn could surge forward as the mighty waves whose rising tide swept away foreign imperialism. Great as was our leadership, and I do believe that it has no part parallel in the world, it was the crest of the wave, but the swell and the force was of our millions. It was the timelessness of the Indian spirit, an inner conviction of the rightness of our cause and faith in the future which helped our people to overcome the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of oppression and humiliation from all sides.

Our elders opted for adult franchise rightly deciding that those who had borne the brunt of age-old bondage, not only of foreign rule but even of their own people, should have the opportunity of shaping a new society.

How far have we been able to justify their faith and fulfil their hopes? Are all the laws passed for their protection being implemented and interpreted for their benefit? For all our brave words, the system remains wedded to the status quo. Every forward step is a struggle against the organised vested interests which hold back in their tentacles and influence the politician, the bureaucrat, the professional and others who are apprehensive of anything that is different and see it as a threat to their entrenched privilege. The attachment to position, to rank, to goods and, deeper still, the hypnotic effect of the spiral of material affluence—was this what the freedom struggle was all about? Economic development and material goods are wanted to meet the basic, long-felt needs of millions, not for the pursuit of acquisition or the titillation of the vanity of a few.

Those who make laws and interpret codes, clauses and conditions should remember the ancient admonition: "Not of the letter but of the spirit; for the letter killeth but the spirit giveth life." That is how the transition can be made from ignorance to knowledge, from the shadow of narrowness into the illumination of understanding.

The India of our dreams is not in the future. It is here and now. It is the quality and genius of our people.

I have great pleasure in laying the foundation stone of the annexe to the Supreme Court. I give you all my good wishes and I sincerely hope that it will fulfil what is expected of it by our people and by people even beyond our shores, for there are many today who look towards India for a new path, a new direction. We will only be able to give that path and direction if we ourselves are able to be true to ourselves.

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