Musings On the Constitution-LIX Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan -Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde with Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in New Delhi.

Musings On the Constitution-LIX
Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan

Chief Justice of India (CJI) Sharad A. Bobde with Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in New Delhi.

The Judiciary comprising the legal fraternity is aptly placed to tweak the curriculum in our law colleges to enthuse, enliven and educate the students in making the study of our Constitution an interesting pursuit. Judicial heads may need to nudge and push as the Bar Councils have the power to frame the curriculum. Puisne Justice R F Nariman, son of Fali S Nariman, Senior Advocate, in a lecture said “Legal education needs to be made entertaining. For that he says it must be case-law based and the whys and hows explained and expounded. There is so much history in the making of any Constitution that an in depth learning must be made a must.” Come 12th Aug, 2021 when the younger Nariman is slated to retire, he has promised to take up teaching Constitutional History and Law, a mouth watering prospect to the lucky few. Truth to tell, one wonders whether any of our Government Law Colleges or those that exist only to hand out certificates to get enrolled care for such niceties.

TN Dr. Ambedkar Law University

Well, while Judiciary could take the lead it is a pity that that the hands on levers rest with the
Bar Councils and alas, the Bar Councils, politicised and compromised as they are, are unlikely to take the lead to introduce a separate subject in our law colleges- The History of the Making of our Constitution and the importance of Constituent Assembly Debates, on their own.

The Bar Council of India (BCI) is a statutory body, constituted by Government of India under Advocates Act 1961. The main objective intended was to control and govern the working of all immediate subsidiary state-level bar councils besides laying down the standards of professional conduct and etiquette.

It is not a dry and pedantic vision that can be brought to the table. It is such a beautiful story with twists, turns, conspiracies, manoeuvres, back stabbings, and possibly romance too (who knows) and ultimately triumph of good over evil, as happens on the silver screen. There is so much more than these Musings.

May be throwing in a lot of music too as the veena and sitar played around, when the Constitution was adopted. To cynically quote K.Hanumanthiah, a member of the Constituent Assembly- what he said on 17th Nov, 1949, “ We wanted the music of veena and sitar, but here we have the music of a English band”. Such tuneful content there is in our Constitution.

The Constitution matters. The Constituent Assembly debates matter even more. It took some years for even our Supreme Court to go looking for answers raised before them, in the Debates. So it was before the SCOTUS too. Now that we are in the clear that Debates matter, we may need to go beyond to see How We Read The Debates in the Constituent Assembly? It is not so simple as to go looking for the repartee and responses. We need to contextualise the issues. The motion or provision, as moved. The amendments as proposed. Even if rejected, the reasons upon which they were. The compilation of the Debates themselves took some time.

Granville Austin found it tough to lay his hands on. He had to indulge in networking in a strange land. He had to befriend no less than Bapu Rajendra Prasad and residents of the Presidential abode to get the keys to the treasure troves and overcome the ‘babudomocracy’. We never understood the value of our family jewels. And if the Jewellers themselves (those in the legal fraternity be it on the Bench or at the bar) unaware of them, it may be time for us to first accept it, before we can seek to pivot.

Simon Sinek, the practical psychologist and business trainer always says – we need to know ‘Why’ before we go to ‘How’. We are now past the ‘Why’ stage on the debates. And Dov Seidman a philosopher friend of Thomas Friedman, the NewYork Times columnist, has talked of the ‘How”. Let us seamlessly get into the ‘How’ to read them stage, before we go on to ‘How’ our Supreme Court has read and understood them over the years in ‘the Working of our Constitution. “Far more important than the Making of it’ as that man for all seasons Justice V R Krishna Iyer helps us to suggest.

We have captured Fascinating Facts in the Making of the US Constitution and as Made. Alongside, we have alluded to ours too. But, there are so many nuggets that have been sprayed and strayed across these Musings, it may be apt to stitch them together along with several more strands. Why not?

Dr. Ambedkar towers above the rest in The Making of the Constitution. His role in heading the Constituent Assembly is legendary. What did he have to talk about the Working of it, while he lived and experienced.As someone who was in the thick and thin of the Making of the Constitution, he surely knew a thing or two on its working. Forget not, he was part of the Executive too as Union Minister, including of Law, under the Jawaharlal Nehru Cabinet. He was however his own man. His speeches as member of Parliament are rarely noted. The man is revered and rightly so. But, regretfully as if he was a leader of the Scheduled Castes alone. He was far beyond that attribution. He led the Constituent Assembly skilfully as a dexterous lawyer would. But, brought in his political, philosophical, sociological sagacity and tools too. It is singularly unfortunate that he is sought to be venerated in statues and on chosen occasions. He resides in the Constitution. He is there in every syllable as he claimed once and would continue to inspire his fellow beings.

Such a man as he was heard making a stunning statement on the ‘worth of our Constitution’, in Parliament, no less. As member of the Rajya Sabha in 1953, in the course of a debate in the House. And then again in 1955 two years down the line. It may suffice to quote the man Ambedkar and leave it to the reader to judge…

(Author is practising Advocate in the Madras High Court)

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