Moment of glory: In the picture on the left Union Minister for Home Mr Shivraj Patil presents the memento to Justice Ahmadi while Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam and Governor A R Kidwai look on with appreciation. In the picture on the right Governor Kidwai presents a facsimile of the cheque as Mr Patil claps.
New Delhi, June 9 The eyes of everybody in the spacious conference room of the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC), located near the historic Lodhi Garden, were pointed to a film, made by eminent media-person Raju Mansukhani, being shown there. The eleven-minute film was on the life and achievements of the 75-year old former Chief Justice of India, Justice Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi. The occasion was the conferment of the "Lifetime Achievement Award" on him by the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS). The conference room was jam-packed and he was the centre of attraction there. Surrounded by eminent personalities like Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Water Resources Minister Prof Saifuddin Soz, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson K Rahman Khan, Haryana Governor Dr A R Kidwai, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit and NCAER chief economist Dr Abusaleh Shariff, he was shyly sitting on the dais. As the function to felicitate him was about to end before the concluding words of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit, he rose and said: "There was appraisal of my deeds, but I was shying from inside and uttering ‘Tauba, Tauba’." In a lighter vein, he also said that "Aap ne hamari film bhi bana di" (You made my film also).
These were humility, humbleness and simplicity of the man being honoured that had made everyone his fan. Starting from Prof A R Momin to Dr A R Kidwai, Shivraj Patil, Prof Soz, K Rahman Khan, and Dr Shariff, everybody was full of praise for him. The function was presided over by the Chief Minister of Delhi.
In his introductory remarks, Prof Z M Khan threw light on some of IOS works and achievements in the last 20 years and also on the need for instituting the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Said IOS Chairman Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam in his welcome address: "There is hardly any award in the country presented to an individual for infusing a sense of morality and sanity in national life, for integrity and probity in public life, for sincere and selfless service to society, especially to marginalised groups and communities. Therefore, the main objective of this award is to identify and publicly honour individuals/ institutions/ NGOs which have rendered invaluable service to national life regardless of the distinctions of caste, class or creed, and whose dedicated contributions have touched directly or indirectly the lives of large numbers of people in the country. And, The IOS is proud of initiating award with Justice A M Ahmadi for his contribution to the cause of people through judiciary".
"The IOS is proud of initiating award with Justice A M Ahmadi for his contribution to the cause of people through judiciary".
- Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
He also hoped that he would continue to serve and guide the nation.
Dr A R Momin, who is also a member of the Governing Council of IOS and prepared a 24-page booklet "Justice A M Ahmadi: Jurist Extraordinaire", published by the think-tank which carried an exclusive conversation with him, said that as a distinguished jurist with a deep commitment to social and humanitarian causes, Justice Ahmadi had been widely honoured and feted in India and abroad.
Dr Ausaf Ahmad, Editor of the Urdu quarterly "Mutalea’t", published by IOS, presented him with a scroll of honour, declaring, "You have set a shining example of integrity and probity in public life, an uncompromising commitment to principles, courage of conviction, and concern for the common people, especially for the marginalised and underprivileged sections of society. You have been a fearless critic of the subversion of Constitutional norms and people’s fundamental rights by the powers that be. To the Muslim community of India, which has been groaning under the oppressive weight of exclusion, marginalisation and disempowerment, you have been a beacon of light, an anchor of encouragement and hope."
Dr A R Kidwai hoped that everybody would continue to get inspiration from his exemplary career and services rendered to the cause of the nation and its people, irrespective of caste, colour and creed.
"Everybody would continue to get inspiration from his exemplary career and services".
- Dr A R Kidwai
Congratulating the producer of the film on Justice Ahmadi, Shivraj Patil, who watched it with keen interest, said this film gave an idea of the philosophy and thinking of this great jurist in his various landmark judgments. He appreciated the IOS for selecting a person like Justice Ahmadi for this award and said that in the judgments of different cases, Justice Ahmadi’s concern for secularism, democracy, fundamental rights, inter-cultural harmony, development and empowerment of the underprivileged and marginalised sections was clearly visible.
"Normally, lawyers speak and judges listen, but in our case the situation was different. I was by profession a lawyer. Whenever I got opportunities on different occasions and in different capacities to meet him, he spoke and I listened," he averred.
Dwelling in detail on different points like democracy, diversity, commerce and industry, economic development, knowledge development and willingness to understand other’s point of view, the Union Home Minister said some people talked about clash of civilisations but he wondered as to how could civilised people clash. Thus he dismissed the theory of clash of civilisations.
"There is no reason why Islam's teachings would not be acceptable to everyone, across religious and national borders anywhere in the world".
- Mr Shivraj Patil
He said that one should read and understand Islam directly. According to him, he was sure if one understood Islam, there was no reason why its teachings would not be acceptable to everyone, across religious and national borders anywhere in the world.
Mr. Patil said: "The need of the hour is to develop harmony in our society. Let us hope NGOs like IOS would guide the society to reach that goal."
Prof Saifuddin Soz said Justice Ahmadi is a great person with a humanitarian approach, an able judge, available to society and community, a robust secularist and nationalist, and also a visionary. Recalling Justice Ahmadi’s views in the landmark judgment in Bommai case, he said the learned judge had declared if secularism was undermined democracy too would be undermined. He also referred to his balanced opinion on PIL.
"In the Bommai case, Justice Ahmadi had declared if secularism was undermined democracy would be hurt".
- Prof. Saifuddin Soz
Discussing the contribution of Justice Ahmadi to different sections of the society, special invitee Dr Abusaleh Shariff, in his address, said that his greatest contribution was the interpretation of secularism in the Bommai case. He found him a champion of the causes of women and children too.
"His greatest contribution is the interpretation of secularism in the Bommai case".
- Dr. Abusaleh Shariff
K Rahman Khan too threw light on his efforts to provide constitutional safeguards to secularism. According to him, Justice Ahmadi had left a deep impact upon society through some of his landmark judgments.
"Justice Ahmadi has left a deep impact upon society through some of his landmark judgments".
- K Rahman Khan
A man of forthrightness in his approach, Justice Ahmadi took notice of all the speakers’ views and elaborated the relevant points in some of his landmark judgments. Expressing his views on his own capability to interpret, explain and correlate any issue judiciously in the light of the Constitution, he said that was why he was called as ‘a Constitutional Secularist’. He expressed in detail his views on amendments to the Constitution, democracy and socialism. In his view, one had to understand the philosophy behind Socialism. According to him, one has to know how the rich became richer and a poor poorer.
He opined that the diversity had not been reflected in the democratic institutions of the country. That’s why the underprivileged and marginalised sections continued to remain in a pitiable condition.
Justice Ahmadi said that for genuine social cohesion the society had to move a step ahead of mere tolerance and emphasise accommodation instead.
"The society has to move a step ahead of mere tolerance and emphasise accommodation instead".
- Justice A M Ahmadi
For assuring the share of all sections of society in the national pie Justice Ahmadi supported the idea of affirmative action. He proposed to make the Gopal Singh Report a benchmark against which to judge how Muslims and other minorities were faring.
In her presidential remarks, Sheila Dixit averred that apart from being a national and international figure, she always found in Justice Ahmadi a charming and lovable personality. She said he was a true advocate and protector of the Constitution.
"Justice A M Ahmadi is a true advocate and protector of the Constitution".
- Mrs Sheila Dixit
The speakers were unanimous in their opinion that the main point in his judgments, papers and lectures had been the concern for delivering justice to the common man.
The award cheque of Rs 1 lakh was presented to him by the guest of honour Dr A R Kidwai while the memento was presented by the chief guest Shivraj Patil. Later, Justice Ahmadi donated a Rs 1lakh cheque to the IOS Scholarship Fund.
Justice Ahmadi was born at Surat (Gujarat) on 25th March, 1932. He was Chief the Justice of India from 1994 to 1997. Currently, he is the Chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University and is associated with a number of institutions and organisations.
Prominent among those participating in the function were National Commission for Minorities Chairman Hamid Ansari, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat President Syed Shahabuddin, Jamaat-e-Islami Hind President Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umri, Islamic scholar Dr Abdul Haque Ansari, former parliamentarian Santosh Bharatiya, Delhi Minorities Commission Chairman Kamal Farooqui, Mumbai High Court advocate Yusuf Hatim Muchhala, academic Prof Z A Nizami, IICC Director Siraj Quraishi, besides a large number of diplomats, media persons, lawyers, academics and others.