Discussion on Save the Constitution: Role of Civil Society

December 04, 2010
Indian Law Institute, Opp. Supreme Court, New Delhi
Organised by
Institute of Objective Studies


L-R: Justice AS Qureshi, Dr M Manzoor Alam, Justice AM Ahmadi, Justice Fakhruddin, Advocate Yusuf Hatim Muchhala and Justice BA Khan

New Delhi, Dec. 4: Supposing one of the original litigants of the Babri Masjid dispute decides not to go to the Supreme Court in appeal, can a citizen or group of citizens, not related to the dispute so far go in appeal against the Allahabad High Court’s verdict?

This question was raised by Prof. K.M. Shrimali at a seminar held here today on “Save the Constitution: Role of Civil Society”, organised by the Institute of Objective Studies (IOS). Prof. Shrimali said the “civil society as a victim and sufferer” of erosion of constitutional values should perhaps have the right to appeal.

He termed the Babri Masjid verdict as “destructive” of constitutional values as it vindicated and legalised the destruction of Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. “The mosque was destroyed on December 6, 1992, the spirit of law was demolished on September 30, 2010.”

He came down heavily on the media for tomtoming and legitimising the twin destructions. “The civil society is gradually getting numbed”, he lamented, adding that the judiciary had begun to distance itself from human rights concerns, thus promoting the numbing process. As a member of Delhi University Teachers Association he narrated how a part of the judiciary had distanced itself from trade union issues.

A number of retired judges of high courts as well as former Chief Justice of India, Justice A.M. Ahmadi, were sitting on the dais and the audience had a number of lawyers.

In his presidential address Justice Ahmadi partly answered Prof. Shirmali’s question with the argument that the Ayodhya judgment was not a “question between Hindus and Muslims, but an issue of the integrity of the Constitution.”

The placing of idols in the Babri Masjid in 1949 was “an act of trespass” and the destruction of the mosque was an “act of mischief”. The Ayodhya verdict, by legitimising the two had jeopardised the rule of law and the supremacy of the Constitution.

Justice Ahmadi said that as “We, the People of India” had given ourselves the Constitution which was now in jeopardy. The civil society {broadly “We, the People”} being thus aggrieved had the right and responsibility to seek redress against the anomaly.


A view of audience

Eminent lawyer of the Supreme Court of India, Mr. P.P. Rao pointed out that people behind the destruction of Babri Masjid were not promoting fraternity, which was an important goal of the Constitution. Of late, the law, too, had not been of great help.

Senior lawyer of the Bombay High Court, Mr. Yusuf Hatim Muchhala said the judiciary had gradually withdrawan itself from human rights concerns like food and shelter. “Even though the Narmada dam’s height has been further increased, the tribals displaced by it are yet to be resettled”. He saw it as another evidence of judiciary’s decline, which was a terrible omen for liberty.

Mr. Muchhala concluded with the famous remark of Hobbes: “If liberty dies in the heart of men, no constitution or court can revive it.”

IOS Chairman Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam, trying to add an element of humour in the grave discussion, said in his vote of thanks, “Our ‘gantantra’ (republic) is on way to becoming a combination of ‘gun and tantra. This ‘gun-tantra’ was run by the mafia and tantriks. That was, by the way, not a laughing matter.

Dr. Alam stated that this was the second in the series of seminars on the issue, the third to take place in Chennai on December 18 and the fourth on December 26 in Chandigarh.

Supreme Court lawyer Mushtaq Ahmad conducted the proceedings.

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