The Journey of Supreme Court and India’s Fundamental Rights has been a Constant Struggle: SG Tushar Mehta

“The journey of fundamental rights has been a constant struggle, a constant fight, a constant conflict between the majoritarian government and the Supreme Court of India,” said Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India (SG).

Mehta was delivering Justice P.N. Bhagwati Memorial Lecture on the theme, ‘The Journey of the Supreme Court of India on the Fundamental Rights’ at Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU).

Mehta reminded that, “It is important to note that the Government of India Act of 1935 was the foundational framework for the Constitution of India and we as a nation are fortunate that our visionary founding fathers and mothers drafted one of the most beautiful constitutions in the world. The Government of India Act 1935 had no chapter on fundamental rights! Today, fundamental rights have been deeply inlaid in the Constitution that no state shall make laws which take away or breach the rights conferred under Fundamental Rights”.

However, SG Mehta observed, “There have been instances when majoritarian governments have aimed to make amendments to the fundamental rights. But today they stand inviolable, thanks to the basic structure doctrine”.

Mehta narrated the evolutionary tale of the fundamental rights from the Shankari Prasad to K.S. Puttaswamy judgments through many in-court and out-court anecdotes. He also emphasised the role of Justice Bhagwati in this scheme of things, “It was with Justice Bhagwati and the Minerva Mills judgment that the law on fundamental rights became fairly settled”.

Welcoming SG Tushar Mehta on the occasion, Prof. (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, the Founding Vice Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University, said, “We are grateful to the Solicitor General Mr. Tushar Mehta for agreeing to deliver the Justice P.N. Bhagwati Memorial Lecture and his constant encouragement and support to our university. Justice Bhagwati was one person who transcended the boundaries of law and justice in India and was also recognised for his contribution to the world. He served as part of the United Nations Human Rights Committee for many years and was responsible for the evolution of national human rights institutions around the world. It is our fervent hope that today we can honour the legacy of Justice P. N Bhagwati and reaffirm our collective commitment to the ideals of justice, equality and dignity enshrined in the Constitution of India. We are confident that this lecture will serve as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue and introspection on the journey of the Supreme Court of India in upholding fundamental rights.”

Reflecting on the life of Justice Bhagwati, Professor (Dr.) S.G. Sreejith, Executive Dean, Jindal Global Law School & Dean, Strategy & Institution Building JGU, said, “Justice Bhagwati was a voice of the voiceless, a representative of the unrepresented and that made him the champion of PILs, through the invocation of epistolary jurisdiction of the court. He had the broadmindedness to confess that the Supreme Court could have acted better during the days of the Emergency. His sense of guilt for the position taken in ADM Jabalpur was so profound that he had the courage to ‘plead guilty’. He had unwavering conviction in the power of law and in the mandate of the judiciary about which he would write later on, ‘one of the primary functions of the court is to share the passion of the Constitution’, an absolute necessity for a democracy.”

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Giving the introductory address, Dr. Khushboo Chauhan, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of the Jindal Global Law School, said, “Throughout its history, the Supreme Court of India has been entrusted with the solemn duty of upholding the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. Its journey in this regard has been marked by numerous milestones, challenges and triumphs, shaping not only the legal landscape of the nation, but also the fabric of Indian democracy. Justice P.N. Bhagwati, a luminary in the realm of Indian law played a pivotal role in advancing the cause of fundamental rights during his tenure, both as a judge and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India. His visionary judgments and unwavering commitment to justice have left an incredible mark on the jurisprudential landscape of India, inspiring generations of jurists, lawyers and human rights activists.”

Professor Surabhi Bhandari Assistant Professor & Assistant Dean, Jindal Global Law School, gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the university. (IANS)

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