Copyright. All rights reserved. Ram Jethmalani. 2019.
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1. Hon’ble Deputy Chairman: Today is a great day in the history of our Parliament that we are meeting to recall the precious legacy of the illustrious Dr. Ambedkar - a priceless one ‘the Constitution of India’ for its eternal values and doctrines as also the great diction of its text which together qualify it for being called the sacred scripture of our constitutional text. I am not here to debate any part of it nor cross swords with anyone in this august House. I recognise the intellectual superiority if not at least the equality of every one present here. In the brief minutes allotted to me I wish to explain my own assessment and ideas about the great man and his great legacy to the Indian nation. I am proud of the man and his genius and the treasure he has left to us. These few minutes are terribly precious to me for this is a rare life opportunity to record my adoration of the great man in this august House of ours.
2. Sir, I believe that Dr. Ambedkar was one of the greatest constitutional experts that India has ever produced and a tribute to his linguistic facility and control is well-deserved by the fact that he was made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. Sir, because he had that control over the language which the entire Constituent Assembly could not claim for itself in spite of the fact that there was a large number of highly erudite bureaucrats who were assisting the Constituent Assembly in drafting the Constitution. Sir, the Constitution that he drafted was the product of the great education that, unlike many leaders in this country, he had received at the University of Columbia for three years after which he came to India and launched into a teaching career. But the same University of Columbia after his work was over in our Constituent Assembly, invited him to come to Columbia all over again only to receive the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from that very University. He gracefully accepted the degree conferred upon him. The greatest cause of that recognition and honour done to Dr. Ambedkar was the work which he had done on the drafting and promulgation of the Constitution of the Country; make no mistake. Years later Ambedkar wrote, “The best friends I have had in my life were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors, Jhon Dewey, James Shotwell, Edwin Seligman and James Harvey Robinson”.
3. Sir, within the little time that I have, I wish to talk about three main highly impressive features of our holy book of the Indian Constitution. The first and foremost in importance is, Secularism. Make no mistake it is not negation of religion. Secularism is ultimately the triumph of education over illiteracy, it is triumph of knowledge over ignorance; of reason over blind faith and the triumph of science over religion. It is so difficult to write all this in the text of the Constitution. That is why during the hated emergency also somebody thought that this word must be put in the Preamble of the Constitution. The Preamble of the Constitution containing a word does not change the internal contents of the text of the document at all; it is only an aid to construction. But secularism had already been declared in the Constitution of India. It was only made clear that secularism is a very, very important part of the Constitution of India, though not mentioned by name. Most of our personal laws are based on religion, but when he introduced article 44 which ordained that India would have a uniform civil code some day, he was telling the nation that our ultimate aim is to create uniformity of laws and override every religious text to the contrary. Religion was to be tolerated, but not to be encouraged or expanded in its sway over human action. I would request everybody to read a book if you can manage it. There is a wonderful book called ‘Religion Gone Astray’. There are three co-authors of the book. One is Pastor Don Mackenzie, the second is Rabbi Ted Falcon and the third is Imam Jamal Rahman. All these three great intellectuals have jointly composed it and which I suggest should be bought and distributed to every Member of Parliament whether in this House or in the other House, and must be made a compulsory textbook in every school and college in this country. This is the great tribute which I wish to pay to Dr. Ambedkar. Religion may have brought some hope and comfort to many suffering the slings and arrows of bad fortune and a cruel society but a more accurate comment on religion is that “all the ships of all the navies of the world can swim comfortably in the ocean of innocent blood that has been shed in the name of religion through the history of mankind.”
4. It is also true that Dr. Ambedkar himself opted for the religion of Gautam Buddha, a matter to which I will revert a little later.
5. From the draft of the Constitution he fashioned, it was clear that we had decided with a few significant changes to adopt the British model of democracy. To all superficial appearances it seemed that Judges in England were appointed by the Lord Chancellor who by a curious British paradox was not merely the Highest Judge but also the member of the British cabinet. No one grasped that judges in England were being appointed in fact by the highest Judge. Everybody assumed without proper study that the appointments were being made by a Minister of the Crown.
6. I believe that the system of appointment to the High Courts and Supreme Court of India by the executive was left intact without immediate change. But the change was ordered in the near future by Article 50 of the Constitution. Unfortunately under the brilliant light of Pandit Nehru and his ministers nobody thought of immediately changing the system. By 1990, however the Bar had seen a mandatory direction for change in the regime of executive supremacy in the matter of appointments. I and my illustrious colleagues discussed the unfulfilled mandate of Article 50 of the Constitution which reads:
“50. Separation of Judiciary from Executive.— The State shall take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive in the public services of the State.”
7. The nine-judge bench in its 1993 judgment namely, Supreme Court Advocates-on Record Association v. Union of India reported as (1993) 4 SCC 441, accepted the argument of me and my colleagues and the recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Supreme Court Advocates-on Record Association and Anr. v. Union of India in 2015 has only confirmed the earlier decision.
8. Dr. Ambedkar was not ‘unelected’ like the present Finance Minister of India whose abuse of the judges as ‘tyranny of unelected’ is a mean puerile Contempt of Court.
9. Let me now deal with his patriotism and respect for India’s culture. He was born in a backward caste the victim of centuries of ill treatment, denial of access to education and paying professions, condemned to humiliation and social contempt from more lucky sections of society; in short victims of cruel discrimination and dishonour. Still he never questioned the cultural unity of India. For example he refused to compare the fate of his low caste with the blacks of America originally called the Negros. It is only recently that the use of the word ‘negro’ is now treated as a punishable wrong in the U.S.A. He believed in the efficacy of the Indian democracy and was convinced that the democratic process of India will terminate the inferiority of his caste and its cultural unity will be intact and strengthened. He worked for erasing this black spot on the face of India without generating hatred, angry recrimination or violent activity of any kind. It was human misunderstanding but easily curable by better democracy and education, he firmly believed. Democracy without education he believed is a sham and hypocrisy without limitation. His mind never wavered nor thought of other forms of government like Marxism or dictatorship or even democracy without constitutional rights like freedom of speech and thought, and other rights which made the glorious Part III of the Constitution of India.
10. He finally opted for Buddhism. He asked his followers to go in for the religion of Buddha. But, Sir, one thing must be conceded that Buddhism is the only religion whose prophet founded that religion only for the salvation of humanity form pain and suffering. I would request everybody to read one great poem, ‘The Light of Asia’ written by Sir Edwin Arnold the last stanza of which poem reads:
“We are the voices of the wandering wind,
Which moan for rest and rest can never find:
Lo! As the wind is, so is mortal life,
A moan, a sigh, a sob, storm and strife”.
11. And, Sir, with that, he told us that the purpose of all law and legislation in Parliament is ultimately to reduce human pain and suffering and it is Dr. Ambedkar alone who stands out as a great lighthouse of knowledge and learning for us to follow.
12. With this last tribute I must end though I do it under great compulsion.
13. Even so I am grateful to you Mr. Chairman.