Why Justice Katju said Fali S Nariman's mind is closed within very narrow boundaries,

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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Karan Thapar's interview of Fali Nariman

By Justice Markandey Katju

Why Justice Katju said Fali S Nariman's mind is closed within very narrow boundaries,

The well known Indian journalist Karan Thapar recently interviewed the eminent lawyer Fali Nariman

The interview was related to Mr Nariman's new book '├Łou must know your Constitution'.

In my opinion the most important thing in the interview is not what Mr Nariman said but what he did not say, what he slurred and glossed over.

Mr Nariman talked of the Preamble to the Constitution, interpretation of the Constitution, the basic structure doctrine, whether we needed a new Constitution, one nation one election, lack of tolerance and polarisation of our society, quality of judges and the Collegium system in selecting judges, coalition govt, role of the opposition in Parliament, the Westminster model of Govt, etc

What he left unsaid was this : the parliamentary system of democracy, which was created by the Constitution, is the root cause of most of the problems in India today.

This is because parliamentary elections in India run largely on the basis of caste and communal vote banks ( as everyone knows ). When most voters go to vote they do not have in mind real issues like poverty, unemployment, child malnutrition, price rise, lack of proper healthcare and good education, etc. They do not see the merits of the candidate, whether he is a good man or bad, educated or uneducated, law abiding or criminal. They only see his caste or religion ( or the caste or religion his party claims to represent ). No wonder there are so many persons with criminal backgrounds in our legislatures.

Casteism and communalism are feudal forces which must be destroyed if India is to progress, but parliamentary elections further entrenches them. How can the country progress under such a system ? Elections take place in some state or the other often several times an year. So the country is perpetually in an election mode, and our political leaders have to keep fanning caste and communal hatred all the time ( presently disputes over Gyanvapi and Mathura mosques are in the limelight, overshadowing what happened in Manipur and Haryana ).

Despite claims to the contrary, the truth is that today in India there is massive poverty, record and rising unemployment, appalling level of child malnutrition ( every second child in India is malnourished, according to Global Hunger Index ), skyrocketing prices of food and other essential commodities, almost total lack of proper healthcare and good education for the masses, etc.

It is claimed that India's GDP is growing. But even assuming that is so, the question to be asked is who is getting the fruits of this growth, only a handful of big businessmen and corporates, or the Indian masses ? It is believed that 9 individuals in India own as much wealth as the bottom half of India's 140 crore population.

Much was made of Chandraayan landing on the moon. But what bearing does this have on our people's miserable plight ?

Mr Nariman laments on growing intolerance in India. But he does not care to say that this was the inevitable consequence of adopting the parliamentary system of elections in our Constitution. With about 80% of our population being Hindu, the party claiming to represent them was one day bound to come into power, and to remain in power must keep the communal fire burning.

Once one realises this one will immediately understand that the root cause of most of our massive socio-economic problems today in India is the parliamentary system of democracy which our Constitution has created.

It is not that we cannot resolve these problems. We have thousands of bright scientists, engineers, etc ( our IT engineers are largely manning Silicon Valley in California, and there are numerous professors of science, engineering and mathematics in American Universities ), and immense natural resources. But without correct political leadership it is impossible to resolve them.

So we have to devise an alternative system of government under which the country can rapidly industrialise and modernise, for that alone can solve our problems.

How that alternative system will be created, how much time it will take, who will be our modern minded leaders under that system, it is not possible to predict. One cannot be rigid about historical forms. The people will have to use their creativity in this connection and find out the answers to these questions.

It seems to me that India is inevitably heading towards some kind of a French revolution in coming years. This may sound scary, but consider the facts.

All our state institutions have become hollow and empty shells, and the Constitution has exhausted itself.

We have a Parliament which hardly functions, with its members shouting and screaming, often all at the same time, and hardly any meaningful business can be transacted there. We have politicians who are mostly incorrigible rogues and rascals who have no genuine love for India, but have looted the country, and who know how to manipulate caste and communal vote banks, often by inciting caste or religious riots and tensions. Our bureaucracy has largely become corrupt, and so has part of the judiciary.

Our democracy has been hijacked by the feudal minded politicians, and now elections in most places are on the basis of caste and religion

A drastic and total change in the system is now required. Tinkering here and there will not do.

The whole system in India, including our state institutions, is like a building which is totally dilapidated. Renovation and repairs will achieve nothing. It calls for demolition and fresh construction. We have to create a new just social order in which everyone, not just a handful of people, get decent lives.

But it is not possible to achieve this within the system. The solutions to our country’s problems therefore lie outside the system, not within it, which means some kind of French Revolution.

I have great respect for Mr Nariman. But I submit his mind is closed within very narrow bounds, and he cannot conceive of all this.
(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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