No firsts among equals

India’s Constitution gives great respect to each citizen. Its values must be safeguarded

Written by Jyotsna Yagnik | Published:March 6, 2017 12:09 am
 Indian constitution, fundamental rights, human rights, International Bill of Human rights, equality, democracy, india news, indian express  A view of Illuminated Parliament (Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

The forefathers of our Constitution dreamt that India would be a country which would ensure its citizens many fundamental rights, including human rights. The Constitution of India was in fact drafted under the influence of a universal declaration known as the International Bill of Human Rights. Equality truly was a golden dream that we saw as a country, and gifted to ourselves to cherish over the years to come.

But I question myself now about whether we act in absolute accordance with the ideology of equality; one needs to bear in mind that when you talk of “equality” between two unequal entities, the approach and treatment have to be different from the one we adopt for two equals. To ensure that we, as a society, are loyal to our constitutional values, we need to imbibe respect for the viewpoints of others, which could be about their beliefs, religion, customs, conventions, dietary habits, language and clothing. Equal treatment, not only to all individuals, but also to all religions, is the express command of our Constitution.

At times, we see prejudices operating against particular groups of people; these may be Muslims, Christians or Dalits, facing biases only because their beliefs, religious books, customs, conventions, etc., are not like ours. The makers of the Constitution might not have even thought that there would be a day in this country when a group of people would do or undo anything to impose their own ideology, their beliefs, their viewpoint on another group: Torture, boycott and other contemptible kinds of conduct, all of which have become routine news today, are a matter of shame, and absolutely not in accordance with the ideology and values of the makers of our Constitution.

We also hear many grievances about discriminatory treatment being voiced by some powerful groups, referring to oppressed, suppressed, marginalised people. This is not what our freedom fighters and the fathers of our Constitution foresaw. The process of building the nation can be termed complete only when, without any exception, we all respect our constitutional values to an extent that this becomes our religion — I firmly believe that in public life, you should have only one religion, and that is to remain wedded to our constitutional values, our constitutional commands, ensuring respect for the fundamental rights of every fellow countryman, and acting in strict compliance with constitutional duties.

But because we could not fully imbue this ideology into every citizen for a long time, the situation has worsened to the extent that a person working honestly with a constitutional mandate can become a victim of persons with vested interests. Such honest people have to pay a price by facing numerous challenges, like threats to one’s person, property and family members. It is time to wake up and re-think our situation in the light of our constitutional values and the ideals of public life.

Let me humbly state that I have been imparting legal education for the last 32 years. A person who joins legal education is thoroughly taught legal principles, impartiality in the administration of justice, the concept of rights, duties, powers, etc. But the majority of our youth doesn’t join the legal stream. And there are currently no means by which these young citizens can be taught these concepts or ideology, knowing which is a must for public life.

Students across our diverse fields need to be enlightened on the commands of the Constitution that cover secularism, liberty, freedom and equality; these should be so deeply imbibed by all that every person understands the role of each functionary connected with the law and the administration of justice. But unfortunately, that does not happen.

I had a goal as a teacher of the law to at least mould my students to act in accordance with constitutional mandates, principles of equity, rights and justice. I also thought of adding colour to their lives by ensuring that they learn to respect diversity, in views, beliefs, customs, food habits, etc. Though my efforts are just drops in an ocean, my conscience is satisfied that as a teacher, I have contributed towards shaping society through my students and preparing young citizens to fulfill the dreams our forefathers had while writing the Constitution.

After my retirement, to further my goal, I started working exclusively for legal education: It is different that I had to resign under particular circumstances. Be that as it may, I have continued my march by starting my own academy. I want to reciprocate the encouragement and affection society has showered on me, at least, to the fraternity already in the legal field or younger people in the process of joining the same.

I believe in a positive ideology and therefore, I am sure that the day will come when the dreams seen by the founders of our Constitution will translate into reality.

As told to Parimal Dabhi, Yagnik was former principal judge of the Ahmedabad City Civil and Sessions Court. She conducted the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre trial, convicting 32 persons, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani. After retiring, Yagnik became director of a Gandhinagar law institute. She faced threats and resigned, starting her own law academy

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  1. K
    Mar 6, 2017 at 2:31 pm
    Fanaticism should be treated as violative of consutio
    1. A
      ak dev
      Mar 6, 2017 at 11:23 am
      Nice post.
      1. A
        Ali Raza
        Mar 6, 2017 at 8:37 am
        The time of these anti-India fanatics is gone. My message to my Chrislamist brothers and sisters writing here is to join hands with Indians and abandon your hopes of ruling over the majority with the hope of jaichands among us. We can all prosper and live in peace together.
        1. J
          Jai hind
          Mar 6, 2017 at 12:38 pm
          i agree the inferiority complex , is really leading them to the violence and disaster. .....
          1. G
            Mar 7, 2017 at 10:19 am
            A breath of fresh air !
            1. G
              Mar 6, 2017 at 8:19 am
              Is it provided in the Consution that pellet guns be used only in Kashmir for crowd control and not in other States? Is there a provision in Constution that an accused be hanged to "satisfy the collective conscience of the nation".
              1. P
                Mar 6, 2017 at 9:40 am
                Whatever it is India is still doing very good. With so many religion, language, caste etc India did not break away like Russia. We are all still joined together as one country. Our consution forgot to mention equal treatment to all irrespective of color. That is the big problem in India. Fairer person is still considered superior that a dark
                1. M
                  M Prabhu
                  Mar 6, 2017 at 3:34 am
                  But the RSS thinks otherwise: they think they are first among equals.
                  1. M
                    Mahender Goriganti
                    Mar 6, 2017 at 3:24 am
                    Respecting individual's right has noting to do with timely justice or human rights. I don't know any consution that does n;;t other than autocratic an some Islamic laws that subjudjidicate individual rights to religious and sate but any modern and advanced societies.As for as India is concerned, it is embedded with the vidic principles from God/Goddesses, trinity, power distribution down to a Dobi and a monkey as in Ramayana,
                    1. N
                      Mar 6, 2017 at 6:33 am
                      I think it's more a question of inferiority complex for the Sangh;br/gt;lt;br/gt;They know they have no logical, sane, intellectual means of proving their hate ideology so they resort to violence.
                      1. P
                        Mar 6, 2017 at 4:42 am
                        Continued propaa aside, the time for left has ended, the definitions now belong to people who are seen by other as nationalists.... you can cry or scream, but you guys sow the seed of this new effort when you ignored truth and kept on peddling lies in the name of promoting minority interests, making all things minority, including deceptions as sacred/protected and making all things majority as profane. Rest ured, it is not only here to stay for long, but in fact it will be difficult t deny any truth in this age of information. The deceptive propaa has to pay price now.
                        1. P
                          Parth Garg
                          Mar 6, 2017 at 8:25 am
                          In autocracy, Consution goes for a sabbatical.
                          1. R
                            Mar 6, 2017 at 6:58 am
                            Nice article. But it's not true that all the times only minorities are subjected to Injustice, sometimes majority Hindus are also suffer from Injustice. We should look at every case as per it's merits. Until then you will always get extreme views on both sides I.e. so called secular and so called hindutva ideologues.
                            1. R
                              Mar 6, 2017 at 4:06 am
                              Have you read consution 85 p.c part fully based on British law of 1935 British government prepared it for suitable to rule on India Our father of consution blindly adopted it habit of our laziness Not care requirement of independent India That why we are suffering from last 75 years unruly chaos in administration anarchy in LS RS
                              1. S
                                Mar 6, 2017 at 1:02 pm
                                Hear, Hear... Jai Hind Madam and Vande;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Its really tragic that very few of your ilk wear their gown with the dignity it deserves anymore; its more like they have gone into hiding under it!!!lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;What an irony that your profession alone made the most valuable personnellt;br/gt;contribution to our freedom struggle - 90% of them were men of;br/gt;lt;br/gt;They were;br/gt;lt;br/gt;We long desperately for such statesmen to again take their stand in the midst of current mob;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Tatastu, Inshallah and Amen to that!
                                1. O
                                  Mar 6, 2017 at 7:34 am
                                  At least among children travellers in trains, equality principle has tobe allowed to operate in right earnest but actually discriminatory deplorable practices continue from Railways most unfortunately. Thus whereas lakhs of travelling children have to pay full fare if berths for them are reserved in sleeper coaches of difft.cles, , children of about 14 lakh serving Rly employees dont have to pay even a single Rupee towards rail fare, for berths,reservation charges, superfast charges and other levies. Likewise when cancellations are made, heavy cancellation charges inflicted on other lakhs of children but not on Rly employees children having reserved berths... Equality principle continues to be derailed for years in train fare collections also for millions of childrens rail travels.
                                  1. A
                                    Mar 6, 2017 at 10:01 pm
                                    What about imaginative and innovative interpretation injected into the frame work of the consution resulting in the judiciary making laws another remain only interpreters which enabled judicial activism and exploiting loops and getting away Scot free.Kindly read the book The politics of judiciary by. Griffith.A.T.Thiruvengadam
                                    1. T
                                      Thrinethran T
                                      Mar 6, 2017 at 8:59 am
                                      The dominant and the dominated group/cl varies with region and locale. To dominate and discriminate, a group has only to be better organised and more resourceful. It is universal justice, not compartmental and denominational justice that should be sought. Or else it leads to further division and discord.
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