28 February, 2021

They Used The Good Book

A study of constitutional litigation by common Indians describes processes and landmark cases to show how it impacted individual freedom and social justice

They Used The Good Book

In dispensing justice to a mason, Moti Ram, in 1978, whom the lower court had granted bail against a surety of Rs 10,000, to be realised within the same district, Justice Kris­hna Iyer of the Supreme Court had expressed shock at the manner of seeking such high surety from a poor man and reminded the err­ant magistrate that “our Constitution, enacted by ‘We the People of India’ is meant for the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker—shall we add the bonded labou­rer and the pavement dweller”. It was a reference to a statement by Justice Vivian Bose in 1956 who, while expre­ssing anguish at procedural delays in getting relief for a pet­itioner, had stated that the Constitution was not only for the benefits of the highly placed, but as much for the poor and humble.  

These and many such cases not only project the glory of our Constitution but demonstrate how marginal citizens operating in an informal economy have continued to use constitutional pro­vi­sions as an instrument to trigger public debates on the...

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