Nani A. Palkhivala's name is a byword in India's
legal world. A man of many and varied parts, he has
crossed with ease the law's narrow confines and has
gone beyond into numerous other fields. His life's
work, as evidenced by this volume, bears testimony
to his passionate commitment to public causes. He
has given generously and unsparingly of himself and
his talents to the nation whenever the occasion
demanded most particularly in defence of the
rights and liberties of the common man, so that the
well-springs of democracy may remain undefiled.
In a narrative which is both lucid and felicitous,
Palkhivala discusses a wide range of subjects
education and democracy; economic growth and
social justice; socialism and taxation; crucial
constitutional issues and memorable judgments;
personalities and the law; nuclear proliferation and
apartheid; and his experiences as the Ambassador of
India to the U.S.A.
The author incisively analyses the public policies
which have resulted in India — one of the most gifted
nations in the world — remaining one of the poorest
countries on earth.
Palkhivala's mordant wit runs like a silver thread
through the book, making it compelling reading.
An Indian at 64 is, statistically speaking living on borrowed
time. In the evening of life, one may be forgiven for desiring to
put within the covers of a volume some papers which are not
wholly fugitive and not altogether without a clue.
Here are extracts—slightly edited in some cases—from my
speeches and writings of over three decades. There is a unity
underlying them—they converge upon the subject which has
supplied the title of the book.
Basic thoughts and themes recur in the papers. In some
places they are in an anticipatory or embryonic form and are
developed elsewhere. I have allowed myself to be persuaded
that such overlaps were not a fatal objection to their publication.
The pieces. written during the Emergency have been
advisedly republished. No period in the history of our republic
is of more educative value than 1975 to 1977. George Santayana
said, "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on
reientiveness... Those who cannot remember the past are
condemned to repeat it." If our basic freedoms are to survive,
it 1S Of vital importance that we remember the happenings
during the Emergency when the freedoms were suspended.
What has happened before can happen again.
The picture that emerges is that of a great country in a state
of moral decay. The immediate future seems to belong to the
doomsayers rather than to the cheermongers. We suffer from a
fatty degeneration of conscience, and the malady seems to be
not only persistent but prone to aggravation. The life style of
too many politicians and businessmen bears eloquent testimony
to the truth of the dictum that single-minded pursuit of money
impoverishes the mind, shrivels the imagination and desiccates
the heart. The tricolour fluttering all over the country is black,
red and scarlet— black money, red tape and scarlet corruption.
Man has been defined as a rational animal. But you cannot
live in India without being constantly reminded that this definition was given to man by man himself in a characteristic moment
It has been said that Nature is a wonderful handicapper:
to some women it gives the beauty of Madonna and the brains
of a linnet. I am prepared to believe that this is not true of the
fair sex, but I am not prepared to believe that this is not true
of nations. To a country like Japan Nature gives the handicap
of almost total absence of natural resources but gives it a sense
of national devotion which enables the country to be one of
the most prosperous and powerful in the world. To some other
countries it gives the gift of oil but without upgraded human
resources. To India Nature has given immense intelligence and
skills but no sense of public duty, discipline or dedication.
Our besetting sin is secular Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is the triumph of the letter over the spirit. It spurns
the lesson taught two thousand years ago that the letter killeth
but the spirit giveth life. In our unwitting addiction to fundamentalism we are fully supported by two defects in our national
character — lack of a sense of fairness, and lack of a sense of
Constitutional fundamentalism has enabled the Union to rob
the States of their constitutional right to deal with industries,
by the simple expedient of Parliament irrationally declaring
that control over them by the Union is "expedient in the public
interest". The letter of the Constitution is satisfied, while the
spirit of the Constitution is buried fifty fathoms deep.
Similarly, the governments at the Centre and in the States
bypass with impunity the legislature and promulgate a spate of
Ordinances which are patently unconstitutional. An Ordinance
can be promulgated only when necessity compels immediate
action while the legislature is not in session (arts. 123, 213 and
239B), whereas Ordinances are being regularly promulgated
in India just before the session of the legislature is to begin so
as to confront the legislature with an accomplished fact, or just
after the session is over. All schemes of nationalization of
individual undertakings or entire industries are invariably kept.
back while the legislature is in session and are promulgated only
in the form of Ordinances. The letter of the Constitution is
satisfied by the President or the Governor making a declaration
that while the legislature is not in session, "circumstances exist
which render it necessary for him to take immediate action".
The President as well as Governors are bound to act on the
advice of the Council of Ministers who are jubilantly aware
that outraging the sanctity of the Constitution, however
shamelessly, is not a punishable crime.
Again, an Ordinance which is intended to be a temporary law
to meet an urgent crisis ceases to operate at the expiry of six
weeks from the reassembly of the legislature. But by the plain
device of repromulgating Ordinances again and again, they
are kept indefinitely alive, while the assembly and prorogation
of the legislature are merely interludes in the Ordinance raj.
‘As Dr. D. C. Wadhwa has pointed out in his book* published
last year, in the Bihar State alone 256 Ordinances were kept
alive for periods ranging from one to fourteen years.
The Constitution is not a structure of fossils like a coral
reef and is not intended merely to enable politicians to play
their unending game of power. It is meant to hold the country
together when the raucous and fractious voices of today are
lost in the silence of the centuries.
In the field of economics we have the same phenomenon
of fundamentalism. The government respects the letter of
socialism—state control and state ownership—while the spirit
of social justice is left no chance of coming to life.
Our public administration has no conception of the value
of time. A recent study made by the Economic and Science
Research Foundation showed that if there had been no delays
in the implementation of Plans (a) the national income would
have increased by Rs. 1,20,000 crores annually; (b) exports
would have risen annually by Rs. 9,600 crores; (c) annual
production of food grains would have been higher by 54 million
tonnes; (d) 14.4 million more jobs would have been created;
and (e) the per capita income would have increased threefold.
It is significant that we are probably the only country in the
world in whose national language the same word—kal—is used
to denote both yesterday and tomorrow.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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