'Ink Of Kesavananda Bharati Judgement May Fade, Words Will Not': Justice Dipankar Datta at Nani Palkhiwala Memorial Conclave

Srinjoy Das

26 Nov 2023 2:37 PM GMT

  • Justice Dipankar Datta | Nani Palkhiwala Memorial Conclave
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    The West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences ("NUJS") hosted the Nani A. Palkhiwala Memorial Conclave, supported by the Tata Group.

    The event consisted of a constitutional law quiz competition and an essay presentation on the Scope and Formulation of Judicial Review and Promulgation of Ordinances.

    The Chief Guest's Address was delivered by Justice Dipankar Datta, Judge of the Supreme Court of India, who remembered Nani Palkhivala as one of the 'foremost thinkers of modern India' and added that his impact had gone much beyond the legal sphere. Justice Datta evaluated the essays and observed that some lacked clarity on the understanding of the basic structure doctrine. He delivered a detailed explanation of the critical importance of the doctrine, and explained its role in the Indian Constitution.

    Justice Datta also recalled Palkhivala's contribution as the petitioner's counsel in the landmark case of Kesavanda Bharati v State of Kerala (1973) which cemented the basic structure doctrine within the Indian Constitution and made it a part of the country's Constitutional identity.

    On the relationship between parliamentary supremacy and the basic structure doctrine, Justice Datta pointed out, "No one would accept, with grace, the curtailment of power of the institution to which they belong. As Frederick Douglas had said, power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did, and it never will. Lawmakers must realise that they cannot fundamentally alter the tenets of the Constitution. Articles 141 and 144 must be followed. As Nani Palkhivala would have placed it, the Constitution is not a jellyfish, it cannot lose its identity in the process of amendment."

    Justice Datta signed off by advising the young lawyers to make informed decisions and recalled the memory of Justice Hans Raj Khanna, another architect of the basic structure doctrine, by observing that no generation had a monopoly on wisdom. "No one knows what the future holds, the rigidity of reality may pale in front of it. The onus is on us to take the spirit of Kesavananda Bharati forward. The ink of the judgement may fade, but the words will not," he concluded.

    Other speakers included Senior Advocate & ex-West Bengal Advocate General S.N. Mookherjee, Senior Advocate & Solicitor Jamshed P. Cama, Prof(Dr) N.K. Chakrabarti, Vice Chancellor, NUJS, Mrs Swati Kapadia, CEO, Nani A Palkhiwala Memorial Trust, and Mr Sidharth Sharma, General Counsel, Tata Group.

    (*This story was made with inputs from the Organaising Committee)

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