Supreme Court Judge JJustice Vikram Nath delivered a keynote address on "Fundamental Duties vis-a-vis Fundamental Rights under Our Constitution" at the 2nd Justice HR Khanna Memorial National Symposium hosted by RMNLU Lucknow and NLU Odisha, partnering with the Confederation of Alumni for NLUs (CAN) Foundation.
Justice Nath commenced his address by remembering Late Justice HR Khanna. He stated that the darkest of times are truest test of character and the emergency was one of the most fateful events in the history of the Indian nation. In such dark days, Justice Khanna's carefully crafted dissent highlighting the importance of constitutional provisions as the only safeguard for existing natural rights set a stellar standard for the succeeding generation of judges to oppose forces of tyranny regardless of the personal costs they have to pay, said Justice Nath. He also highlighted Justice Khanna's "courageous dissent in ADM Jabalpur" as "a testament to the fact that titles don't survive the ravages of time but it is the substance of character which makes us truly legendary." He stated that Justice Khanna's dissents displayed his insurmountable courage to protect "rule of law" and the Indian Constitution.
While talking about the importance of fundamental duties, Justice Nath stated that fundamental rights were incorporated in the Indian Constitution to protect India's diverse population which consisted of many religious, cultural and linguistic groups. However, Justice Nath highlighted that Part III was only one of the pillars of the Constitution and could not be read alone but had to be read along with fundamental duties enshrined in Part 4A of the Constitution.
Justice Nath quoted the Indian Prime Minister and his approach of "thinking globally but acting locally" and elaborated on this thought by stating that while our vision must be to compete globally, we must be equally concerned with our domestic interests. Thus, while taking our international goals forward, our domestic interests must not be lost sight of.
Moving forward in his speech, Justice Nath quoted the pre-independence poem of Rabindranath Tagore – "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high...Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake" and spoke of the relevance of the poem in today's time.
He also quoted H.R. Gokhale, the then law minister of India, on the importance of fundamental duties which were meant to have "a sobering effect on these restless spirits who have had a host of anti-national, subversive and unconstitutional agitations" and stated that each citizen should fulfil their civic duty to ensure peace and welfare of the country. Further elaborating upon this point, Justice Nath stated that while for fundamental rights, enforcement could be done through the court of law, fundamental duties could not be legally imposed upon citizens. Thus, every citizen should carry out their duties to ensure a welfare based, peaceful society.
Justice Nath concluded his address by quoting the American Historian Russell Kirk–
"Every right is married to a duty; every freedom owes a corresponding responsibility; and there cannot be genuine freedom unless there exists also genuine order..."