Justice N.V. Ramana of the Supreme Court, the judge who is due to become the next Chief Justice of India (CJI), said on Saturday that emergencies have a long-lasting impact on generations.
Ramana was speaking at the launch of a book titled "The Law of Emergency Powers: Comparative Common Law Perspectives", authored by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and professor Khagesh Gautam.
Before beginning his speech as a judge, Ramana said he has to place a caveat that he is required to be a little more circumspect while discussing thoughts on a legal subject where the law is not so well settled, and it is contestable.
He opened his speech citing his personal experience during the Emergency. "At the outset, the book brought back memories of the 1975 Emergency. In June 25, 1975, a public meeting was organised in my hometown on civil liberties. I was the presiding officer of this meeting, and I was about to step out of the house when my father told me to pack an extra pair of clothes, as he was convinced that I will be arrested during the function," he said.
Later, when he reached the venue, a friend informed him that police were arresting people, and took him to the outskirts and told him that the government will proclaim Emergency.
Ramana said they took a lorry and travelled for two-three hours, and then walked all night to reach his maternal aunt's house. "I had Rs 10 in my pocket. In the hindsight maybe, my father should have given some more extra money," he said.
Ramana added: "Emergencies have long lasting impact on generations. In my case, a year of academic and mental suffering attributed to Emergency, I have no regrets."
He added that during that year, he learnt about human tragedy, hunger, pain and suffering. He said questions such as when Emergency can be legally proclaimed, and what are the permissible actions etc., are some of the issues that the book tries to address while doing cross jurisdictional studies.
Ramana said it is telling that only our Constitution explicitly provides for the situation of Emergency. "One has to keep in mind the historical conditions for which the Indian Constitution was being framed as well as the foresight and understanding of the framers of our Constitution. They took into account the teachings of the past and the uncertainties of the future in drafting the part of the Constitution which deals with Emergency provisions," added Ramana.
He cited that some members of the Constituent Assembly observed that such provisions are necessary evils aimed at resolving crisis identified under the Constitution. In such circumstances, when the very state is at risk, some ideas may have to be sacrificed but only in line with the Constitution, he said.
"The Supreme Court has been at the centre of this discussion, from A.K. Gopalan to ADM Jabalpur. From Maneka Gandhi to Puttaswamy, it is a complicated journey which this book explains in a simple manner. From the opinions of ADM Jabalpur to Justice D.Y. Chandrachud's opinion in the Puttaswamy case, the growth of jurisprudence is historic," said Ramana.
(Sumit Saxena can be contacted at email@example.com)
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