Fundamental Rights meaningless without social justice

NEW DELHI: At a time when starvation death is stalking the village populace of Orissa and a petition is pending in the Supreme Court for declaring right to food as a fundamental right, the Chief Justice of India has said these rights will have no meaning without a new socio-economic order.

"There is an increasing realisation that fundamental rights can have no meaning for a large number of people in India, unless a new socio-economic order is raised on the foundation of directive principles," CJI justice A S Anand said recently delivering the M C Bhandari Memorial Lecture at Jodhpur. Under the constitution, the Supreme Court and the high courts could direct the governments for the enforcement of the fundamental rights but not the directive principles enshrined in the constitution.

The Chief Justice termed the fundamental rights as "static" while the directive principles as "dynamic" and said the latter have the potential to enrich the rights provisions.

Given the recent trend in the courts, Justice Anand said "since the last few years, the Supreme Court of India is increasingly invoking the directive principles in interpreting the fundamental rights and as a matter of fact, the directive principles, which are dynamic, are fertilising the static provisions of the fundamental right.

Access to justice to protect their fundamental rights was almost illusory for weaker sections of Indian humanity due to their poverty, ignorance and illiteracy, Justice Anand said.

The Supreme Court realised that one of the drawbacks of the justice delivery system has been the denial of access to justice to the common man, he said. The Chief Justice said "to reach out, the Supreme Court, therefore, liberated itself from the traditional thought, ways and made innovative use of judicial power by developing a variety of techniques to make access to justice a reality."

He cited the permission given to any body to file a habeas corpus petition for release of any person detained illegally, filing of PILs among other relaxations given by the Supreme Court for easy access to justice.

"Lack of legislative thinking and executive inaction coupled with exploitation of masses by the opportuned few, made the judiciary to rise to the occasion and extend its hand of help to at least some of the needy people to bring justice within their easy reach," Justice Anand said. The history of public interest litigation was in a way the history of development of human rights jurisprudence in India during the last two decades, he said adding it represented a sustained effort on the part of judiciary to provide access to justice for the deprived sections of Indian humanity with a view to protect their human rights.

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Referred by: Benjamin P Kaila
Published on:3 Sep, 2001
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