Judges, legal practitioners, academicians and students came together to pay rich tributes to Justice J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice of India, at a lecture organized in his memory by the O.P. Jindal Global University(JGU) in New Delhi.
This was the 2nd Justice Verma Memorial lecture organized by O. P. Jindal Global University. It was delivered by Hon’ble Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Judge, Supreme Court of India and a well-known name in the world of jurisprudence. The theme of the lecture was ‘Federalism: Legislative Relations between Centre and States.’
Justice Verma served as the 27th Chief Justice of India from March 1997 to January 1998. Thereafter, he was the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission from 1999 to 2003. He is remembered for his firm commitment to women’s empowerment, judicial accountability, probity in public life and social justice.
Professor (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor, O. P. Jindal Global University paid homage to this distinguished legal luminary of India who is also revered as the conscience of Indian judiciary and said, “We at O.P. Jindal Global University were fortunate to engage with Justice J S Verma, a lifelong crusader for justice and a firm believer of judges’ integrity.”
Professor Kumar further highlighted that, JGU is focused on working towards bringing about a fresh perspective in the domain of global education and research and said, “The evolution of O.P. Jindal Global University and Jindal Global Law School is an attempt to transform the landscape of legal education in India.”
In his hour long speech peppered with anecdotes and insights, Mr. Justice Rohinton Nariman highlighted the inevitability of constitutional disputes surrounding power sharing between states and the centre in a federation and the numerous legal doctrines invoked to address them. Justice Nariman made comparative references to the federal structures of Canada and Australia along with cases on Indian federalism and USA which was also discussed often. The Indian federation is best described as ‘quasi-unitary’ rather than ‘quasi-federal’ observed Justice Nariman.
Referring to Indian constitutional system which gives precedence to fundamental rights over laws, Justice Nariman asserted that, “Unlike America we have express judicial review under article 13. Article 13(1) deals with pre constitutional laws and says that if they clash with fundamental rights then they are void. Article 13 (2) says that state shall not make any law that clashes with the fundamental right and that such a law again will be void.” He further added “States have exclusive powers to make laws within their legislative competence but at all-times central list must prevail over state list.”
“Our constitution did not start with tabula Rasa,” said Justice Nariman, while acknowledging the difficult task that lay before the founding fathers of the Constitution. He also discussed the two sub-models within the rubric of the larger Indian federal model: one pertaining to the centre vis-à-vis the state of Jammu & Kashmir and the other pertaining to the centre vis-à-vis the other States.
He said that it was the foresight of India’s constitution makers that resulted in a stable and resilient structure that has lasted all these years. He also discussed various landmark judgments of the constitutional courts which helped shape and preserve the Indian federal structure.
Justice Nariman speaking about Jammu and Kashmir stated, “Not even a lunatic would want Jammu and Kashmir model for the rest of the country. Thank God the founding fathers chose what they chose.”
Professor Dr. Y. S. R. Murthy, Registrar, O P Jindal Global University hailed Justice J. S. Verma for his outstanding contribution to gender justice and in particular his Committee’s recommendations on rape laws, many of which have now become law. Professor Murthy lauded Justice Verma’s stellar contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights. Referring to rare courage of conviction on the part of Justice J.S. Verma, Dr. Murthy observed that he stood up against corruption and emphasized ‘probity in public life’ throughout his career.