Parag Tripathi, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court, delivers Dr. Granville Austin Memorial Lecture

Inside JGU

April 2024

Parag Tripathi, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court, delivers Dr. Granville Austin Memorial Lecture

Mr. Parag Tripathi, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, delivered the Dr. Granville Austin Memorial Lecture at JGU on April 17 on the topic ‘The Indian Supreme Court and its quest for Constitutionalism: Revisiting the experience of The Emergency’.

In his lecture, Mr Tripathi said: “The protection of fundamental rights and the spirit of liberty are central to our democracy. In this context, the play of the counter majoritarian doctrine inherent in judicial review and at times the abandonment thereof, is what makes the study of the constitutional implications of The Emergency in India, an issue which continues to be relevant today.

“The understanding of the scope and ambit of fundamental rights should begin by an examination of what are the fundamental wrongs which are sought to be so addressed. In the play of this doctrine of counter majoritarianism, the justices are not unmindful of the median of the politically relevant public opinion. This is accentuated in a scenario of a strong one-party government led by a powerful national leader. The working out of this aspect of judicial review by our constitutional courts needs to be understood in its interplay with the spirit of liberty and the rights of minority groups.”

“In any democracy including India, when a law is enacted, it is generally understood as stating the will of the majority. When a law on being challenged before a constitutional court is struck down, it is an exercise of judicial review against perceived will of the majority and so counter majoritarian in substance. It is important to note that mere laws will not ensure the spirit of liberty. As our nation experienced during the Emergency, and thereafter, the people of India threw out the government which they thought was guilty of a constitutional overreach during the Emergency. In fact, there was a swell of support when the Emergency was first imposed. But the manner in which it went on, it elicited this reaction from the people based on the spirit of liberty which lay in the hearts and souls of Indians. This spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not ‘too sure’ that it is right, and seeks to understand the minds of other men and women. It is accommodating in nature.”

Prof. (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice Chancellor of JGU, noted in his welcome address that Dr. Granville Austin was an American historian of the Indian Constitution. Dr. Austin received most of his early education at Norwich, Vermont, USA. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a BA in American Literature. He then earned a doctorate in Modern Indian History from Oxford University. “He has held fellowships or grants from St. Antony’s College, Oxford, the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the American Institute of Indian Studies, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, and the Institute of Current World Affairs.”

Professor R. Sudarshan, Dean, Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, gave his reflections on the contributions of Dr. Austin and said, “Dr. Austin had the enterprising idea to write to the Prime Minister of India to ask for access to the papers of the Constituent Assembly. He was given access to the papers which now constitute the National Archives, and he was able to write a thesis in 1966 in a very elegant and accessible manner. His account of the framing of India’s Constitution began to get quoted in key references. Later, he wrote a book on the workings of the Indian Constitution.” Professor Sudarshan recollected his association with Dr. Granville Austin at the Ford Foundation and how he went to great lengths to study the subject by meeting every person associated with the project, in this case the Indian Constitution.

In 2011, in recognition for his writing on the framing and working of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Granville Austin was awarded a Padma Shri award, the fourth highest civilian honour of India. The National Translation Mission of the Ministry of Human Resource Development of the Government of India has selected The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation for translation into Indian languages. The book has been published in Telugu, Marathi, Punjabi, Odia, Hindi and Malayalam.