The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, November 24, 2002

Write view
as law in widest sense
Randeep Wadehra

Ancient Indian Law
by Justice M. Rama Jois. Universal Law Publishing Co., Delhi. Pages: xv+140. Rs 165.

Ancient Indian LawFOR the smooth functioning of any polity a structured system of governance is essential. Social, political, economic, cultural and other activities need to be regulated through relevant rules, laws and precepts. Normally such an administrative superstructure tells us a lot about the times during which it operated. The ancient Indian society functioned with four major aims, viz., dharma (moral code), artha (wealth), kama (worldly pleasures) and moksha (salvation). Moksha, of course, was the ultimate aim, but dharma was stressed upon the most as it helped both the individual and the society to attain the other three aims. In Kautilya: the Arthashastra Prof. L.N. Rangarajan says that dharma not only signifies an absolute and immutable concept of righteousness but also includes the idea of duty which every human being owes to himself, to his ancestors, to society as a whole and to universal order. Dharma is law in its widest sense – spiritual, moral, ethical and temporal. To the extent that society respected dharma, society protected itself; to the extent society offended it, society undermined itself.


In the foreword to Justice Jois’ volume Justice Ramaswamy avers, "Manu Smriti occupied centre stage leading commentary next to Yajnavalkya." The book tells us that though there are several aspects of Manu Smriti that have been rightly condemned, one cannot ignore the positive traits of this "codified" script of rules; e.g., "Reject wealth / money and desires which are contrary to Dharma. Reject also such rules of Dharma, obedience to which leads to unhappiness to some or brings about public resentment". Similarly, Vyasa Smriti – another compilation of rules in ancient India – has a verse, which is "similar to article 13 of the Constitution of India" relating to fundamental rights.

The author has provided original text in Sanskrit with translations/explanations in English on such topics as the functions of grihasthashrama, substantive and procedural law etc. He has gone to great lengths in bringing to us those aspects of ancient India that tell us how dynamic the society once was. Dharma was not an unyielding dogma but an ever-evolving concept that was designed to meet the people’s aspirations. From time to time great thinkers reinterpreted dharma to make it more in tune with prevailing circumstances. Hope Justice Jois will come out with a sequel that will tell us how, when and why the once vigorous Indian society got bogged down in dogma-ridden ennui.

Indian Presidency and the Successive Presidents
by M.L. Ahuja. Icon Publications, New Delhi. Pages: x+230. Rs 395

Indian Presidency and the Successive PresidentsIs the President of India a mere figurehead? Not really. As Head of the State he is empowered to play his role as the protector, preserver and defender of the Constitution. Says Ahuja, "The Indian Constitution is of a ‘sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic’ and the office of the President is highest and constitutionally perpetual." The State Governors are his nominees and are directly accountable to him. He can ask them to reserve and transmit any State Bill for his consideration. He is also the Supreme Commander of our Armed Forces, and has "unique" ordinance-making powers. Dr. Rajendra Prasad once remarked, "Constitution can only be what its people want it to be. If you make good use of the constitutional provisions you will find that they are good enough for you." Since ours is a Constitutional Presidency, its working depends upon the will of the people of India as expressed in our constitutional provisions.

This book is divided into three parts. Part 1 deals with the constitutional provisions determining the President’s status, his powers and the variegated roles he can play in the parliamentary form of democracy. Ahuja has given some instances of how various constitutional crises and challenges were resolved by different Presidents. Part 2 gives brief biographical sketches of the Presidents from Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. Part 3 provides source and reference material like the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Elections Act, 1952 etc.

Total Literacy Campaign for Out of School Children
by P. Adinarayana Reddy. A.P.H. Publishing, New Delhi. Pages: xiii+145. Rs 300

Total Literacy Campaign for Out of School ChildrenSpread of literacy is the first step in ushering in an educated, well-informed and vibrant polity. Literacy is indispensable for fashioning socio-economic transformation in our country. This awareness has become particularly acute now that we are facing the effects of globalisation. The focus is not only on enrolling children into schools but also on such youngsters as are out of school.

With the aim of eradicating illiteracy from the country the National Literacy Mission has launched more than 420 District Total Literacy Campaigns. Chittoor District’s Akshara Tapasman Programme aims at covering more than 6 lakh illiterates in the age-group of 9-35 years in order to stop the future inflow of unlettered populace. It also proposes to provide youth with one more chance to avail of either formal or non-formal education. Reddy’s study aims at suggesting appropriate entry points for children into the desired educational streams.