“42” is supposed to be the answer to the “Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”. 42 years ago, on 24th April, 1973 two events changed the destiny of India: the birth of Sachin Tendulkar and the pronouncement of the “View of the Majority” in Kesavananda. An inspired Rhetorical Question No. 4: The Kesavananda Bench of 13 Judges was composed of CJ Sikri, Justices J.M. Shelat, K.S. Hegde, A.N. Grover, A.N. Ray, P. Jaganmohan Reddy, D.G. Palekar, H.R. Khanna, K.K. Mathew, M.H. Beg, S.N. Dwivedi, A.K. Mukherjea and Y.V. Chandrachud. Six Sikri-led Judges held that the Amending Power was limited by various inherent and implied limitations in the Constitution. Six other Judges held there were no limitations on the Amending Power of the Parliament. One Judge Justice H.R. Khanna expressly rejected the view of the six Sikri-Led Judges that there were “inherent or implied limitations on the Amending Power”. Justice Khanna held that the Amending Power was plenary in every sense, but the word “amendment” in Article 368 by its limited connotation did not lend itself to abrogating the Constitution. Any “amendment” to the Constitution had necessarily to retain “the basic structure and framework of the Constitution after the amendment”. That was the conclusion of only one judge – Justice Khanna. How then can it be said that Kesavananda was decided by a “The View of the Majority” of Nine Judges that the Amending Power of Parliament was limited by the basic structure of the Constitution?
42 years ago, on this day… it has been a day since Justice A.N. Ray has been sworn in as the 14th Chief Justice of India. It is a Friday. There shall be almost 200 more Fridays before CJI Ray retires on 28th January, 1977 – a Friday, again. And on 25th December, 2010, 34 days short of completing 34 years of Retirement, the year I start practicing, he “will take it on the otherside“. He was 99 and is still unbeaten. “History is the cruelest judge and Justice Ray will be remembered as having presided over the Supreme Court during its darkest period” (See, Nani Palkhivala: The Courtroom Genius, 2012, pg. 152).
Post Script: 25 April, 1973