Justice Nagarathna Stresses Importance of Secularism and Integrity in Upholding Constitutional Ideals

In a recent address, Supreme Court Justice B.V. Nagarathna emphasized the significance of secularism and integrity as fundamental principles in upholding the constitutional ideals of India. The statement came during her speech at the valedictory function of the National Law School of India University’s (NLSIU) 4th Annual International Moot Court Competition, which was held virtually on October 3rd, 2021.

Secularism: A Pillar of Indian Democracy

Justice Nagarathna highlighted the importance of secularism as one of the basic features of the Indian Constitution. She noted that the term “secular” was added to the Preamble of the Constitution through the 42nd Amendment in 1976. This amendment aimed to solidify the concept of secularism within the country’s legal framework.

The Justice stated that the concept of secularism is deeply rooted in India’s history, with its foundations dating back to ancient times. She quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who once said, “If I were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: search after truth through non-violent means.” This quote underscores the essence of secularism in India, where the pursuit of truth and justice is considered paramount, irrespective of one’s religious beliefs.

Justice Nagarathna further elaborated that secularism in India does not imply a complete separation of religion from the state. Instead, it signifies a harmonious coexistence of all religions, with equal respect and protection under the law. She emphasized that the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based on religion.

Integrity: The Foundation of the Legal System

In addition to secularism, Justice Nagarathna stressed the importance of integrity in the legal profession and judiciary. She explained that integrity is the foundation of the legal system, as it ensures the trust and confidence of the public in the administration of justice.

According to Justice Nagarathna, integrity is not merely about adherence to the law but also encompasses moral and ethical principles. She quoted former Chief Justice of India, Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah, who had said, “Integrity is the first, second, and third requisite of a judge.” This quote highlights the significance of integrity in the judiciary, where the impartiality and fairness of judges are crucial in maintaining the credibility of the legal system.

Justice Nagarathna urged law students to cultivate the virtues of integrity and honesty, as these values play a key role in upholding the constitutional ideals of India. She also encouraged them to contribute to nation-building by participating in initiatives that promote social justice and equality.

The Role of Legal Education

The Justice acknowledged the role of legal education in shaping future generations of lawyers and judges. She commended NLSIU for organizing the International Moot Court Competition, which she believes fosters critical thinking, research, and advocacy skills among law students.

Justice Nagarathna concluded her address by emphasizing the need for continuous learning and improvement in the legal profession. She encouraged law students to strive for excellence and remain committed to the ideals enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

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