New Login   

Constitution Matters

M.S. Ganesh

By A.G. Noorani
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. lxxi viii 358, Rs. 595.00

Edited by C. Raj Kumar and K. Chockalingam
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2007, pp. liv 520, Rs. 695.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 9 September 2008

The two books under review are near perfect foils to one another. The one is old wine in a new bottle; the other is new whine from an old throttle. The author of the first is a prolific constitutional essayist—an India avatar of Walter Lippman with his own perennial philosophy—of whom Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer has said: ‘As a jurist he is luminous, as an author voluminous’. The authors of the second are scholars of law and other social sciences who have contributed to a festschrift for Justice Krishna Iyer. The former collection comprises journalistic pieces and hence is largely ephemera. The latter compilation consists of legal articles, researched and documented. Other than similarity in title, the two sets of writings hardly deal with the same constitutional issues and precedents.   Noorani’s book is an omnibus, a re-issue of two of his earlier collections of articles, with a preface and additions of subsequent articles under the relevant topics. Constitutional Questions in India: The President, Parliament and the States (OUP, 2000), as originally published, has been reviewed earlier in these columns. Citizens’ Rights, Judges and State Accountability (OUP, 2002) is, likewise, a supplemented re-publication. Both books are compilations of articles published in prominent newspapers and newsmagazines in the 1990s. On constitutional questions, in his added articles, Noorani deals with such aspects as the sanctity of the Constitution, Parliament’s resolutions on foreign policy, lobbyists, ethics of Ministers and MPs, journalistic confidentiality vis-à-vis the court’s contempt powers, the selection of a party’s candidate for election and the right to strike. The characteristic reprise of his writings is his advertence to British precedents, parliamentary and judicial, and fitfully also to those from the USA and other Commonwealth jurisdictions. Constitutional comparisons are commodious but not necessarily edifying or apt. At times, they are misinformed and dangerously misleading. Writings for popular consumption and the lay reader, therefore, must be precise and correct, especially when they are sought to be transplanted from a transient daily to a permanent book.   In the context of foreign policy, Noorani asserts dogmatically: ‘That a resolution of Parliament has no legal force is simply uncontestable’. Citing in support two antediluvian English cases, Stockdale v. Hansard (1839) and Bowles v. Bank of England (1913), neither of which involved Britain’s foreign policy, he reiterates: ‘That a resolution of either House of Parliament or for that matter one adopted by both ...

Table of Contents >>
Please or to Read Entire Article

Free Access Online 12 Back Issues
with 1 year's subscription
Archive (1976-2011)
under construction.