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India is the Crucible of Democracy: Justice Michael D. Wilson, Judge, Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii

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Sonipat, May 16 (Ajit Weekly News) Speaking at a two-day international Conference on the theme, ‘Due Process, Rule of Law and Democracy: Comparative Perspectives from India and the United States’, jointly organised by Jindal Global Law School of the O.P. Jindal Global University and the Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii, Justice Michael C. Wilson, Judge, Supreme Court of Hawaii observed that, “The bedrock of democracy is that we, the citizens of the state, should treat people decently and with compassion, and understand those that are lesser parts of our community and stand up for them. Law and lawyers have played a huge role in sustaining egalitarian values. Mahatma Gandhi, who inspired Martin Luther King Jr., a doyen of justice, was a lawyer.”

Justice Wilson further added that, “I often think of India as the crucible of democracy. The past of India has meant so much to the world and to the US.” The two-day Conference inter alia explored the essential correlation between due process guarantee, rule of law systems, and the democratic values and their interplay in India and the US.

Delivering a special address, Justice Sabrina McKenna, Judge, Supreme Court of Hawaii pointed out, “We need to promote and protect democratic government, we need to have public trust in democracy and the rule of law. The cornerstone of this is due process of law. Judicial independence is critical to have a healthy democracy. True democracies are governed by rule of law and not by rule of power or persuasion.”

Highlighting the importance of a diverse judiciary, Justice McKenna added that, “Diversity in the judiciary is an extremely important aspect of the rule of law. As President Barack Obama said when men and women who deliver justice look more like the community they serve, there is greater confidence in our justice system overall. In terms of diversity, Hawaii is one of the four states having over 50 per cent full-time women judges. I really hope India fulfils this principle of the rule of law. I am an outspoken advocate for increasing the number of women judges, especially in the Supreme Court.”

In his special address, Justice Todd W. Eddins, Judge, Supreme Court of Hawaii, said, “The rule of law has to operate to protect the inherent rights that we all have as members of the human race. Due process safeguards liberty and protects individuals against government’s interference with fundamental rights. If the government undercuts an inherent human right, courts have to ensure that the basic human rights are beyond the reach of the government.”

Adding that the rule of law aims to inhibit the arbitrary use of state power, Justice Eddins said, “Everybody needs to be bound by the same rules and same laws. Position and status are immaterial. No one is immune from the application of a law. The laws are fairly administered. The rule of law also means that the laws are openly debated, they are enacted after public participation and are published so everyone knows about them.”

The Founding Vice-Chancellor of O.P. Jindal Global University (JGU), Prof. (Dr.) C. Raj Kumar said, “While it is true that we have been able to develop democratic institutions and have free and fair elections, smooth transition of power, the reality is that the rule of law continues to be on trial. There are numerous instances when the faith and trust of the people of India in the institution of law has been challenged, undermined and in many cases violated. And this violation has been going on with impunity and the fear is that if we don’t arrest this, people will lose faith in the ability of democratic institutions to protect the rule of law and help in perfecting our democracy.”

Delivering the Keynote Address, Sudhir Mishra, Founder and Managing Partner, Trust Legal, observed, “In India, whether it’s the case of sedition, or free speech or oxygen or environment, our judiciary is actually the last recourse for the ordinary persons even now. They look up to them, and they go to the court. When media will fail you, when legislature will fail you, executive will fail you, people will come to judiciary.”

Introducing the context and theme of the Conference, Prof. (Dr.) S.G. Sreejith, Professor & Executive Dean, JGLS & Director, Centre for International Legal Studies said, “A Conference of this nature is an opportunity to reflect on our socio-political coexistence in democracy. It is an opportunity for remembrance—of the historical evolution of India and the United States towards democracy. Reading and re-reading the Constitution and remembering the constitutional moments is such a means to recall our histories and reinvent ourselves in newer conditions.”

Through six sessions spread over two days, the Conference brought together judges, advocates, and academics from both jurisdictions to deliberate on themes like “The Egalitarian Triad: Due Process, Rule of Law, and Democracy”, “The Polemics of Liberty and Equality: The Evolution of Due Process Doctrine”, “Due Process Moments in Courts: Comparing Lochner and Maneka Gandhi”, “The Democratic Promise: Rule of Law in the Age of Constitutionalism”, “Building a Regime: Political and Administrative Dimensions of Rule of Law”, and “Imagining Globally: Liberal Democracies and Rule of Law”.

In his concluding remarks, Prof. Dabiru Sridhar Patnaik, Professor and Registrar of JGU stated, “As students and public conscious citizens, if we need to build an aspirational society, the capacity, the knowledge, and even the inquisitiveness and knowledge construction on these matters, democracy, rule of law and due process have to be valued in highest esteem. It’s not only just about law and constitution but so many other aspects also come into the picture. For instance, the need for comparative public law and the need to understand political philosophy and the way law is so all encompassing. A methodological understanding of these issues is all the more important.”

–Ajit Weekly News

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