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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Rousseau said the people are supreme is foundation of all modern democracies

The Indian Constitution and My Teacher Rousseau ( 1712-1778 )

"With Voltaire triumphant throughout Europe, and Rousseau hiding in fear in a dark room in obscurity, the Age of Rousseau began" 
Will Durant : The Story of Civilization : Rousseau and Revolution

What I inherited from my teacher Rousseau was a hatred of injustice. Rousseau saw through, hatred, and raised his voice against every kind of injustice. While denouncing feudal despotism ( see his ' Social Contract ' ), he also realized that formal democracy ( universal franchise, etc ) and political liberties are empty shells unless accompanied with economic and social justice. Liberty, freedom of speech, the right to vote, etc are meaningless to a hungry or unemployed man. 
While Locke never attacked inequality in wealth, and Voltaire obfuscated on the issue, Rousseau, in his ' Discourse on Inequality ', clearly said : " It is obviously contrary to the law of nature, however it be defined, for a handful of people to gorge themselves on superfluities, while the starving multitudes lack the basic necessities of life "
Thus Rousseau realized that the ' natural rights ' of which Locke and others had spoken, were all meaningless to a poor man, because poverty is destructive of all rights.
Rousseau would have found the Indian Constitution as an empty shell, because the socio-economic rights, without which the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part 3 ( freedom of speech, freedom of religion, liberty, equality, etc ) are meaningless, have been placed in the Directive Principles in Part 4, and have been specifically made non enforceable ( vide Article 37 ). Thus what has been given by one hand, has been taken away by the other.
The Indian Constitution, though no doubt doing some good for some time, by providing for civil liberties, secularism, etc has also , by not ensuring socio-economic justice to the poor masses in India ( see my articles ' Healthcare in India ', ' Malnutrition in India ', ' Unemployment in india ', ' Vikaas', etc on my facebook page and on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in ), and rather permitting further widening the gulf between the handful of rich and the vast majority of poor, has now exhausted itself. It can now no longer serve the Indian people, and has to be replaced by a Constitution which ensures real justice, which includes socio-economic justice, to the people, and not a mere fig leaf.
This,however, will only be possible after a great and drastic historical change in the social system prevailing in India

Oct 20, 2013 - by Justice Markandey Katju,. Synopsis. 1. Introduction. 2. Historical British Constitutional Developments. 3. John Locke's Theory of Natural ...
John Locke’s Theory of Natural Rights and the American Constitution
We have seen above how effective state power was transferred in England from the King to Parliament, and later to one of the two Houses of Parliament viz. the House of Commons, which represented the people. 
Normally Parliament represented the people, and therefore was expected to act in the interest of the people. But what would happen if Parliament started acting against the interest of the people and started oppressing them?
It is here that the theory of the British thinker John Locke gained importance. In his Second Treatise on Civil Government, written in 1690 Locke propounded his theory of ‘natural rights’ of the people. Locke wrote that the people had certain ‘natural rights’ e.g. the right to life and liberty, right to property, etc which were inherent in man. Hence even Parliament could not encroach on these.
This theory was the basis of the Bill of Rights incorporated in the 1789 U.S. Constitution and the Indian Constitution’s Fundamental Rights.

Jan 9, 2015 - Though the English thinker Locke had introduced the concept in his ' Second treatise on Civil Government ', ( in which he postulated the theory ...
Since I have mentioned the name of my teacher, the great French thinker, Rousseau ( 1712-1768 ) often in my posts, some people asked me about him.
I suggest you begin by reading Will Durant's ' The Story of Civilization'. It is in several volumes, and should be available in any good library. It is in several volumes, and you should pick up the volume entitled ' Rousseau and Revolution '.and read it thoroughly. That will give you a good idea to begin with.
The ' expression ' general will ' used often by Rousseau, and popularized in the great French Revolution of 1789 ( about which also you should read ), really meant the sovereignty of the people. This was in sharp contrast to the concept then still prevailing in some quarters that the sovereign is the king. Rousseau said that it is not the king but the people who are supreme. This is the foundation of all modern democracies.
Thus, while the theory of divine right of kings ( whose main proponent was King James 1 of England ) held that the king is supreme, being the Viceroy of God, and the people are subordinate to him, and therefore should always be obeyed, Rousseau, using the secular social contract theory, reversed this relationship, and said that it is the people who are supreme, and all state authorities, are their servants.
Though the English thinker Locke had introduced the concept in his ' Second treatise on Civil Government ', ( in which he postulated the theory of ' natural rights ' of citizens, which even the king could not infringe ), he made compromises in it, which Rousseau never did. Posted by Justice Markandey Katju at Friday, January 09, 2015

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