Sunday, Apr 21, 2002
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By Our Special Correspondent
The Governor, P.S. Ramamohan Rao (right), who inaugurated a seminar on `Exercising freedom: public interest & individual rights' at Chennai on Saturday receives a set of books from Gert W. Kueck, resident representative, Konrad Adenauer Foundation. The Executive Trustee of Satyamurti Centre for Democratic Studies, Lakshmi Krishnamurthi (centre), looks on. Photo: M. Moorthy
Quoting from the Constitutional Review Commission's recently publicised report, the Governor said it was important to reconcile the claims of an individual citizen with those of civil society. To achieve this, individual citizens should be oriented towards being conscious of one's social and citizenship responsibilities. Every Fundamental Right implied a corresponding Duty, but every duty did not imply a corresponding right.
Inaugurating a seminar on ``exercising freedom: public interest and individual rights,'' Mr. Rao said the Constitution-makers had provided for measures to protect an individual's Fundamental Rights and freedom, but also imposed certain restrictions for preserving public order and communal amity.
He said 25 years after adopting the Constitution, the Government introduced Art. 51 A, perhaps because it was felt that somewhere the system had failed to work. Stating that the Rule of Law had deteriorated due to the neglect of Fundamental Duties, he said Indians had developed an immunity to routine transgressions of law. While not advocating any ``abridging of any Fundamental Right'', the Governor made a case for ``enforcing the Fundamental Duties''. Calling for better enforcement of the Rule of Law at the ``cutting edge level'', he said that if every citizen believed that one must exercise his/her freedom without infringing upon the rights of fellow citizens, then the Rule of Law would improve. ``We need to educate citizens that while one can enjoy all fundamental rights and freedom, it would be subject to certain overarching beliefs as enshrined in Art. 51 A. This, we need to start in schools itself,'' he told the seminar organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Satyamurti Centre for Democratic Studies (SCDS) and the Madras Management Association (MMA).
The Editor of The Hindu, N. Ravi, speaking on the media's role in instances such as the recent Gujarat carnage, said mere reporting, truthfully and accurately, of any tragic event could not cause violence.
Maybe it could have traumatic effects on vulnerable sections. But on the other hand it would be the hate campaigns and inflammatory speeches that cause communal and other strife.
Also, fair reporting could not be barred by saying that it could affect India's image abroad or could stop foreign investors.
Any curbs on reporting, by such argument, could lead to censorship with all its dangers, he said.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation's India resident representative, Gert W Kueck, said the Foundation along with the SCDS had organised the seminar, because unlike many other old Colonial states, India had over 50 years of uninterrupted democratic traditions.
The SCDS Executive Trustee, Lakshmi Krishnamurthi, introduced the speakers. Srinivasan K. Swamy, president, MMA, which also cosponsored the seminar, thanked the participants.
Speakers at the seminar, including the retired bureaucrat B.S. Raghavan, a former Vice-Chancellor, M. Anandakrishnan, and the political commentator, Era Chezhian, pointed to the decline in political statesmanship and said emphasis should be placed not only citizens' Fundamental duties, but also on duties of the ruling class and of the judiciary. Fundamental Rights were only a part of human rights. An individual's Rights to privacy, food, shelter, education, health and clean environment were as important as the political rights as elucidated in Chapter III of the Constitution.
The academia, trade unions and citizens' groups should along with NGOS, play an active role public action to improve civil society and make the public functionaries and State agencies accountable.
They also laid emphasis on according high priority to fighting corruption, which hurt the democratic fabric.
However, they said trends such as the growing awareness about decentralisation in panchayat raj institutions, about the right to information leading to greater transparency (in public functioning) and the judicial vigilance gave hope for the future.
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