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Secularism is a core value in the constitutional system and is inviolable as a principle of governance

Addressed by eminent personalities at the Principal Dr. T. K. Tope Memorial Lecture 2018

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Eminent personalities at the Principal Dr. T. K. Tope Memorial Lecture 2018 organised by Smt. Vinatadevi Tope Social Service League of Government Law College and Public Concern for Governance Trust in Mumbai

The Social Service League of Government Law College, Mumbai successfully  organized the third edition of Principal Dr. T. K. Tope Memorial Lecture in association with Public Concern for Governance Trust on 27th February, 2018 (i.e., the eve of late Dr. Tope's 104th birth anniversary) at Walchand Hirachand Hall, Indian Merchants’ Chamber, Mumbai.

Dr T. K. Tope was a direct descendant of Tantya Tope and among the privileged few who worked closely with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar during the drafting of the Indian Constitution. Dr Tope was also the longest-serving Principal in the history of Government Law College and, in the year 1966, he established the Social Service League of Government Law College in the fond memory of his late wife, Smt. Vinatadevi Tope. Every year, the Social Service League organizes a national-level Lecture in his fond memory, which is attended by students, academicians as well as legal professionals.

The panel for the Lecture this year comprised of Hon'ble Mr. Justice G. S. Patel (Judge, Bombay High Court), Mr. Darius J. Khambata (Senior Advocate, Bombay High Court) and Mr. Julio F. Ribeiro (Chairman, PCGT), expressing their views on  "Constitutional Governance and Secularism", the theme for the Lecture and Paper Presentation Competition this year. 

The welcome address was delivered by the Faculty Advisor of Social Service League and the senior-most Professor of Government Law College, Prof. H. D. Pithawalla. He introduced the speakers and shared his thoughts about the theme of the Lecture along with his reminiscences of being a student as well as a Professor of Government Law College when Dr Tope was the Principal. 

Secularism is a core value in the constitutional system and is inviolable as a principle of governance. Mr Ribeiro thus spoke about transparency and accountability in governance, and shared anecdotes from his illustrious career as a police officer, thereby underlining the need to strike a balance between the rule of equality before the law and the exception in the interest of protecting the rights of minorities. On the other hand, Mr Khambata laid emphasis on the placing of the word 'secularism' in the Indian Constitution in its historical context. Relying upon the edicts of Emperor Ashoka, he highlighted that India was truly secular even in Ashokan times and the concept was well recognized and broadcasted without the use of social media. He also spoke about how great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr B. R. Ambedkar and Dr T. K. Tope contributed their entire life to protect the rule of law, a characteristic extinguishing from the leaders of today. 

Justice Patel emphasized that the terms ‘Democratic’ and ‘Republic’ (as mentioned in the Preamble of the Constitution) are coextensive in nature and can only exist in the same order as enshrined in the Preamble. His Lordship discussed as to how constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights also have a duty imposing character and hence the introduction of fundamental duties into the Constitution was absolutely immaterial. His Lordship reiterated that the concept of ‘fundamental duties’ is a classic example of the State imposing its own jingoistic ideas on its people whereas when one reads the Preamble one finds that the Constitution is a document that the people have given to themselves. His Lordship also extensively relied upon "Skinning a Cat", an article written by Hon'ble Mr. Justice B. N. Srikrishna (Retd.) to highlight the need for the judiciary to understand the wisdom of laws and its incursions, and concluded his speech by saying that our leaders should be philosophers while our philosophers should be leaders. The event was therefore apt to celebrate the memory of a constitutional law expert who authored the seminal and much referenced Constitutional Law of India.

The Lecture was followed by the League’s Annual Awards. This is the year, the Social Service League also organized a National-level Paper Presentation Competition at Government Law College on the theme of the Lecture. Mr. Mohammad Shahbaz and Ms. Rishika Jain, students of Faculty of Law, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, who presented their paper on “A PARADOXICAL UNIFORM CIVIL CODE IN INDIA VIS-À-VIS GOA CIVIL CODE” emerged as the winners of the Paper Presentation Competition and were awarded the prestigious Principal Dr. T. K. Tope Memorial Award for Best Paper Presenter 2017-18 by Justice Patel to be published in the League’s Annual Souvenir 2018-19.

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