Apex court judge plumps for ancient text for modern day rulings

August 17th, 2008 - 11:56 am ICT by IANS  

By Rana Ajit
New Delhi, Aug 17 (IANS) Ever heard of the Mimansa Principles? This ancient set of rules to interpret Hindu religious scriptures is now being promoted by a Supreme Court judge, who finds it “regrettable” and “distressing” that lawyers and judges are ignorant of the treatise. Apex court judge Markandey Katju, known for his unusual observations during court proceedings as for his unconventional judgements, said: “It is deeply regrettable that in our courts of law, lawyers quote Maxwell and Craies (Western jurists) but nobody refers to the Mimansa Principles of interpretation. Most lawyers would not have even heard of their existence.”

“Today our so-called educated people are largely ignorant about the great intellectual achievements of our ancestors and the intellectual treasury which they have bequeathed us,” rued Justice Katju, adding, “The Mimansa Principles of interpretation is part of India’s great intellectual treasury.”

He lamented that even among judges, nobody except him uses the Mimansa Principles to interpret law and legal texts despite the fact that in 1892 the then chief justice of the Allahabad High Court, Sir John Edge, used the treatise in his judgements.

“It is distressing to note that apart from the reference to these principles in the judgment of Sir John Edge, the then chief justice of Allahabad High Court, in the Beni Prasad versus Hardai Bibi, 1892, over a hundred years ago and in some judgments of one of us (i.e. Justice Markandey Katju himself), there has been almost no utilization of these principles even in our own country,” said Justice Katju.

The judge went on to give a long explanation in his ruling of what exactly the Mimansa Principles are.

“Although originally they were created for interpreting religious texts pertaining to yagya (fire sacrifice), they were so rational and logical that gradually they came to be utilized in law, philosophy, grammar, etc., that is, they became of universal application,” he said.

“Thus the Mimansa Principles are our traditional system of interpretation of legal texts,” he added.

“Laid down by sage Jaimini around the 5th century BC in his sutras and shlokas (formulae enumerated in Sanskrit couplets) and subsequently explained by many other sages, the Mimansa Principles were regularly used by our renowned jurists like Vijneshwara (author of ‘Mitakshara’), Jimutvahana (author of ‘Dayabhaga’), Nanda Pandit (author of ‘Dattaka Mimansa’) etc,” said Justice Katju.

He gave his explanation on the Mimansa Principles while deciding whether political science and public administration could be considered as allied branches and if a person educated in one subject could be considered for the appointment of the post of professor in another subject.

Using the Mimansa Principles, Justice Katju gave a 22-page ruling, concluding that political science and public administration are allied subjects, and a person educated in one subject can teach the other.

His colleague on the bench, Justice Altmas Kabir, arrived at that conclusion too in his brief eight-page ruling, but based on modern rules of interpreting legal texts.

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