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Remembering Jutsice O Chinnappa Reddy: most rational of Marxists in our judiciary

By Harsh Thakor 

On September 25th,we celebrated the 100 th birth anniversary of justice O.Chinnappa Reddy. His life is an illustration of relentless service to the cause of social justice. He is most relevant today when our judicial system has been completely defaced or fabric torn apart with the penetration of Hindutva fascism. At every juncture of his life he braved all odds to shimmer the spark of secularism, scientific spirit and revolutionary democracy. Justice Chiinappa Reddy was a unique jurist, with deep passion for championing social justice, human dignity and bettering conditions of victims of unjust social structures. At the very core he exposed how the judicial system was an integral part of an autocratic social order since 1947 and barely played a role as a representative of the working class or peasantry.
His judicial announcements were a manifestation of humanism and illustrated his relentless quest to achieve radical humanism and social revolution. His work encompassed every sphere of life. We deeply miss such a stalwart when constitutional democracy is being stripped of it’s sanctity. In this morass it is heartening that following his road the supreme court has given some orders having any remnants of democracy.Chinnappa Reddy is an inspiration for a new generation to sprout to extinguish the poisonous weeds.
He had a brilliant academic career in London Mission High School, Goothy, Madras Loyola College and Madras Law college. After completion of higher education he enrolled as an apprentice at law in the chambers of Mr P.Chandra Redy who later became the Chief justice of the high court of Madras. Justice Chinnapa Reddy practised as an advocate of the Madras High Court until 1956 when he moved to Hyderabad to practice in the Andhra high court.
Justice Chiinappa Reddy was a unique jurist, with deep passion for championing social justice, human dignity and bettering conditions of victims of unjust social structures. His judicial announcements were a manifestation of humanism and illustrated his relentless quest to achieve radical humanism and social revolution. He played a pioneering role in imbibing the principle of equal pay for equal work. Against the contract labour system he waged a sustained battle .His judgements endorsed how public corporations are morally the state and he projected the anti-people nature of corporate democracy.
It was Justice Chinappa Reddy who explored horizons and discovered new perspectives on the Indian institution and gave birth to constitutional socialism.
Rarely has there been a judge who so relentlessly challenged capitalist values, religious fundamentalism and unscientific values, at there very hardest point. His life was an illustration of flashing the scared beacon of social justice. Tooth and nail he posed challenge to any infringement of the constitution in defacing a Socialist, secular democracy.
In his writings he illustrated his complete mastery of various social philosophies ,pro-people attitude and command over the law and the constitution He exposed how Socialism cannot be divorced from humanism .cultural equality is an integral part of an exploitative ,how ruling classes practiced pseudo-secularism,society,etc.Tooth and nail he challenged the anti reservation movement., exposing the hypocrisy of merit and excellence and by merely getting good marks in an exam a person will not turn into a better administrator. He recommended everyone to seriously study dialectical materialism. He critically assessed that study of Marxism is imperative to develop progressive methodology. He asserted that Marxism was the road towards advancement of social, political and economic liberation.

Judicial Process

On Judicial process and social change in 1980 he summed up the bourgeois nature of the constitution. He projected how the constitution makers guaranteed certain freedoms and rights as basic, and incorporated many articles in the Constitution guaranteeing as fundamental rights, the right to equality before law, right to equal opportunity, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association and freedom of movement, right to life, personal liberty etc. The manner the bourgeoisie seized upon the opportunity to protect their interests through the mantle of the constitution was portrayed by Chinnappa Reddy. Right to property among fundamental rights, restricting freedoms by providing for preventive detention and relegating to directive principles aspects like right to work, right to a living wage, right to adequate means of livelihood .right to equal pay and right to share material resources of a community.
He revealed how in the Golaknath case. Here it denied to the parliament the power to amend the constitution, to annul fundamental rights. What was in question was the vires of a statute imposing a ceiling on the holding of land which affects the prospects of the bourgeois land owners. Golaknath manifested the successful resistance staged by the bourgeoisie challenging the invocation against them of the very principles for which they waged a struggle earlier. It represented a move to subside or reverse progress by forces of revolution or fundamental change by legislations to consolidate the directive principles.
After abolishing of the zamindari system ,the zamindars resorted to last ditch attempt to salvage their hold, The Court to prevent any challenge from the zamindars to re-instate zamindari system passed the First amendment act of 1951 and seventeenth amendment act of 1964.In 2 cases of Shankar Prasad and Sajjan Singh the court upheld the power of parliament to amend the constitution ,including the scrapping of fundamental rights. The Supreme Court later reverted its decision.Golakath and other cases were a testimony of the bourgeoisie victory-one acting against the revolutionary forces, and the other taking role of revolutionary forces against feudalism.

Exposing Reactionary nature of Religious Bigotry

In the All India Rationalist conference Chinnapa Reddy expressed rage and bitterness against the remnants of the colonial education system, which manifested superstitious beliefs, religious ideas and bourgeois ideology. .He was vociferously critical of theory of ‘Karma ‘ ,which he asserted indoctrinated the minds of the people into accepting poverty as their fate. In his view it preserved the statusquo of inequality, exploitation and making all progress the privilege of the elite. The Hindu revivalism enslaved the minds of the people and trapped them from any path of liberating them from bondage of exploiter classes. He expressed his hatred for Pandits, Swamijis, Babas, Bhagwans Maharshis Yogis etc. who are an instrument o reviving tradition and superstition, and thus crippling scientific progress. Revivalism turned the Indian intellectual and bourgeoise into hypocrites. Justice Reddy expressed how Spirtualism and Karma were a weapon of the ruling classes to subjugate the masses to poverty. Revivalism bred racialism, communalism, regionalism, linguism, castesim and related phenomena. He called for a concerted challenge to Hindu revivalist philosophy. to liberate the Indian people. The reactionary aspect of philosophy of Vedanta was elaborated by Chinnapa Reddy,explaining how it consolidated the hegemony of British imperialism. He gave examples of Colebrook and Max Mueller, giving revivalism a progressive face. Reddy exposed the lies of the media in projecting existence of nuclear weapons in Mahabharata war and that our ancestors.. Religious bigotry reduced millions of people in India to, poverty, tyranny and oppression.
Maybe however valid was his critique of Karma and mythology Chinnappa Reddy failed to understand the positive or scientific aspect of the Vedas and certain spiritual connotations or Overtones of the Bhagavad Gita and Vedanata as discovered by Max Mueller.Discarding theory of re-birth it is scientific that every action has its’ consequences. Oppenheimer quoted the Upanishads and Carl Jung theorised that every problem had a spiritual root. Man’s spiritual quest cannot be discarded.

On Karl Marx

He praised M N Roy in high volumes in a memorial in Delhi in 1985.He classified hima s one of the most distinguished social and political philosophers of his age, and an outstanding humanist. In the very thick of the skin he propounded what humanism truly was.Chenna Reddy delved into how Marx and Engels gave birth to the philosophy that it was not important to interpret the world, but to change it. He summed up how Marx was the pioneer in giving philosophy a truly scientific bent and transcended the confines of philosophy. and a road to scientific method f revolutionary change. Marx was the first to declare that theory cannot be separated from practice, knowledge or action, and that free and independent an could exist only in a social and economic system that by its rationality and abundance, terminated the epoch of pre-history and ushered the era of ‘human a history’ enhance the complete development of the individual and condition for full development of society. And vice-versa. Marx waged a tirade in confronting traditional religious answer to the meaning of life or that man was the manifestation of the higher power.Marx discovered that it was the ‘consciousness of men that determined existence, but existence that determined consciousness. Marx inquired into why man was alienated from man and why human labour which worked miracles for the wealthy brought poverty to the labourer. Marx discovered that pivate property was the source of alienation of mankind and advances in science and technology became the monopoly of the exploiter classes. Without complete emancipation of labour society could never be truly human..Socialism was not Marx’s ultimate aim .His final goal was to extinguish dehumanisation and human labour. was completely liberated. Only humanistic, scientific socialism, could extinguish bourgeois dehumanisation. The justice dwelt upon how the central problem of socialism, is that of formulating a structure to provide for man’s happiness and full development. Marx strived to offer a scientific, logical, coherent, systematic history-based socialist theory for the benefit of the entire working class movement.
Chinappa Reddy hailed late Bertrand Russell in a memorial lecture in New Delhi in 1983 as a true seeker of love, truth and peace. He stressed that Science, Art and Literature shape economic and political struggles. In his view the capitalism of under development is different from classical capitalism, but is still a dependent capitalism, in which productive forces develop slowly and unequally. With the current epoch being that of a struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeois, the bourgeois nationalists place one sided emphasis on. Rationality. Irrationality can only be extinguished by when the class battle is won. It is impossible to delink the war against irrationality from the inevitable struggle of the oppressed masses.
He reflected how bourgeois liberal ideals were incorporated as fundamental rights which may be enforced in a court of law, while the humanist socialist principles have been incorporated as directive principles of state policy. In his writing he placed stress on why constitutionalism was imperative in the world today to create ground for revolutionary humanism.

Rural and Urban Property

On regulation of rural and Urban property in 1985 in a seminar he reflected the degree to which land was most ruthlessly abused and exploited, leading to its availability getting scarcer and scarcer day by day. He underlined how the USSR was the first nation that provided for land conservation.Article, 11, Article 18 and Article 67 was quoted by him. “In the interests of the present and future generations the necessary steps are taken to the USSR to protect and make scientific rational use of land and its mineral and water resources, and the plant and animal kingdoms to preserve the purity of air and water ensure reproduction of natural wealth and improve the human environment. In none of the Constitutions of the capitalist world was such content found, Capitalism created large scale production and competition which bred environmental pollution like the river Rhine serving as a gutter to Western Europe. He summed up how human production of massive quantities of industrial goods resulted in leading to complete extinction of all life in earth. Since the start of the industrial and technological revolution, humanity has been delivering mortal blows on nature, in the process of producing material wealth. Leading marine biologists assess that it may lead to annihilation of phytoplankton without which future of mankind is impossible. Although the governments of capitalist countries undertook measures to dilute the impact of misuse of land and water, the limitations of bourgeois philosophy prevent them from treating it as a mutual inter action of nature and humanity. on the super organism of the biosphere. It is the crisis of the capitalist system that is endangering mankind.

Liberty and Equality

In March 1986 he gave a speech on Liberty and equality..He elaborated how liberty and equality complemented each other. The ruling classes who preserve the status quo of modern constitutions are content to pay lip service to the ideals of liberty and inequality, treating them as antithetical .Modern bourgeois constitutions, combine power and visions, powers for the rulers and visions for the ruled.Reddy touched upon the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Western democracy, which perpetuated democratic liberalism at home and colonial exploitation abroad. Examples were given of the great depression which followed the First World War,the rise of fascism, the continued exploitation of coloured people, the cold war ,ever present threat of nuclear war, emergence of MNC’s.etc.He praised the contribution of the French Revolution in emancipation of the masses from tyranny of feudalism and termed t as manifestation to the revolutionary struggle o the bourgeoisie.The 1789 French Declaration of Rights of man and the 1776 American declaration of Independence broke the backbone of the stranglehold of feudalism off the aristocracy and colonialism. At the very core Chinnapa Reddy refuted Milton Freidman’s idea that advocated freedom of private enterprise as the most important freedom and paved the path towards liberty. Thus in Freidman’s view private property is the economic foundation for democracy .and political freedoms and free markets were mutual.Friedman defended profiteering oil producers. and opposed regulation of oil prices in 1971.He also refuted Intellectual Keith Joseph who propagated that pursuit of inequality led to tyranny and coercive power o the state, implying that equality was always antagonistic to liberty.


In detail Chinnapa Reddy elaborated how the Constitutions of Ireland gives space for regulating right for private property to be regulated by principles of social justice and adjusting it to serve the common good. The Directive Principles persuade the state in promoting the welfare of the people by securing and protecting a just social order and directing policy of State towards control of material resources of the Community. to prevent concentration in the hands of a few individuals. An example was narrated of how the Constitution of Italy “recognises and guarantees the invaluable rights of man, both as an individual and as a member of the social groups in which his personality find sis expression.”The right to work and the promotion of conditions which will make the right effective is recognised as a basic right. I t guarantees the entitlement of all employees to wages in accordance o the quality and quantity of their work., weekly day of annual rest and holidays with pay to all employees and insurance against accidents ,illness, disability old age and unemployment. Private economic enterprise will not b permitted in jeopardising social welfare.
Reddy wrote abut how the Socialist states championed concepts of freedom and equality in their constitutions. He projected how they promoted freedom from exploitation from discrimination and right to self –determination. Only through economic and social rights can a path be paved enabling every person to fully realise their potential.
Reddy addressed how The Constitution of the USSR proclaimed the foundation of the economic system as Socialist ownership over the means of production in the form of state property belonging to all people. The supreme goal of social production is the basis of the fullest possible satisfaction of the material, cultural and intellectual growth of the people. The State gives total respect to improving working conditions, safety and labour production and the scientific organisation of work. A citizen are guarantee equal rights before the law but enjoyment of rights must not act as a deterrent to rights of other citizens or harm the overall interests o society. The right to work, and to choose one’s trade or profession is guaranteed as also rest and leisure., the right to maintenance in old age, the right to education, and the right to enjoy cultural benefits.
Similarly constitution of GDR declares that all State power is harnessed to promote the welfare of the people and guarantee a socialist way of life. Socialist ownership is to is to ensure the use of nationally owned property to render the greatest service to society at large. Freedom from exploitation, oppression and economic dependence, equal rights and manifold opportunities to fully harness talents, is assured. The right to work and pay according to quantity and quality is ensured, and right to cultural life.
Reddy summarised how the bourgeoisie emerged as a ruling class in India, and presided over the Constitution. They designed it in such a way to maintain the status quo of property elations and subvert the revolutionary forces. They recognised many rights like Freedom of Speech ,expression assembly and association, occupation, movement, life and liberty equality, opportunity etc.However for it’s protection it constructed a defence mechanism, making right to property a fundamental right and provision for preventive detention.
The very first rights proclaimed within the Constitution as fundamental rights is the right to equality. The Constitution makers entrusted the Supreme Court in protecting fundamental rights, who asserted and expounded the legal ideology, principles and maxims perfected with care by American jursists. Reddy reflected how several rights with the goal of equality, belong to the category of directive principles and not fundamental rights .Deliberately the state demoted right of equality from fundamental rights to Directive principles ,to preserve its status quo. Examples were given of Scheduled castes and tribes and other socially deprived sections. in receiving fair share of employment and educational opportunity. Article 38(1) and 38 (2) were quoted which advocated promotion of social welfare and justice n all walks of life and minimising of inequality, respectively. eddy also touched upon 39 A which redressed justice on basis of equal opportunity, Articles 41,42 and43 that dealt with right to work, education and living age for all and Article 46 that calls for economic interests of weaker sections.
Overall Justice Chinnappa Redddy was the most rational of Marxists in our judicial system who in the very formative stage grasped the merits and de merits in the making of the Constitution. Most dialectically he assessed how morally the Constitution and Judicial system served as an instrument for the exploiter classes, to preserve their vested interests. However I still evaluate that he placed too much faith in constitutionalism to rectify the social system, praising constitution of Ireland, Erstwhile East Germany and Italy.

Role of Ambedkar

Chinnappa Reddy in no uncertain terms praised the role of Babasaheb Ambedkar. In December 1992 he spoke about how Ambedkar championed social welfare and general equality, advocating concrete land reforms Ambedkar advocated that key industries should be owned and run by the state and non –key industries should be owned by state or corporations owned by the state. Payment of compensation should be a perquisite .Insurance should also be a monopoly of the state.Ambekar formulated division of land into farms of standardised sizes and building of collective farms by village groups formed without distinction of caste, and with the produce shared by them. and non existence o landlords ,tenants and landless labourers. However Ambedkar did not adhere to abolish private enterprise and permitted it to a limited extent.-,incorporating it within state socialism.
Reddy illustrated how Ambedkar was shaken by the prospect by the contradictions in the Constitution itself subverting cutting the tumours of inequality and sowing the weeds for its resurgence.Ambedkar highlighted how a rural elite has replaced the Zamindars and planted themselves very firmly to the ground .preventing them parting from the smallest morsel of their land, to those in need of it.
Reddy narrated how Reservations were in reality superficial, and could not touch the problem at it’s roots. A few seats in professional colleges or a few jobs in government service would never solve the genuine problems. Even after 42 years of the existence of the Constitution there was no radical transformation in the lives of the schedule castes. The upper castes have launched a vendetta against reservations, claiming that it has given a crippling blow to efficiency, merit and excellence.
Reddy analysed that mere securing good marks is not a criteria of a good administrator, but possessing to comprehend with sympathy, and bravely deal with the problems of deprived people.

Other Achievements

A notable achievement of Chinnappa Reddy was his launching of the Chandigarh Unit of the ‘Indian Association of Lawyers.” It gave a fulcrum to the democratic movement of lawyers in Punjab .He also wrote about war crimes against peace and humanity, where he covered the issue of Bangladesh. He spoke about Pakistani brutality and Indian intervention. The principle of universality of jurisdiction was highlighted. On the principle of universality of jurisdiction, on the principal of territorial jurisdiction, on the principle based on the right of outraged people, Bangladesh had a right to bring the Pakistani war criminals to justice.
Chinnappa Reddy wrote about national integration and stressed on decentralisation of power, develop other languages apart from Hindi language, banishing of functions of religious sentiment, a whole time commission working round the year to locate areas of possible tension and even development of all sections of the people.
In detail he projected how people were victimised for holding political beliefs highlighting examples like state of Bombay v Ataram,Ram Kishan Bhardwaj v State of Delhi, The Andhra Pradesh Preventive detention act of 1970.The last was an ample illustration of branding of Marxist ,Leninist or Maoist activists as conspirators.
Harsh Thakor has covered mass movements around India and done extensive research on civil liberties in India



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