(by Shiva Kant Jha)
[Reference is to his Autobiographical Memoir, On the Loom of Time : see www,shivakantjha.org)
In the Preface to the English Dictionary (1755), Dr. Samuel Johnson said: ‘ what is obvious is not always known, and what is known is not always present.’ The dictum stands illustrated best by the fact that certain wise words, which our M.P.s and the government functionaries read every day they visit Parliament House, go wholly unnoticed. I have told you about the inscription on the arch at Gate No. 3 of the North Block of the Central Secretariat: I mean the enlightening words of Charles Caleb Colton (see p. 311). The inscriptions are invitation to those who see them to read and reflect on their wisdom; and to act in that light. I would quote some shlokas inscribed at several places in the Parliament House.
The most crucial verse is inscribed in golden letters on the dome near lift no. 1. It is from Mahabharata:
न सा सभा यत्र न सन्ति वृध्दा:, वृध्दा न ते ये न वदन्ति धर्मम्।
धर्म स नो यत्र न सत्यमस्ति , सत्यं न तत् यत् छलमभ्युपैति॥
[ An assembly does not exist if wise persons are not in it. In the context of the shloka. the word वृध्दा (briddha) means ‘the wise and learned’. Sanskrit literature contemplates three types of ‘briddha ‘vayobriddha (old in age), gyanabriddha ( mature in wisdom and experience ), and aagamabridddha (acquisition of knowledge ). But one cannot be considered ‘wise’ unless he promotes righteousness., and there can be no ‘righteousness’ unless it accords with ‘truth’. And ‘truth’ does not exist where ‘deceit’ is present.]
Some other shlokas, expressing profound wisdom, are quoted here for the information all those who ‘have no time to stand and stare’ so that they get the gems of wisdom scattered on the slabs of our Parliament’s sprawling architecture.
सभा वा न प्रवेष्टव्या, वक्तव्यं वा समंजसम्।
अब्रुवन, बिब्रुवन वापि नरो भवति किल्मिषी॥
‘This saying of Manusmruti offers clear guidance to the behaviour of the Parliamentarians.’
[ This is an instruction to those in the House who believe keeping their mouth shut when their duty is to speak for public cause. When the shloka requires the members to speak, it requires them say only what is right and true. Those who violate these norms are sinners.]
सर्वदा स्यान्नृप: प्राज्ञ:, स्वमते न कदाचन।
‘This verse has been inscribed on the dome near the lift no. 4. The Padma Purana calls it: सर्वलोकसुखप्रदम; and the Shankhya Darshan calls it the putsuit for ‘general weal’ (अत्यन्तलोकहितम् सत्यम् )]
[ This shloka is an instruction to the ruler. He must ‘ always be wise and intelligent’. ‘Wisdom’ is evidenced by his sense of propriety, proportionality, discrimination, fairness, and dedication. He should listen to what others in the House say before he decides. . He is to act for the weal of all.
‘These words are inscribed inside the Lok Sabha Chamber, overlooking the Speaker’s Chair.’
[It suggests the idea that we all exist to keep on responding, in accordance with dharma (righteousness), to the challenges that the changing circumstances pose for response (see Chapter 19 of this Memoir).
We believe that our Constitution expects all the organs of the State to discharge their constitutionally and legally prescribed duties (कर्तव्य kartavya ). You would recall that at page 267 of this Memoir, I have written: “Dharma, as Medhatithi says, means kartavya which is generally translated as ‘duties’. We know Deguit’s view that ‘duty’ is the basic force at work in the social matrix involving the factors of solidarity and interdependence. ‘Duty’ is an individual’s perception of what is right in a given situation, and what is required to be done for the weal of self and for the welfare of all others.’ I wish all the Members of Parliament reflect on the shokas which teach us the grammar of duties. I recall the words of Harold Pinter, the 2005 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature:
“that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all.”
I recall, while delivering my concluding address before the Hon’ble Delni High Court in the Indo-Mauritius Tax Treaty Case, I quoted Lord Nelson’s electric signal to his fleet at the battle of Trafalgar; “England expects that every man will do his duty”; and then I, THE Petitioner, added: ” India expects that every citizen will his duty.”
I have mentioned in Chapter 28 how Article 51A of our Constitution prescribes the fundamental duties of ‘every citizen’. Article 84 prescribes that none can ever be a member of Parliament unless he is ‘a citizen of India’. Hence, it is clear that all the duties, which Article 51A casts on ordinary citizens, are the duties prescribed for the members of Parliament,