Lawyer, Judge, Parliamentarian, Speaker • RADAO • he/him
I was a parliamentarian; as a parliamentarian, I had sought to use my position to ensure that the fundamental rights of Indian citizens are not restricted by the Constitution of India itself, the same constitution that also guarantees these rights to citizens. In this, I had failed. So, I am here to tell you how close we came to removing the restrictions imposed on our rights in the constitution and how we can remove them still.
Hukam Singh is ‘rad’ because it tries to resurrect a forgotten historical figure named Hukam Singh, whose cogent criticism of, and consistent opposition to, the restrictions imposed on fundamental rights - in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution - such as the freedom of speech and expression are relevant to the present. Hukam Singh was a three-term member of the Lok Sabha as well as its third Speaker, but it is the work he did as a member of the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Parliament - which framed the Indian Constitution and enacted the very first amendment to it, respectively - that I am interested in. I am interested in that period of his life because of the dissenting interventions he made about the ever-expanding restrictions that were sought to be imposed on fundamental rights such as the freedom of speech and expression in both the Assembly and the Parliament. In those interventions, he pointed out that constitutional restrictions on constitutional rights create discretionary power, that power resides with the government, and the government is nothing more than a political party that has managed to win a majority in an election. And any discretionary power that is born of a majority can potentially threaten minorities, which is why he advocated an amendment to the Draft Constitution that would ensure unrestricted rights beyond the reach of even Parliament. That is why I am convinced that his voice needs to be more widely heard so that a consensus might be potentially built around citizens to resurrect his defeated amendment. It will remove all the restrictions that are currently imposed on our fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, hopefully ensuring that no colonial law criminalising speech can survive and no new postcolonial law criminalising expression is enacted.