Indian Supreme Court Justice says law must grow with times

Swatanter Kumar explores the foundation and evolution of the Constitution of India.

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Among the attentive audience for the noontime talk of Indian Supreme Court Justice Swatanter Kumar, center, were Associate Dean Richard Alderman, left, Suresh Khator, Dean Raymond T. Nimmer, and Assistant Professor Sapna Kumar (no relation to the justice).

Among the attentive audience for the noontime talk of Indian Supreme Court Justice Swatanter Kumar, center, were Associate Dean Richard Alderman, left, Suresh Khator, Dean Raymond T. Nimmer, and Assistant Professor Sapna Kumar (no relation to the justice).

March 5, 2012 –Justice Swatanter Kumar of the Supreme Court of India today told a lunchtime gathering of UH Law Center professors that the “law must accept change” in order to meet the needs of the social system it serves.

“Our Constitution is a living document which has been subjected to great change,” Kumar said. “The flexibility of the Constitution of India is commendable.”

Enacted by the Constituent Assembly in November 1949, the Indian Constitution has 96 amendments. Kumar said the many amendments are evidence of how the constitution has adapted to better serve India.

The largest democracy in the world, India has a single integrated judicial system. Unlike the American judicial system, the entire judiciary is one hierarchy of courts with jurisdiction over all laws.

The most important part of the Constitution of India is Part III – Fundamental Rights, Kumar said.  Similar to the United States Bill of Rights, the section guarantees individual rights such as equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, and freedom of association and peaceful assembly.

“The Fundamental Rights are basic human freedoms which every Indian citizen has the right to enjoy regardless of background,” Kumar said. “Everyone has the right to life and the right to live with dignity which includes the right to health care and education.”

Kumar pointed out that the Constitution of India permits “reasonable restrictions” on individual liberties. This, he said, is necessary to maintain public order and morality. The Court is limited by those restriction, Kumar said, but added, “we have done a great deal of good strictly in accordance to the law.”

Justice Kumar speaks at the India House reception. Photo courtesy of Tracy Spencer, India House Rajneesh Chaudhary, Dean Raymond T. Nimmer, Carrie Criado, Suresh Khator, UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator, Parnam Agnihotri, Justice Swatanter Kumar of the Supreme Court of India, Chaya Arora, and the Consul General of India in Houston Sanjiv Arora attend a dinner in honor of Justice Kumar.

Justice Kumar, front row second from right, attends an event at the India House. Photo courtesy of Haider Kazim.


Dean Raymond T. Nimmer welcomed Justice Kumar and his wife, Parnam Agnihotri, to a reception Tuesday evening in the Frankel Room where they were able to meet faculty, alumni and friends of the Law Center.


Justice Kumar chats with Law Center Professor Jordan Paust, an expert on international law.

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