Justice Srikrishna on the importance of absolute truth

“Listen to the essence of Dharma... Whatever is bad for you, don’t do it to others”

GN Bureau | October 10, 2020


#Justice B. N. Srikrishna   #Dharma   #Truth   #philosophy   #ethics   #law   #judiciary   #fundamental rights  


Former Supreme Court justice BN Srikrishna believes understanding truth in absolute sense is imperative, and quotes Indian scriptures, western philosophers, the Constitution and case laws in support of his argument.

“Truth alone is the permanent thing in the world. In our dealings, truth has to be seen as relative to time and space. All the same, relative truth has to be always spoken and understood with reference to the absolute truth,” he said, addressing the TRUTHtalks series organised by Satya Vigyan Foundation and Vallabh Bhanshali, co-founder DeshApnayen and ENAM Group, earlier this week.

Watch a recording of the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ddaq7BTiADA

The jurist illustrated his point with an example: “If I say my phone is black, it must mean that at the time when I am viewing it, I indeed consciously and truthfully see it as black. However, what is unsaid and should be read into it is that in other light or heat conditions it may not be black.”

He said that he is often faced with the dilemma of discovering truth and the fundamental requisite is that in order to be guided by this principle of ‘greatest good for the largest number’, the assumption is that everyone has similar thinking and idea rooted in his or her mind and everyone is honest and truthful. “So this is some kind of a psyche… circular arguments that you cannot discover truth unless you are truthful and so you will not be able to discover truth. That is the dilemma that society poses to us and needs to be somewhere reckoned.”

Referring to the Bhagwad Gita, he said, “The word ‘Satya’ has an aspect of dharma it and is used in the sense of existence and goodness. So ultimately what is it that you would need to do to establish Dharma... Are you talking in terms of absolute truth or for larger good of society? You have to start with understanding its functional definition....  Am I trying to talk of truth as an entity as envisaged in Upanishads as Brahman or Sadhbhave, Sadhubhave?.... You have to go by the Shastra and not individual thinking... Listen to the essence of Dharma... Whatever is bad for you, don’t do it to others.”

Justice Srikrishna said that as a judge, he would be bound by the duties laid down in the Constitution. He has to act without fear or favour and cannot be swayed by popular perception. He cannot conjure up facts or opinions outside the material placed before him.

On what is true and fair in the corporate world, he said the philosophy of the persons in charge of the corporation with regard to the objective of the corporation will make the difference and requirement of modern world and progress are debatable issues.

While speaking on freedom of speech, Justice Srikrishna said, “It is a great, exalted fundamental right.. should there be a situation on freedom of speech of media to be curbed... Don’t forget why is it necessary to guarantee (because it is an inherent requisite of human dignity and because we subscribe to the charter) fundamental rights and conversely also say that you should be able to curb them to some extent... It is really a situation of one individual’s fundamental rights against what is going to happen in the rest of society.”  

The discussion was moderated by advocate Somasekhar Sundaresan.

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