Constitution Month Special: Dr. Ambedkar's Statue to Grace Supreme Court After 76 Years of Independence

The Supreme Court is set to honour Dr. B.R. Ambedkar with a statue in response to persistent appeals from Ambedkarite lawyers, while in stark contrast, the Rajasthan High Court maintains a statue of Manu, illustrating a dichotomy in legal symbolism.
Constitution Month Special: Dr. Ambedkar's Statue to Grace Supreme Court After 76 Years of Independence

New Delhi- In a historic move, the Supreme Court is poised to unveil a statue of BR Ambedkar, an iconic figure in the shaping of India's constitution, after a span of 76 years. Crafted by sculptor Naresh Kumawat, the 7-feet-tall statue depicts Baba Saheb adorned in a lawyer's dress, holding a copy of the Constitution in his hand, standing atop a 3-feet base. The unveiling ceremony would be held on Constitution Day, which falls on November 26. Subsequently, there will be a celebration event at the Supreme Court's auditorium, with the President of India, Droupadi Murmu, expected to be the chief guest. The choice to install Dr. Ambedkar's statue follows continuous advocacy from a collective of Ambedkarite lawyers.

This significant addition marks only the third statue at the Supreme Court complex. Notably, the first two statues, one portraying a mural of Mother India by Indian-origin British artist Chintamoni Kar and the other featuring Mahatma Gandhi, crafted by a British sculptor, have held their place in the legal precinct. The introduction of Baba Saheb's statue not only reflects the evolving narrative of India's legal heritage but also pays tribute to a key architect of the nation's constitutional framework.

As the Supreme Court prepares to honour Baba Saheb, a striking dichotomy emerges: a symbol of equality finds its place in the highest court, while in the Rajasthan High Court campus, the statue of Manu, a figure associated with ancient legal codes, stands unmoved, embodying a lingering contrast in the legal landscape.

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Ambedkarite Lawyers' Persistence Leads to Monumental Recognition

Earlier this year, on April 14, the eve of Dr. Ambedkar's birth anniversary, advocate-on-record Pratik Bombarde submitted a memorandum to Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud, urging the installation of a statue in honor of Dr. Ambedkar. The memorandum highlighted historical struggles, citing the efforts led by politician and social worker Dadasaheb Gaikwad in the 1970s to secure the placement of Dr. Ambedkar's statue within the Parliament. The ongoing struggle for years has been focused on attaining the installation of Babasaheb's statue within the Supreme Court, as expressed in the memorandum.

The choice to erect a statue of Dr. Ambedkar comes in response to persistent requests from a collective of Ambedkarite lawyers. This installation addresses one of the three key appeals made by the Ambedkarite lawyers.

As outlined in the memorandum, these lawyers have been advocating for the establishment of a committee focused on caste sensitization within the Supreme Court. This committee is sought to safeguard lawyers and registry staff from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes backgrounds who encounter caste-based discrimination.

Furthermore, the Ambedkarite lawyers have been urging for the permanent inclusion of Ambedkar Jayanti, observed on April 14, as an official "court holiday" in the Supreme Court's annual schedule.

In September 2023, the Supreme Court Arguing Counsel Association (SCACA) submitted a formal request advocating for the installation of the statue.

Decades-Long Controversy Surrounding Manu's Statue at Rajasthan HC

It would be known to many that Baba Sahab -the father of Indian Constitution burnt copies of Manusmriti, on Dec 25th, 1927 calling it the Book of inequality.

However, Manu's statue is standing tall at the Rajasthan High Court's premises at Jaipur for years now. Time and again, human rights supporters and feminist organizations have protested before the statue and demanded it's fall.

In a historical twist dating back to February 10, 1989, the installation of the statue at the court premises triggered a contentious saga that continues to this day. The then-president of the Rajasthan Higher Judicial Officers’ Association, Padam Kumar Jain, spearheaded the request for the statue's installation, prompting a letter to the former Chief Justice N. M. Kasliwal.

However, the aftermath was swift, as the Rajasthan High Court issued an administrative order on July 28, 1989, calling for the removal of the statue. This order, however, faced resistance when Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Acharya Dharmendra and others filed a public interest litigation (PIL), leading to a stay on the removal order.

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The legal battle took a significant turn in August 1989 when, during the PIL hearing, the High Court not only upheld the stay on removal but also directed that the matter be heard by a division bench comprising the chief justice.

This PIL holds the distinction of being the oldest writ petition pending in the high court, with the last hearing in 2015 disrupted by protests from a group of Brahmin lawyers.

During that hearing, Jaipur-based lawyer A. K. Jain, representing Dalit groups, faced opposition from around 400 Brahmin lawyers when he read out a portion of Manusmriti offensive to Dalits, marking the last time the case was listed for a hearing.

Over the course of three decades, the statue has been a focal point for major protests. In the 1990s and 2000s, leaders like Kanshi Ram and Ramdas Athawale journeyed to Jaipur to express their opposition. Notably, on October 8, 2018, individuals from Aurangabad smeared black paint on the statue, leading to legal repercussions.

In 2020, Dalit rights activists conducted a silent protest at the high court, renewing the call for the statue's removal. Last year, 500 Dalit activists, including academics and journalists, appealed to Congress leader Sonia Gandhi to intervene, given Rajasthan's Congress-led administration.

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