Here is an interesting observation by the Supreme Court in a recent case of CPIO, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agrawal dated 26.11.2010. The observation is of great significance in our times. Here are the relevant extracts from the judgement:
"13. The Constitution is fundamentally a public text--the monumental character of a Government and the people-- and Supreme Court is required to apply it to resolve public controversies. For, from our beginnings, a most important consequence of the constitutionally created separation of powers has been the Indian habit, extraordinary to other democracies, of casting social, economic, philosophical and political questions in the form of public law remedies, in an attempt to secure ultimate resolution by the Supreme Court. In this way, important aspects of the most fundamental issues confronting our democracy finally arrive in the Supreme Court for judicial determination. Not infrequently, these are the issues upon which contemporary society is most deeply divided. They arouse our deepest emotions. This is one such controversy. William J. Bennan, Jr. in one of his public discourse observed:
We current Justices read the Constitution in the only way that we can: as twentieth-century Americans. We look to the history of the time of framing and to the intervening history of interpretation. But the ultimate question must be, what do the words of the text mean in our time? For the genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs. What the constitutional fundamentals meant to the wisdom of other times cannot be the measure to the vision of our time. Similarly, what those fundamentals mean for us, our descendants will learn, cannot be the measure to the vision of their time. This realization is not, I assure you, a novel one of my own creation. Permit me to quote from one of the opinions of our Court, Weems v. United States
217 U.S. 349, written nearly a century ago:Time works changes, brings into existence new conditions and purposes. Therefore, a principle to be vital must be capable of wider application than the mischief which gave it birth. This is peculiarly true of constitutions. They are not ephemeral enactments, designed to meet passing occasions. They are, to use the words of Chief Justice John Marshall, "designed to approach immortality as nearly as human institutions can approach it." The future is their care and provision for events of good and bad tendencies of which no prophesy can be made. In the application of a constitution, therefore, our contemplation cannot be only of what has been, but of what may be.
14. The current debate is a sign of a healthy nation. This debate on the Constitution involves great and fundamental issues. Most of the times we reel under the pressure of precedents. We look to the history of the time of framing and to the intervening history of interpretation. But the ultimate question must be, what do the words of the text mean in our time?"