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Paying due obedience to the Laws of the State.
Charge after Initiation, the most impressive and elegant piece of literature in
our rituals, exhorting us to follow the Masonic Code of Ethics and Good
Behaviour directs us to be exemplary in the discharge of our Civil duties…by
paying due obedience to the Laws of any State, which may for the time become the
place of residence or afford its protection. This mandate should always be
ringing in our ears. The said direction was reiterated in The Ancient Charges
and Regulations, which are read at the Installation of W.Ms and to which
unqualified assent has been signified by all the Rulers in the Craft and which
are binding on all of them so long as they live, contain among others the
(2) You agree to be a peaceable Subject, and cheerfully to conform to the laws
of the country in which you reside.
(3) You promise not to be concerned in plots or Conspiracies against
Government, but patiently to submit to the decisions of the
(4) You agree to pay a proper respect to the Civil Magistrate, to work
diligently, live creditably and act honourably towards all Men.
charges unequivocally require that all Freemasons should be Law abiding
citizens and submit to the decisions of the Supreme Legislature of their
respective countries. Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha besides the State
Legislatures constitute the Supreme Legislatures in our country. The
various Laws enacted by those Legislatures constitute the decisions of the
Supreme Legislature and thereby the Law of our Country. We should all therefore
conform to the Laws of our country.
We have heard the expressions Masonic Jurisprudence and Masonic Law and the
Book, The Principles of Masonic Law by Albert Mackey have been cited often. The
learned Author refers to lex non scripta and lex scripta. and proceeded to
observe as follows. The "lex non scripta," or unwritten
law of Freemasonry is derived from
the traditions, usages and customs of the fraternity as they have existed from
the remotest antiquity, and as they are universally admitted by the general
consent of the members of the Order. In fact, we may apply to these unwritten
laws of Masonry the definition given by Blackstone of the "leges non scriptæ" of
the English constitution—that "their original institution and authority are not
set down in writing, as acts of parliament are, but they receive their binding
power, and the force of laws, by long and immemorial usage and by their
universal reception throughout the kingdom.". These are referred to as "ancient
usage." The "lex scripta," or written law of Masonry, is derived from a variety
of sources, and was framed at different periods like the Ancient Charges.
Let us consider whether Masonic Institutions can make law in the sense that
expression is used in the Constitution of India and if so to what extent. The
legal status of Masonic Institutions has to be ascertained before embarking on a
consideration of the nature of rule making authority of those institutions. All
the Masonic Institutions in our country are not juridical persons, since they
are not Companies incorporated under Companies Act or Registered societies. All
of them are therefore unincorporated associations of individuals. Such bodies
can frame rules for internal governance. Supreme Court has laid down that such
rules are merely contracts between the members. It therefore follows that the
expression Masonic Law is a misnomer. The law relating to Contracts is therefore
applicable to the Book of Constitutions.
Occasionally conflicts arise between the said contract and general law. Many
brethren desire to know the exact correct legal position. Constitution of India
is the supreme fundamental law and the same can not be contravened by any
association, whether registered under Societies Registration Act or not. Our
Constitution has guaranteed certain Fundamental Rights to all the citizens.
Right to Equality, Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right to Health, Right to
form Associations or Unions, Right to assemble peaceably and without arms, Right
to practice any Profession are some of the rights, so guaranteed. Constitution
itself has empowered the State to restrict the Fundamental Rights as provided
therein. Freemasonry has not been empowered to curtail or restrict any
Fundamental right. As mentioned already the Book of Constitutions, By Laws are
all only contracts between the brethren. Law does not permit contracts to
violate the law. In other words, parties to a contract can not contract out of
Statute. It therefore follows that terms of any contract, which empower one of
the parties to violate the Constitution of India or any law are void and not
enforceable. Brethren are as citizens entitled to all the rights guaranteed to
them by the Constitution of India and other Laws and those rights can not be
restricted or curtailed by any provision of Book of Constitutions or By laws in
Sometimes some actions, which are on the face of them contrary to law are sought
to be justified under the expression Ancient Custom and Usage. The provisions of
Constitution of India constitute the Law of the land and no custom or usage,
whether Ancient or Recent can abrogate, restrict or modify the said law. Law
does not countenance it being replaced by any custom or usage advocating
anything contrary to law. We can not therefore violate law and try to justify
the same by relying on any Ancient Custom and Usage.
Several Rights had been enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Subsequently, International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights and another
International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights were passed by
the General Assembly of United Nations , to enforce the Human Rights mentioned
in the Universal Declaration. Our country has ratified those Covenants and is
therefore bound to enforce the rights mentioned therein. Our Supreme Court has
declared that Courts in India should enforce the rights enumerated in the
International Covenants, ratified by our Country, if the same are not contrary
to our laws. Certain fundamental rights constitute the basic structure of our
Constitution and Supreme Court has declared in Kesavananda Bharati case that
our Parliament has no authority to pass any Act affecting the basic structure of
our Constitution. The law is clear that Fundamental Rights are not merely for
the benefit of the individual but as a matter of public policy are for the
benefit of the general public and that it is not open to a citizen to waive his
fundamental rights conferred by Part 3 of the constitution nor can they
be bartered away. They cannot be compromised nor
can there be any estoppels against the exercise of Fundamental Rights available
under the Constitution.( Nar Singh Pal vs Union Of India & Ors.
AIR 2000 SC 1401) We should
therefore bear in mind that none of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to us can
be curtailed or taken away on joining Freemasonry.
As has been enjoined in Masonic teachings, it is our sacred duty to obey the law
of the land and to show proper respect to the same. It should always be our
endeavour to conform to the laws of our country. Freemasons should not therefore
in any way deprive anyone of his lawful rights. Infringements of rights of
others occur only when law is violated. Law abiding citizens do not in any way
violate and deprive others of their legitimate rights, but they always respect
others and their rights.
Let me end this paper with a request that we should only drop a tear of sympathy
over the failings of brethren, if any, spread tolerance and brotherly love and
eschew anger, rancor and vindictiveness and unite in the Grand design of being
happy and communicate only happiness and not misery.