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Article # 286
Paying Due Obedience to the Laws of the State

Author: W.Bro.R.Srinivas P.A.G.I.G.,P.R.G.Regr    Posted on: Sunday, December 21, 2014
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Paying due obedience to the Laws of the State.

W.Bro.R.Srinivas P.A.G.I.G.,P.R.G.Regr.

The  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 following directions. 

         (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 Supreme  Legislature.

         (4)  You agree to pay a proper respect to the Civil Magistrate, to work  diligently, live creditably and  act honourably towards all Men.

Those  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 Freemasonry.

 

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.

                                                                                                            Thank you.

 

The Author is an Advocate holding a Master's degree in Constitutional Law and International Law.


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