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Futile and contemptuous

Futile and contemptuous
Highlights

Futile and contemptuous, The Union government triggered a debate on the demand for dropping the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ from Indian Constitution.

The Union government triggered a debate on the demand for dropping the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ from Indian Constitution. Ministers in Modi government are indulging in doublespeak. Government advertisements, Rajya Sabha calendar and so on are used to further this debate. This is nothing new. During the first NDA government, an attempt was made to rewrite the Constitution. Such a debate has serious implications for Constitution and polity in India. The BJP defends itself as a secular party and calls its critics pseudo-secular. If the party in power claims to be secular, where is the need for dropping the word from the Constitution? The BJP should be reminded of the fact that the party professed ‘Gandhian socialism’ as its core ideology at the time of inception.

In fact, the very demand to alter the preamble is contra-constitutional. The Supreme Court in the S R Bommai vs Union of India (1994) declared that secularism forms part of the basic structure of the Constitution. In the famous Kesavananada Bharati case, the apex court adjudicated that Parliament does not have power to destroy or emasculate the basic structure of the Constitution. In Indira Nehru Gandhi vs Raj Narain and Minerva Mills vs Union of India cases, Constitutional benches of the Supreme Court upheld the basic structure doctrine. Thus, the basic structure doctrine is now firmly part of Indian jurisprudence. Given the above Constitutional position held by the Supreme Court, any demand for dropping the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ that form part of the basic structure is clearly a contempt of the Constitution. Surprisingly, someone who has taken oath in the name of the Constitution indulges in such a futile and disdainful debate.

In the S R Bommai case, Court has further observed that any State government which pursues non-secular policies or non-secular course of action as contrary to the Constitutional mandate renders itself amenable to action. This Constitutional injunction is applicable to the Central government too. In fact, the same is applicable to the political parties also. The Court in the same case observed that if the Constitution requires the State to be secular in thought and action, the same requirement applies to the political parties as well. The entire Constitution is premised on the idea of equality irrespective of religion, caste, creed or sex. The Constitution guarantees Justice: Social, economic and political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and opportunity and fraternity. The concept of social and economic justice is what constitutes the concept of socialism. Therefore, the ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ features form the core foundation of Indian Constitution.

It is true that Indira Gandhi introduced these two words for political reasons. But, these two words added by the 42nd amendment only made explicit what was already part of the original Preamble. An attempt to drop them now is nothing but an attack on the core values of the Constitution.

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