Monday, 9 February 2015

Questioning Socialism & Secularism

Monday, February 09, 2015

Questioning Socialism & Secularism

Rajindar Sachar

BJP leaders speak in contradictory terms; PM's denial not enough

An unimaginable crisis has gripped our country. Only a straightforward, clear declaration by the Prime Minister can clear it. I am referring to the advertisement issued by the Government of India's I.B. Ministry on the Republic Day carrying in the background a watermark of the Preamble to the Constitution. But a devious interloping was done by publishing the Preamble as it was in 1950, thus deliberately omitting the words “Socialist” and “Secular” from the Preamble which have been in the existing Preamble since 1976. This interpolation clearly shows that B.J.P. ministers are trying to flaunt their status of being corporate friendly and stooges of the R.S.S. boss. I have no problem with how the ministers present themselves. But the Indian government would be guilty of serious constitutional lapses and cannot be allowed to continue in office if by its word or action it conceals the mandate of the present Preamble containing “Secularism” and “Socialism”. In that context the Union Government would be an interloper because the Supreme Court has held that the “Preamble is the key to the Constitution” and therefore the objectives of “Socialism” and “Secularism” must govern the programmes and policies of the Government of India. The perverted suggestion that Socialism and Secularism were not in the original Preamble and were incorporated in 1976 is ludicrous because the governments have to follow the Constitution as it exists.  

Another strained argument is that the word Socialism was not in the original Preamble. It is immaterial because the government is to see the present Preamble. Even this fatuous explanation shows ignorance of the facts and the law. At the time of framing the Constitution it was clearly understood that in India we were setting up a Socialist State. This was brought out specifically by Dr. Ambedkar in reply to Prof K.T. Shah, who wanted “Socialism” to be incorporated in the Constitution at the drafting stage. Dr. Ambedkar, while refusing to do so for technical reasons, explained that Socialism as such was already included in the directive principles. He explained thus: “What I would like to ask Prof. Shah is this: ‘If these directive principles to which I have drawn attention are not socialistic in their direction and in their content, I fail to understand what more socialism can be.’”    
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As for the equally fatuous argument of the effect of incorporating Socialism in the Preamble in 1976, the Supreme Court pointed the fallacy as far back as 1983: “Though the word ‘Socialism’ was introduced into the Preamble by a late amendment of the Constitution that Socialism has always been the goal is evident from the directive principles of State policy. The amendment was only to emphasise the urgency.”   
May I also remind the Prime Minister and his colleagues that according to Article 75(4) of the Constitution of India, they took the oath before entering their office which requires them to swear in the name of God that they would bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India. The oath covers the Preamble to the Constitution existing at the time of taking the oath and not to the original Preamble or Constitution framed in 1950. Anyone suggesting to the contrary would be taking the ludicrous stand that the oath would not oblige the ministers to follow the mandate of over 100 amendments to the Constitution. President Obama would have been horrified by this interpretation of the Union ministers because it would mean that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution brought in almost a hundred years after the original Constitution (from which we have incorporated Article 14 of our Constitution, and which is the sheet anchor of equality and non-discrimination for any citizen). If that was the interpretation Obama could never have been the President because the original US Constitution did not have the 14th Amendment which was one of the biggest weapons for ending racial discrimination in the U.S.

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B.J.P. leaders speak in contradictory terms. While Mr. Venkaiah Naidu says that the government is for Secularism in the Preamble, his colleague and lawyer Ravi Shankar Prasad says the government wants to delete it. There can be no hedging on Secularism. In fact, even to talk of deleting the word “Secularism” from the Preamble would not only be an act of sedition but also an impossible exercise. This is because the Supreme Court in Bommai's case (1974) categorically held that “Secularism is a part of the basic structure of the Constitution” and the “Preamble is a part of the provisions of the Constitution.”
In the Keshvanand Bharti case (1973) the Supreme Court held that the power to amend (Article 368 of the Constitution) did not enable Parliament to alter the basic structure of the framework of the Constitution. Thus Secularism being a part of the basic structure of the Constitution is non-amendable. Secularism, being part of the basic structure of the Constitution, must be held to have been incorporated automatically in the Preamble to the Constitution right from the beginning in 1950.    

No, Mr. Prime Minister, a mere denial, and that too contradictory, is not enough. A covert attempt to undermine the force and strength of the Preamble cannot wish away the fears in the country, especially amongst the minorities. A full-throated public repudiation in “Man ki Bat” and on T.V. was given by the Prime Minister that his government unequivocally and without any hesitation believed in the mandate of Secularism in the existing Preamble of the Constitution of India. The public statements of the Shiv Sena, an ally of the B.J.P., reflect the danger of silence on the part of Prime Minister Modi. He must therefore speak out immediately because to speak is a moral duty and to keep silent a sin and unforgivable.  

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