On 30th July, 2020, advocates Balram Singh and Karunesh Kumar Shukla thought of doing something out of the ordinary. So, they filed a petition against two holy words of our Indian Constitution: Socialist and Secular.
They claimed that the two words were “anti-ethical” and contrary to Indian history and culture and that Indira Gandhi made a blunder when she added them to the Preamble of constitution.
You must be thinking, what’s the big deal? If the bills in Rajya Sabha could be passed without proper voting and if police can now arrest without a warrant, why can’t the preamble do away with those two words?
In this post, let’s see what the importance of those two words in our constitution is and why they were added to it in the first place?
In New India, advocates Balram Singh and Karunesh Kumar Shukla challenged the addition of ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ to constitution in the Supreme Court.
By doing so, they challenge the 42nd amendment (known as mini constitution) which has three words: socialist, secular and integrity, passed on 11th November, 1976.
They claim that 42nd amendment has been thrust upon all citizens and organizations without much thought just like middle class parents force their children to become engineers/doctors.
They argue that people should have the freedom to not have faith in the ideals of secularism, hence, they claim that 42nd amendment is dictatorial in nature.
The lawyers also claim that India historically has been a land of dharma or religion then why some random amendment in the 20th century be taken seriously?
History of secular, socialist
Why weren’t these words added to the first draft of the constitution? Advocates argue that they have been added forcefully by former PM Indira Gandhi to accomplish her own ulterior motives in the country.
The answer, however, is simple. Secularism is a foreign concept which originated in medieval Europe during the time of Renaissance. The idea was to separate Church and State meaning that political decisions couldn’t be taken by clergymen, and vice versa.
Nobody during the first draft wanted to include the word secular in writing (not even Nehru) but they all agreed that India would be a secular country by design.
Since India is a land of complex religions, it may arise that the government has to make laws for social welfare of citizens who follow those religions much too devoutly. For example: practices like sati, triple talaq, etc. which exploit women.
That is why they did not add secularism to the letter of the constitution even though secularism would remain in the spirit of the constitution.
Socialism dictates that the way country be run be determined by its people. India was destined to run in this way, however, they weren’t ready to give autonomy entirely to the community.
Indira Gandhi, however, in 1976, added both the words to preamble. This because she claimed that India is a land for all and her people should determine how they want to be governed.
Can they be removed?
If the words be forcefully added to preamble, they may also be removed, said some people. This was in fact attempted by Janata Party right after they came to power in the late 70s.
The Supreme Court denied it initially but they took a U-turn and agreed: That yes, if the words could be added, they could also be removed.
Yet, however, even after many discussions, and debates, the two words remained. That because even if the two words were to be deleted, the soul of constitution was in fact both socialist and secular.
Because (i) Articles 25-28 provide freedom of religion to all people, (ii) Directive Principles of State Policy determine India be run like a welfare state aka socialism.
In other words, just like a house is built upon its foundation, the whole of Indian constitution was designed upon the principles of secularism and socialism. Preamble is merely the “name-plate” of this house.
Why demand removal?
The petition has challenged the inclusion of secular and socialist on the Representation of People Act 1951, Section 29A (5) which made it compulsory for political parties to declare themselves secular and socialist, at least just for the sake of it!
The PIL filed has a strong objection to this forceful declaration by those parties who seek to contest election. On the contrary, they should be able to openly say they’re not secular otherwise that, according to petitioners, would be a breach of freedom of speech!
Well, it seems like some men just want to create further divisions on the basis of religion. We hope that India retains her age-old morals and ideals of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, in other words, “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas.”