July 13, 2010
Petition against term “socialist” in Constitution rejected
(By J. VENKATESAN, The Hindu)
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed as withdrawn a writ petition challenging the validity of Section 2 of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) by virtue of which the word ‘socialist’ was inserted in the Preamble to the Constitution.
The petition, filed by the Good Governance India Foundation, also challenged the validity of Section 29 A (5) of the Representation of the People Act, which was inserted by way of Section 6 of the RP (Amendment) Act, 1989 making it incumbent upon every political party registered in India to pledge allegiance to the socialist ideal, failing which such a party would be rejected from registration.
A three-Judge Bench comprising Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishan and Swatanter Kumar, after hearing senior counsel Fali Nariman, Solicitor-General Gopal Subramaniam for the Centre and counsel Meenakshi Arora for the Election Commission permitted the petitioner to withdraw the petition saying that the issues raised would be left open and decided as and when the situation arose.
Mr. Nariman submitted that the 42nd Amendment, evolved in the climate of national Emergency, violated the basic structure of the Constitution. Prior to the amendment, the Preamble read as follows “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign democratic republic.” After the amendment, the Preamble read: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.”
Mr. Nariman read out debates in the Constituent Assembly to drive home the point that Dr. Ambedkar had opposed the inclusion of word ‘socialist’ in the Constitution. He said the court should go into the question whether the powers under Article 368 to amend the provisions would include the power to amend even the Preamble. Justice Kapadia, however, told Mr. Nariman that so far no political party had challenged this and every one had subscribed to it. The court would consider it when the Commission faced challenge from any political party.
The NGO, in its petition, contended that the 42nd Amendment altered the Preamble, which was impermissible as it contained the ideals and aspirations or the objects which the Constitution-makers intended to be realised by its enacting provisions. It said that such an insertion was wholly inconsistent with the phrase ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship,’ in the Preamble itself.
The petitioner submitted that the 42nd Amendment attempted to create a particular ideological basis for adherence to the Constitution, which was against the principles of a multi-party democracy and which breached the unity and integrity of the nation. The ingestion of the socialist principle was antithetical to the principle of democracy, which was considered a basic structure of the Constitution.