Grounds for deletion of the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Preamble

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This article is written by ‘Ritika Sharma’ from ‘Ansal University’, edited by Aaryaki Rana from Chanakya National Law University, Patna.

A petition has been filed before the Hon’ble Supreme Court in July this year for deleting the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ in the Preamble of the Constitution of India, which was added by the 42nd   constitutional amendment.

The three petitioners namely Balram Singh, Karunesh Kumar Shukla and Pravesh Kumar claimed to form a political party under this petition. However, according to Section 29- A (5) of Representation of People Act, 1951, it is mandatory for a political party to abide by the principle of socialism and secularism to register itself with the Election Commission of India and the petitioners do not subscribe to this idea. This petition filed through advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain has also challenged the insertion of words secular and socialist in Representation of People Act, 1951.

The petition further argues that the constitution makers have also rejected the concept of secularism and socialism. They claim that the constitution makers never intended to add the concepts of socialist and secular . In fact, they intended to ensure that they will treat all subjects equally without any religious bias. The insertion of words secular and socialist in the preamble of constitution of India was rejected thrice after heated debates between the members of constitution assembly. Prof. K.T. Shah, a prominent member of the constitution assembly, proposed adding the words secular and socialist to the preamble thrice.

It was on 15 November 1948 the proposal came from prof. K.T. Shah to incorporate the words secular, federal and socialist in article 1 of the constitution, but after a long discussion it was rejected by the constituent assembly. Again, on 25 November 1948, Prof. K.T. Shah for the second time introduced an amendment to incorporate the word secular in Article 40 of the draft constitution, however that was rejected too. The third attempt was made on 3rd December 1948 to incorporate the word secular, which also was set aside by the constituent assembly.

Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, the chairman of the drafting committee, opposed the amendment proposed by prof. K.T. Shah to add secular and socialist to the Preamble. The constitutional makers were aware that the communist theory could not last long in the Indian democracy. The plea states that the principles of secularism and socialism are part of political thoughts developed under the ideology of Karl Marx, a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary, which has been recognized by many countries. It further stated that the cultural and historical theme of the great republic of Bharat is based on the concept of Dharma, which is different from the other countries and also different from the religion and communist theory concept and therefore cannot be applied to Indian context.

The petitioners demanded the Hon’ble Supreme Court to scrutinize this position, of how the Parliament could go against the declaration made by the Constituent Assembly, and add, subtract or amend the preamble of the constitution. It is because of the words secularism and socialism appearing in the Preamble, the political parties are bound by such notion, which is in violation of Article 19 (protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.) and Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion) of the Constitution. The petition therefore asks the apex court to examine the roots of secularism and socialism.

The question laid before the Hon’ble Supreme is whether the Preamble can be constructed as a provision of the Constitution, and whether the 42nd amendment is ultra vires? And, also Whether section 29- A (5) of the representation of people act, 1951 is violative of article 19 (1) (a), (c) and article 25 of the constitution of India?

The petitioners argued that there are  provisions in the Indian constitution which are made in favour of minority communities, in the form of state grants to aid minority religious institutions, and also the state has, although limited, power to regulate and amend laws relating to religious matters. However, according to the foreign sought concept of a secular state, a state cannot have the power to make law on economic, financial, political and any activity of any religion. In view of the provision contained in Article 19 (1) (a) (c) and Article 25 of the constitution, every citizen has the right to speech and expression and to form association and unions and also practice the religion of their choice. This means they cannot be compelled to follow the principles of socialism and secularism and therefore it is challenged whether the political parties and the public in general are bound to follow the principle of socialism and secularism.

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