Thursday, February 9, 2023

Protecting the constitution

India celebrates its 74th Republic Day on January 26,2023 commemorating the adoption of the Constitution of India on January 26, 1950. The Modi government is trying to effect changes by altering the landscape of Lutyen’s Delhi, names of important places etc. One of which is internationally famous Rajpath where all parades pass through. Rajpath has now been renamed as Kartavya Path in 2022. As in the past, several military and cultural parades will be showcased. The Republic Day 2023 parade is also televised so that millions of people can watch it on TV at their homes. While India gained independence from the British Raj in 1947, it wasn’t until January 26, 1950, that the Constitution of India came into effect, and the country became a sovereign state, declaring it a republic. India’s constitutional democracy as enshrined in the constitution is still vibrant which has been proven by the successful holding of state and parliamentary elections over the decades. However, holding of elections may not necessarily prove that the rule of the constitution is not under threat or slowly getting altered. The opposition who style themselves as ‘secular’ have been attacking the BJP at the Centre for not respecting the rule of the constitution and also attempting to bring about amendments especially as witnessed during the Citizens Amendment Act(CAA) protests. However, conscientious citizens took out protests across the nation in which parts of the Preamble were read out in public spaces, and shared on social media, apart from making their ways into the protest spaces at universities and streets across the country. The BJP government had amended the Citizenship Act, 1955 by providing a pathway to Indian citizenship for persecuted religious. This has given clear impression that the Constitution can be influenced based on one’s religion, caste, region or language. The constitution of India can be amended under article 368 and it lays down three ways of amending: (1). simple majority (2). 2/3 majority present and voting (3). 2/3rd majority present and voting along with ratification from 2/3rd of the state legislatures. There are certain basic features of the constitution which can never be amended like parliamentary form of government, rule of law, secular nature, sovereign nation, separation of powers etc. This is known as doctrine of basic structure and it was laid down in the landmark judgment of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala. Further, the Supreme Court can strike down such an amendment as it is ultra vires (invalid). This process of reviewing the statutes and amendment to check whether it violates the basic tenets of the constitution is known as judicial review and it a powerful weapon in the hands of the apex court which protects and upholds the democracy of the land. This happened recently in the 99th amendment (2015) where the formation of National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) was introduced but the Supreme Court declared it to be unconstitutional and struck it down. Through NJAC the government sought to override the collegium so as to appoint supreme court judges of its choice. Efforts continue on bringing about amendments to alter the constitution but even if such amendments take place, the people of India are certainly not going to allow that to take place.

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