EVANESCING VALUES: — SOCIALISM & SECULARISM
The most basic postulate, for a human body to survive, is the postulate of the soul. The Gita and The Bible are two quintessential religious books which show the importance of soul. Now, the question is why the soul is paramount to the human existence? To answer this, when all the reasoning is zeroed in on, it tells certain things that make the soul paramount to the human existence. The soul is the only immortal entity in this ephemeral world. The soul is eternal and that’s why it has been given the utmost importance and significance. With the same analogy, when we talk about the INDIA, it too, does have its soul which resides in the Constitution. As we know that soul cannot be diminished. And in the Indian parlance, Constitution is that soul, which we created and then incarnated. For our preamble reads, “We Hereby Adopt, Enact and Give ourselves this Constitution.”
Constitutionally speaking, India is going through difficult times. Many attempts have been made to alter the very basic essence of Indian Constitution. In this series, one more peculiar incident has happened. BJP Member of the Rajya Sabha Rakesh Sinha has proposed to move a resolution seeking the removal of the word, “Socialism”. He has argued that the term has become redundant and we should create the space for “economic thinking without the particular thought”. When any member introduces the private member bill, the copy of that resolution is forwarded to the concerned ministry and the minister can bring law in the same line. Though the last private member bill to become law was way back in 1970 and such bills are more aimed at raising the debate. Like recent contemporary events this incident has also its precedents. The same controversy arose on the 2015 Republic Day when the NDA Government advertised with the original preamble without the word, Socialist and Secular, which were added to the Constitution by 42nd Amendment.
This amendment is itself controversial amendment as it was passed during the period of the Emergency. But the main question is, can we so easily do away with these terms? There are certain counter-arguments in this regard. In the case of Good Governance India Foundation, Calcutta in which the petitioner sought the removal of the term “Socialism”, the then Chief Justice of India K.G.Balakrishnan asked that, “Why do you define socialism in the narrower sense as the communists do? “Why don’t you go by the broader definition… which mandates the state to ensure social welfare measures for all the citizens… as a facet of democracy?” Here, the Supreme Court observed Socialism is a facet of democracy.
The other contestation to this point is: did we become socialist in nature after the introduction of 42nd Amendment? I beg to differ on this point. The forefathers of the Indian Constitution always envisaged the welfare of the society. Article 38(2) and Article 39(a), 39(b), 39(c), which are also the part of the DPSPs, talk about welfare of society with an egalitarian point of view. During the Constituent Assembly debates, K.T.Shah proposed the “federal, secular, socialist Union of the States”. To this point, Dr.Ambedkar presented two arguments. First, that the policy decisions should be left to the future generations and second, that the DPSPs which talk about the adequate means of life, non-concentration of ownership and material resources are already socialist in nature. He said that, “If these measures are not socialist in their direction and in their content, I fail to understand what more socialism can be?”
The point here is that we did not become Socialist after the 42nd Amendment. Our policies were socialist enough in their content form the very inception. Moreover, in the Indian society, inequality is in roots. Our top 1% population control 60 to 70% of wealth and resources. When Rakesh Sinha argued that the word has become redundant, the scenario is somewhat different. Each and every scheme of the present regime or the past regimes, which focus on welfare of the society with an egalitarian point of view, was socialist in nature. If we really want to remove “socialism” from the constitution then we should not have even an iota of concern for the poor, the have-nots, the unequal because till they exist and till incumbent regime cares for them, it is impossible to remove Socialism from the constitution.
Even our preamble pledges social and economic justice which is impossible without socialism. If every economic decision is left to the market then lower class will be annihilated. We cannot remove our core. And in this aspect it is impossible to do away with the socialism of Constitution.
Many recent political developments have raised the question of secularism. Secularism too was added to the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment. But again, did we become secular in nature only after the introduction of the 42nd Amendment? This is the question that we need to ponder upon. On March 31, 1931 while moving the resolution on the Fundamental Rights in the open session of the Congress at Karachi, Gandhi said that “Religious neutrality is important and Swaraj will favor Hinduism no more than Islam, and nor Islam more than Hinduism. Let us now adopt this state neutrality in our daily affairs. This neutrality of the state we call, Secularism”.
When our Article 15 talks about the prohibition of the Discrimination on the basis of religion, when our article 14 talks about the Equal Protection of the Law and when our Preamble reads that “WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA”, it shows that the founding fathers and our Constitution itself do not want religion to be the basis of any discrimination. These components show that we were secular in our nature from the very inception. If these all are not secular in nature, then it is difficult to comprehend what secularism is actually is.
In recent times there have been fears about the fate of our Constitution. There have been challenges to the Constitutional ethos. But the Constitution is the light that has guided India so far. It is the base on which today India stays strong. It is the soul of India and we shall not alter it. With this, we have a question to ponder upon: that would we be the India that was envisioned by the Constitution if we really do away with its core: Socialism and Secularism?
 Liz Mathew, BJP Rajya Sabha member to move resolution for removal of ‘socialism’ from Constitution, Indian Express, (Mar.19, 2020 9:21 A.M) https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bjp-rs-member-to-move-resolution-for-removal-of-socialist-from-preamble-6321033/
 Glare on ‘socialist’ vow – SC notice on ‘hypocritical’ allegiance, The Telegraph, (Mar.30,2020, 9:47 A.M), https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/glare-on-socialist-vow-sc-notice-on-hypocritical-allegiance/cid/628125
 Neera Chandhoke, All’s not well with Secularism, Indian Express, (Dec. 3, 2019) at 11.
Author Details: Akshat Mehta (Institute of Law, Nirma University)
The views of the author are personal only. (if any)