New Delhi: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has written to President Ram Nath Kovind demanding the removal of the Chief Justice of the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh over remarks made by him on the addition of the words “socialist” and “secular” to the Preamble to the Constitution. The two words had been added to the existing “sovereign democratic republic” in the Preamble by a Constitutional amendment in 1976.
Justice Pankaj Mithal had on 5 December said that the additions of the words “socialist” and “secular” to the already mentioned “sovereign, democratic, republic” in the Preamble of the Constitution in 1976 narrowed the “vastness of its spiritual image”. He made the remark while delivering the keynote lecture on ‘Dharma and the Constitution of India: The Interplay’ at a function organised in Jammu by the Adhivakta Parishad of J&K and Ladakh.
The letter by the CPI (M), signed by party General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, claimed Justice Mithal “addressed a programme organized by an organization affiliated to the RSS…and spoke against the Constitution of India”. It also asserted that Justice Mithal “violated his oath and compromised the Constitutional Office held by him”.
“Utterances against the country’s Constitution by a High Court Chief Justice, that too from a platform which preaches a particular ideology, is an unpardonable offence, which is in violation of the oath taken by him to carry out his constitutional functions,” it said.
The letter went on to demand Justice Mithal’s “removal from office”, and stated, “As the custodian of the Constitution, as the head of the State and as the appointing authority of Shri Mithal, I request your good self to immediately set in motion the process for his removal from office to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution and independence of judiciary”.
‘Spiritual Republic of India’
During the function, Justice Mithal reportedly pointed out that while dynasties like the Pandavas, Mauryas, Guptas and Mughals, or later the Britishers, ruled India, it was never defined on the basis of religion as a Muslim, Christian or Hindu nation, because it was accepted as a spiritual country. He further said that the country has always been spiritual and therefore its name should have been the “Spiritual Republic of India”.
He then asserted that by adding the word secular, “we have narrowed own vastness of spiritual appearance”, and that “sometimes, we bring amendments due to our adamancy”.
The words “socialist, secular” were added to the Preamble to the Constitution by the Constitution (forty-second amendment) Act, 1976 by the Indira Gandhi government during the Emergency.
Justice Mithal joined as an advocate in the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh in 1985 and started practicing in the Allahabad High Court. He was appointed additional judge of the high court in July 2006 and took oath as a permanent judge in July 2008. He was appointed chief justice for the common high court for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh in December last year and took over the post on 4 January this year.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)