Talk Point
Illustration by Siddhant Gupta.
Text Size:
  • 1

ThePrint asks:

Is there a need to debate the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ in the Indian Constitution?

The Constitution of India is dedicated to the ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity. Any identification, beyond that of being an ‘Indian’ based on religion or community, is not secular.

There is a false belief that the word secularism came into the Constitution with the 42nd amendment (during the Emergency), that inserted the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ into the Preamble. This is fallacious because even in the Constituent Assembly debates, Ambedkar made it clear that the Constitution was entirely secular and there was no need to state the obvious.

Thus, secularism is a part of the basic structure of the Indian Constitution, and this was upheld by a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai vs The Union of India, 1994. That position has existed before and after that case.

Here are other sharp perspectives on the question: 

Gautam Bhatia, Supreme Court lawyer
Raghav Pandey, Research Fellow, IIT Bombay, Mumbai

Moreover, the Supreme Court in 1973, in the Keshavanada Bharti case, held that the Constitution cannot be amended to a point that would destroy its basic structure. Irrespective of a party having a majority in the parliament, the basic features of the Constitution are considered sacred and cannot be altered.

The Constitution is not a matter of Ambedkar smriti, it is a living document that we all have adopted and given to ourselves. Each time the BJP has come to power at the Centre, there has been talk of constitutional amendments. During Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government, they appointed the Justice M.N. Venkatachaliah Committee to review the working of the Constitution. However, even that committee recommended that the basic structure of the Constitution must not be tampered with.

We live in a modern nation and cherish our hard-fought independence and well-rounded Constitution. Under this, we worked as a republic for over 70 years. A mere transient Hegde here and there cannot alter the essence of the Constitution.

We have always been a pluralistic, multicultural civilisation, and we continue to be so as a modern nation. Any attempt to posit a mono-cultural vision of India is doomed to failure.

Sanjay Hegde is a senior advocate at the Supreme Court.

For ThePrint's smart analysis of how the rest of the media is doing its job, no holds barred, go to PluggedIn

  • 1
5 Comments Share Your Views


  1. The problem arose because some lunatics, hate mongers, castists wanted to topple the Constitution hence the true “Hegde, advocate” showed the mirror to the mukhauta “Hegde minister” by reminding him that #Secularism” for Real Indians and Hindus need it more. Mulnivasis are struggling to keep it intact in the intetest of the nation.
    Those demand the change in Basic Structures of this constitution are working against the National Interests.
    If Mr.Anil here has any solution let him put forward. Advocate Hegde already gave solution that the solution lies in and within the framework of this constitution.
    Whatever is outside, is Anti-National, Anti-constitutional.
    If Anant Kumar Hegde is hateful of this constitution then why he toook oath under it.
    Tell him to resign and sit in the lap of …. Manusmriti !
    Minister is unhappy with Modi and his ministry portfolio, so making nouses under various pretexts.

  2. Diversity in India is India’s pride, Dignity & strenght and secularism is must to uphold it.
    Remarks on the same by home minster were counter to what constituent assembly must had while making our revered constitution.

  3. Advocate Sanjay Hegde seems to have only one word in his mind and that is secularism. Does he have any solution to the existing problems.

  4. We the people as individual has some relegion but nation India as a country is secular which mean that there can not be any injustice on the basis of relegion cast creed and Colors i. e. called secularism.

  5. I am actually not surprised because this is so called and always a strategy of bjp to hit on emotional side they will never talk about education or health recently the Taj Mahal topic ended now they started topic indian constitution…wow…


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here