Is there a need to debate the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ in the Indian Constitution?
The need for debate for revising socialism and secularism, or any other dimension of any Constitution, is important. The Constitution is a living document which keeps changing by adapting to the needs of the time.
The need for an overhaul of the Constitution has also been evidenced by the setting up of the National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) in 2000. Our Constitution has already been amended 101 times.
Therefore, there is no reason to look down upon the proposition of amending the Constitution per se. However, care needs to be taken that the spirit of the Constitution is not changed. This has been ensured by the Supreme Court via doctrine of Basic Structure, which limits the legislature’s ability to do away with the basic features of the Constitution.
Here are other sharp perspectives on the question:
Coming to the point of revising socialism and secularism, it needs to be put into perspective that both these words were not part of the original Constitution and were added through 42nd Constitutional Amendment, at the time of Emergency. The word ‘socialism’ has already lost its meaning after the economic reforms of 1991, when India embraced the free market principle. This certainly makes a case for revising ‘socialism’.
Secularism, apart from being mentioned in the Preamble, is applied, under Fundamental Rights, where all citizens are given equal rights, irrespective of their religious beliefs. But there is certainly a need to define the word ‘secularism’ and its meaning within our polity. Currently, it leaves a scope for discretionary interpretation. Therefore, the model and practice of secularism needs elaboration.
Hence, the debate for revising socialism and secularism is certainly welcome, but care needs to be taken that such revision is only progressive in nature.
Raghav Pandey is a Research Fellow with the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, Mumbai. He can be reached at email@example.com, Twitter: @raghavwrong