Citizenship and Related Issues

[op-ed snap] Safeguarding constitutional morality

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Preserving constitutional values

Context

On the occasion of Constitution Day, the President has made a significant observation that all three organs of the state, persons occupying constitutional posts, civil society members, and citizens should abide by ‘constitutional morality’.

Across the world

  • Democracy – Concerns about the future of democracy and democratic traditions are growing across the world.
  • Freedoms – In a few democracies, we can also perceive a decrease in democratic freedoms and a trend in favor of illiberal populism. 

Indian constitution

  • India was considered an exception to this, as it is protected by safeguards found in its Constitution.
  • Constituent Assembly consisted of not only the best legal minds but also of compassionate individuals who espoused the finest human values.

Violations of the constitution

  • Diluting Article 370 – it was a provision made in the Constitution for a specific purpose, which required more detailed and careful treatment before being peremptorily invalidated.
  • Federal system – while the Indian Constitution provides for a federal system with a unitary bias, the Central and State Governments both derive their authority from the Constitution. The states are not exactly subordinate to the Centre. 
  • J&K – Splitting Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into two Union Territories, without due consultation with different segments ran contrary to this essential principle. It violated the spirit of the Constitution.

Secularism

  • Though secularism is becoming an ugly word today in many parts of the globe, India was free of any such bias.
  • Some of these biases are beginning to emerge in many circles in India as well.
  • In the Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case (1973), the Supreme Court held that secularism is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and cannot be trifled with in the name of security or other considerations.

Drama in Maharashtra

  • The drama enacted after the Maharashtra State Assembly results were announced could have been avoided if constitutional proprieties were adhered to. 
  • The pre-election alliance of the BJP-Shiv Sena had secured a majority. But the inability of the two allies to resolve issues relating to sharing of power led to a breakdown. 
  • President’s rule had to be invoked. After a compromise was reached between the Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress to form a government, the President’s rule was revoked using the Prime Minister’s ‘special powers’, and a BJP-led government was sworn in.
  • Horse trading – The State also witnessed incidents such as sequestering of MLAs who were taken to safe havens to avoid poaching in the event of a trial of strength. 
  • Constitution – the provisions of the Constitution and the position of constitutional functionaries had been compromised.

Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)

  • Easy for refugees – On the face of it, the CAA only makes it easier for refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan to gain Indian citizenship. 
  • Exclusion – it excludes certain categories, such as Muslims. This denies people belonging to one particular religion recourse to the new law.
  • Violates liberal ideals – the CAA violates India’s liberal traditions. When combined with the move to compile a National Register of Citizens, it carries an ominous ring. 
  • Parliament passage – the Bill passed through both Houses without any detailed debate or discussion. It gives the impression that a majority in Parliament is adequate to push through Acts which may or may not be in tune with the Constitution.
  • Indian democracy – as India is a many-layered democracy and there exist different religious communities, a more detailed and in-depth study was called for before pushing through such a key measure. 

A study was needed

  • As the Constitution has been the guarantor of equal treatment to people of all religions and regions irrespective of geography and history, refugees’ issues called for greater understanding and more time.
  • India has been grappling with several more critical issues in recent months, including the state of its economy. To raise this matter at this time seemed uncalled for.
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