Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh said on Friday that there have been number of instances in the past when private member bills to amend the Preamble to the Constitution have been introduced in both the Houses of Parliament and its legislative competence is decided by Council and not the Chair.
Mr. Harivansh stated that during the last session, on December 3, member Manoj Kumar Jha had opposed the motion moved by K.J. Alphons to introduce his private members bill -the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Amendment of Preamble)“. Mr. Jha had argued that Preamble is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and the Bill may not be allowed for introduction.
Giving a ruling on this issue, Mr. Harivansh said on Friday that, “on a request made by the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and after taking the sense of the House, the introduction of the Bill was deferred. Preamble is part of the Constitution and as per Article 368 of the Constitution, Parliament may, in exercise of its constituent power, amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of the Constitution and a Bill for the purpose can be introduced in either House of the Parliament… If the introduction of a Bill is opposed on the ground of legislative competence of the Council, the Council decides the same and not the Chair. There are a number of rulings given by the Chair in this House on this issue taking the same stand in the past,” he said.
Mr. Alphons had moved a bill to replace the word “socialist” with “equitable” in the Preamble. He had said the word had “political connotations and carries a historical baggage.”
“The position which I had made clear was that the question of ultra vires will not be decided by the Chair, but that it may be left to the House. If it comes to the conclusion that it is ultra vires, the House may reject the Bill. If the House accepts the Bill for consideration, then the party aggrieved has his remedy in the Supreme Court or other courts,” Mr. Harivansh said.
Following this, Congress leader Anand Sharma said the Preamble cannot be changed. “I would urge the member concerned that in larger interest of the country where questions are being raised about the integrity of our commitment to the Indian Constitution, this should not be allowed.”
At which, Biju Janta Dal member Amar Patnaik interjected to say: “the two words — socialist and secular — were added to the Preamble of the Constitution by the 42nd amendment, so it can be changed.”
Trinamool’s Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said the insertion of socialist and secular to the Preamble happened long before the Kesavananda Bharati judgement in the Supreme Court.
“The court had then further ruled that the supremacy of the Constitution cannot be changed; whether court or parliamentary authority, they have to abide by the Constitution. The judgement is still subsisting and therefore, the Preamble to the Constitution cannot be changed,” Mr. Ray said.
Mr. Patnaik also moved a private members bill on Friday to amend the preamble to the Constitution to insert the word ahimsa (non-violence).