Today's Paper

‘Socialist’ tag in statute challenged

J. Venkatesan

Petition against 42nd Amendment

Socialist principle antithetical to democracy

RP Act amendment against democratic foundations

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Centre on a petition challenging the validity of Section 2 of the Constitution (42nd Amendment) by virtue of which the word ‘socialist’ was inserted in the Preamble to the Constitution.

The petition filed by Good Governance India Foundation also challenged the validity of Section 29 A (5) of the Representation of the People Act which was inserted by way of Section 6 of the RP (Amendment) Act, 1989 making it incumbent upon every political party registered in India to pledge allegiance to the socialist ideal, failing which such a party would be rejected from registration.

A three-judge Bench comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice J.M. Panchal after hearing senior counsel Fali Nariman, counsel for the petitioner, also issued notice to the Election Commission.

Mr. Nariman submitted that the 42nd Amendment evolved in the climate of national Emergency violated the basic structure of the Constitution. Prior to the amendment the Preamble read as follows: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign democratic republic..” After the amendment, it read: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic..”

The NGO in its petition contended that the amendment altered the Preamble, which was impermissible as it contained the ideals and aspirations or the objects which the Constitution-makers intended to be realised by its enacting provisions. It said that such an insertion was wholly inconsistent with the phrase “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship,” in the Preamble itself.

The petitioner submitted that the amendment attempted to create a particular ideological basis for adherence to the Constitution, which was against the principles of a multi-party democracy and which breached the unity and integrity of the nation. The ingestion of the socialist principle was antithetical to the principle of democracy, which was considered a basic structure of the Constitution.

On the RP Act amendment, the petitioner said that calling upon every political party to swear allegiance only to a particular mindset or ideology, viz. socialist principle, was contrary to the democratic foundations. The petitioner sought a direction to strike down these amendments as “unconstitutional.”