By D Raja
November 26! It is a historic day for our nation and its democratic polity. On that day in 1949 the Constituent Assembly which was constituted on 9th December 1946, completed its work by submitting the draft Constitution. A day before the submission, Dr Ambedkar, head of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, made his concluding speech. It was a speech with great vision for India and its future. Dr Ambedkar has said: “On 26th January 1950, India would be democratic country in the sense that India from that day would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people”. He continued the speech expressing his fear that “what would happen to her democratic Constitution?” Now the Constitution is getting trampled by the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
The fear of Dr Ambedkar, the prime architect of the Constitution, has really come true. The Constitution is getting trampled by the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary under the rule of RSS-BJP combine. It is ironic that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government started celebrating Constitution Day from 26th November 2015. However the Constitution is threatened instead of promoting Constitutional values among the Sangh Parivaar and its followers.
The way government legislations are pushed through and passed by dispensing with the deliberating and consultative process and the way the contents of such legislations negate the very essence of the Constitution clearly prove the mala fide intent of the government to crush it. Parliament is the supreme institution in our democracy but it is blatantly undermined and bypassed. If Parliament becomes redundant, democracy will be in peril. The passage of anti-farmer farm bills and anti-worker labour codes is one recent example to show how undemocratically legislations are pushed through.
It is all the more tragic and catastrophic that all the institutions of the governance are flattening the Constitution in a calculated manner in flagrant violation of much honoured principles of equity and justice, which are central to the majesty of the rule of law. It was demonstrated in the most brazen way, when none other than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on two occasions in the recent time made shocking observation that the apex court was discouraging petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution. That article described by Dr BR Ambedkar as the heart and soul of the Constitution empowers a person to directly approach the Supreme Court to seek remedy for the violation of fundamental rights.
During the debate on Article 32 Dr Ambedkar said that “if I was asked to name any particular Article in this Constitution as the most important — an Article without which this Constitution would be nullity — I could not refer to any other Article except this one. It is the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it and I am glad that the House has realized its importance”. If the Supreme Court discourages people taking recourse to the “the heart and soul” of the Constitution then which institution would ensure and empower people to adhere to the Constitution and encourage them to imbibe the constitutional values?
Earlier in May 2020, when millions of migrant workers were walking, without transport, food and money, hundreds and thousands of kilometres from cities and towns to their villages because of unplanned lock down imposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to deal with the COVID pandemic, the Supreme Court did not act in a timely manner on several PILs to ensure their fundamental right to justice. It was shocking that the apex court made remarks devoid of judicial empathy and constitutional morality. Its observations that issues concerning migrant labourers fell within the domain of public policy and so there was hardly any scope for judicial intervention; that the governments ensured availability of food to them and so they did not need anything else; deaths of so many of them on railway tracks could not be stopped because they were willfully sleeping there; or the rights of migrant labourers cannot supersede the work done by the government are violative of the constitutional duty of the Supreme Court to protect life and liberty of the people.
It was indeed outrageous that the Court was critical of the lawyers for knocking at its door based on newspaper reports. Such gross lack of indifference on the part of the apex court to the loss of right to life of millions of people shocked the collective conscience of the nation. At least some of the high courts through their exemplary orders ensured some relief to the migrant labourers. By the time the Supreme Court took up the matter much damage had been done and millions suffered unimaginable hardships and its intervention was too little to deal with the unprecedented humanitarian disaster mocking at the very Constitution.
During Modi’s regime, the Supreme Court has made many controversial observations and verdicts on the policy of reservation and on the issue of atrocities and crimes against Dalits and Tribals. The policy of reservation is one affirmative action to ensure social democracy. Article 16 refers to “Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment”. This Article is part of the Fundamental Rights of the Constitution. In the words of Dr Ambedkar “political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy”. It raises questions about whether the Judiciary acts in the spirit of the Constitution.
It is shocking to note that the constitutional liberty of some of the so called high profile people close to the powers that be are protected by the Supreme Court by listing their cases in the shortest possible time and granting them relief and in case of others they are asked to seek judicial remedy at the lower courts. Such dual standards adopted for dispensing justice remind us of the doctrine of differential rights upheld by colonial rulers who preserved one set of rights for themselves and denied the same to people whom they ruled. Such doctrine of differential rights embodied in the orders passed by the Supreme Court in recent times is a negation of the Constitution.
The grisly happenings in Hathras where a Dalit young woman was raped and brutally assaulted by people belonging to high castes and later her dead body was forcibly cremated ignoring pathetic plea of her family not to do so clearly violated fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. It is tragic that the state machinery represented by the district collector threatened the family of the victim not to say anything to the media. The upper castes openly threatened the victim’s family in the presence of the police and no action against them was taken. Such gross violations of human rights leading to breach of rule of law and justice shook the whole nation and humanity. Several journalists who went to cover it were arrested and charged with serious offences. They continue to languish in jail. All their constitutional rights have been breached by the state authorities. Such brutality on the Dalits and journalists covering their plight is sure indication of sabotage of constitutional scheme of governance by those entrusted with responsibility to uphold rule of law.
The way Constitution and constitutional morality are discarded in such an outrageous manner by the powers that be, is creating fertile conditions for fascist dictatorship. If the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary would violate the Constitution, then there would be utter lawlessness leading to collapse of governance. It is, therefore, pertinent that these three organs of the government set worthy examples by following the Constitution, upholding it and adhering to the principles of Constitutional morality. Time has come to bring the Directive Principles of the Constitution to empower the people and ensure justice — social, political and economic.
Time has come to resist the right-wing forces. The workers and peasants — the urban and rural working people — the workers in formal and informal sectors are on the streets fighting not only for their economic demands and their rights, but for saving the Constitution and Democracy. The trade unions and the organisations of peasants and rural poor are staging a country-wide strike on November 26th 2020. When the country observes the Constitution Day, 26th November, the general strike will demonstrate the hope for the future. The working people who fought for the independence of the country are standing up today to save the democratic Constitution and the Republic of India. (IPA Service)
The writer is General Secretary, CPI.