Plea in Supreme Court to erase ‘socialist’ and ‘secular’ from the Constitution

    Owing to the 42nd Constitutional Amendment passed by the parliament in 1967, the words “secular” and “socialist” were inserted into the Preamble of the Constitution. A petition was filed in the apex court to sought the deletion of these words.

    The petitioners – Balram Singh, Karunesh Kumar Shukla, Pravesh Kumar, two of whom are lawyers and one a social worker, in the PIL specified that the amendment made in 1976 was “antithetical to the constitutional tenets as well as the historical and cultural theme of India”. This change was “per se illegal for violating the concept of freedom of speech and expression enumerated in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and the right to freedom of religion guaranteed under Article 25 of the Constitution,” according to the petition.

    The petitioners intend to launch a political party. A requisite condition to register a political party with the Election Commission of India (ECI) is that they must follow principles of socialism and secularism. And this was added to Section 29-A (5) of the Representation of People Act, 1951, by an amendment in 1989. By challenging the validity of this law, they call for the ECI and the Central government to respond to their petition.

    While exploring the foundations of secularism and socialism as concepts that are quite rampant in the world, the plea tags them as a ‘political thought’ which is irrelevant, especially in a country like India. Further, the plea suggests that the historical and cultural theme of Bharat is established on the notion of ‘Dharma’ which is different from religion and that the communist theory of State cannot be applied in Indian context since it doesn’t go hand in hand with the religious disposition and socio-economic standing of India.

    The notion of secularism is basically where the state has no religion. The petition explains, with examples, the way in which the state grants aid to minority religious institutions in India, enacts law in relation to pilgrimages outside the country, has the power to make laws related to the charitable and religious endowment and religious institutions falling in Item 28 of the Concurrent List and has the power under Article 25(2) to make a law regulating or restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity associated with religious practice. And given that the state has the authority to partake in such religious matters and also to provide assistance to the religious minorities, even if in a restricted sense, the petition states that “the state as a political entity cannot be a secular republic in a strict sense.”