Lok Sabha Elections 2024 a Referendum on Constitution

How Lok Sabha Elections 2024 Became a Referendum on Indian Constitution – I

Amid an election that seemed highly dull, unprecedently non-polarised and sundry, the interiors of central Uttar Pradesh had reached the boiling point after two phases of polling. It was not an easy task to assess this heat from outside. The drama that unfolded in front of this reporter in the Jajpur village of district Sitapur is representative of the shifting political paradigm in the land that has been the fortress of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2014.

Making of an Argument

We entered the village from the southern entry point which usually inhabits lower castes in the rural geography of UP. Here it was the Pasi community. It is considered as the core voter of the BJP. Strolling in the narrow bylanes destroyed by the yet-to-start Jal Jeevan mission pipeline project, we were accompanied by a group of women and children. We reached an open space near a handpump and sat there for a chat. There were a couple of youths and some elderly people from the same community. They joined in. Within a few minutes, a bike appeared from nowhere and stopped abruptly. Seeing him, women flung to one corner of the street and the elders too became uneasy. Someone whispered. “Aa gaye pandit mahaul kharab karne” (Here comes the Brahmin to spoil the atmosphere)!

The bare-bodied man riding the bike was a Brahmin in his fifties. He enquired about us. After we briefly introduced ourselves, he started talking about himself very loudly that he had come to the village for his daughter who was going to sit for the NEET exams. He boasted of living in Delhi for many years. He had built a house in Lucknow and came to the village only when it was urgent. He advised us not to talk to ‘these’ people as they speak ill about the government despite enjoying free ration and amenities. After a long silence from the Pasi side, suddenly a dissenting voice came from a youth.

He commented, “True, last time he came to distribute Ram Mandir invitations. Now he is here for his daughter’s exam. Let the paper get leaked, then he would know for once and always why we speak ill of the government”. Within seconds of this reaction, the Brahmin started abusing them and people rose against him. The conversation had got ugly and now we realised that this man on the bike was drunk. We remained mute spectators until he fled with speaking of the ‘consequences’.

It was the most unexpected real-life dramatics, but the argument put forward by the youth had caught our ears. He said to the Brahmin, “Tum log abhi mansik gulami kar rahe ho. Jis din samvidhan padh loge gulami ko tod doge. Tumhari galti nahin hai” (You are mental slaves. Once you read the Constitution, you will break away. It is not your fault). Later he told us that he has been a victim of the paper leak twice and works at a computer shop in the nearby market.

A couple of days later NEET paper got leaked out. We were still in UP. Nothing could be said about the Brahmin of Jajpur or that youth but the narrative evolved around paper leaks in UP’s villages is a readymade takeaway for anyone interested in decoding the reasons behind the uproar over “Save the Constitution” in these elections.

Quoting the words of that Jajpur youth, “This government wants us to keep begging for five-kilogram ration. That is why it deliberately leaks exam papers. So that no one gets the job and the government gets bailed out of the obligation of giving reservations. The paper leak is directly linked with the BJP’s intent of ending the reservation guaranteed by the Constitution”.

Constitution as an Electoral Issue

Those who have not been to the field will never know that this General Election was being fought on the issue of saving the Constitution from the very first day and even much before that. It seems strikingly vague and has never been a part of our collective experience that elections are fought over the issue of a Constitution in any democratic Republic. In fact, the Constitution was not an explicit issue even in the LOk Sabha elections held just after the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. It was the authoritarian character of the leader and state repression in question.

How and when did the Constitution become an electoral issue? Is it just due to statements from a few BJP leaders about changing the Constitution and ending reservations, as D. Raja claims in his article published after two phases of polls? Karnataka’s Anant Hegde was the very first leader who spoke of ending the Constitution in the run-up to elections. He was mysteriously denied a ticket and the party distanced itself from his statement. But after him, there have appeared around half a dozen similar statements, from BJP’s Meerut candidate Arun Govil to Ayodhya candidate Lallu Singh, Diya Kumari, Jyoti Mirdha and the newest turncoat Pramod Krishnam.


Was the BJP aware of ground swell on the Constitution? In all these cases, it seems as if the BJP never tried to reign in its leaders. And actions attract consequences, especially when it is election time.  Lallu Singh was seen pleading to the voters that the video of his viral statement was fabricated and fake. Anant Hegde had to retract.

Talking to hundreds of people in more than a dozen Lok Sabha Constituencies of UP across various caste compositions reveals that the reservation guaranteed by the Constitution is just one strand of the larger fear. Also, people did not mention any specific leader while expressing their fear. They have their reasons to save the Constitution. Some arguments are beyond our comprehension.

To cite a few, one upper-caste lady was fearful of BJP again coming to power because she would lose her right to report FIR after being beaten by her inebriated husband; a young OBC girl said she would lose her right to walk and work freely; a daily wager in his forties was of the apprehension that ending the Constitution would mean an end to the rural employment guarantee act MNREGA.

Mahesh Yadav, a core voter of the Samajwadi Party from Lucknow says, “This time BJP will end elections if it returns. This is the last opportunity for us to save everything”. This fear was echoed in the Loksabha constituencies from Fatehpur Sikri to Lakhimpur Kheri i.e. the complete stretch comprising Bundelkhand and Central UP districts where BJP had secured 26 out of 28 seats in GE 2019.

The Barometer

When does an issue become an electoral issue? When it overarches other issues and breaks traditional loyalties towards political parties. If things have allegedly boiled down to the Constitution, the obvious barometer lies at the two opposing ends: first, with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) cadre that has been politically trained by taking the oath to the Indian Constitution and the other, the RSS cadre that has historically never accepted the Republic and its Constitution, as it is.

The litmus test of the Constitution as an electoral issue passed at both sites. It may be unacceptable or indigestible for someone to vouch for the RSS cadre breaking its loyalty with the BJP, but then read the recent statement of BJP President JP Nadda that says, “We have grown, more capable now… the BJP runs itself”. Before coming to the RSS, let us look into the “Mission Villages” of UP.

Kanshiram, the stalwart of contemporary Dalit politics in India had adopted hundreds of villages and transformed them for the cause of Ambedkarite thought and emancipation. These “mission villages” still exist, mostly with a Bauddha Vihar and idols of Kanshiram and Ambedkar. These villages voted en mass for BSP but they had decided to vote for the SP-Congress alliance in this election. Why? 

An octogenarian Ambedkarite from Mohanlalganj constituency Sunderlal Bharti aka ‘Netaji’ says, “We know that Behenji has nothing to do with these elections except retaining her votes. We will see her in 2027 assembly elections. This time we vote for the constitution. Every BSP cadre understands this much politics”.

His village Kevalpur resounds. Be it Pasi, Raidasi or other sub-castes of Dalits, they were seen inclined towards the alliance, not BSP. Even some Jatav voters were talking of voting for the alliance to save the Constitution.  

A close confidant of Mayawati confirms this when he says, “That is why Akash Anand was dumped in the mid-course. He was disturbing and confusing our voters with his fiery speeches. We are just eying 19% of our traditional vote share, no seat this time. Our real battle is in 2027 when SP will get decimated and we will be in direct contest with the BJP”. 

Akash Anand, the young face of BSP 2.0 launched his electoral campaign from the Nagina constituency of UP in April first week and immediately caught the eye of the storm when he was booked for a speech in Sitapur. After that FIR he was asked to sit back. Mayawati publicly said that he was still ‘immature’. Media had then speculated that BSP voters would get disillusioned by this action and vote for the BJP.

On the contrary, Bharti says, “It was a good decision. Anyways we knew where to vote. Behenji knows tactics”. And then he asks, “Aap tactics jaante hain?” Tactical voting has been the feature of BSP politics since its inception.

This is also true of the RSS, the parent body of the BJP. RSS has been working for the BJP for such a long time that the opposition, especially Rahul Gandhi equates both in his speeches. But it is not reflected in RSS cadres’ conversations, nor do voters on the ground talk synonymously of both. And theoretically too, RSS does not always work for the BJP. This time the difference is stark

Manoj Gupta, an ex-president of BJP and four-decades-old RSS cadre from Bundelkhand said, “In the SP government we had ample space to fight for our cause. We protested and even forced the administration to nab corrupt SP leaders who were later sent to jail. In the BJP regime, we find the space of dissent shrinking”.

It was an unusual statement from a BJP functionary. He kept on talking about the illegal mining and timber trade in Bundelkhand. He was angry with the local BJP MP and MLA’s. In the last ten years of BJP regime, he complained that nothing had changed but the right to dissent was under direct attack. 

The same complaint was voiced by the upper-caste RSS cadre from Etawah who teaches at a college, “I tried to bring in some academic changes; secured a research project for the college, organised a national level seminar. Immediately I became a thorn in the powers be. They were corrupt leaders. I complained to the local MP. Nothing happened. Finally, I manoeuvred and now things are smooth. I have shut up my mouth”.    

What about the vote? Gupta, sitting in his one-bedroom house said, “This is the last time. Just for the nation. No more after this. 2027 will see a revolt”. Others half a dozen men accompanying us on evening tea and each one affiliated with the RSS opined that they were now exhausted with the internal corruption of Sangh and BJP. The city in charge of the organisation said, “No space for good and committed people left here. We are not going to campaign this time. Will decide on the voting day what to do”.

Constitution never came literally in these conversations but the shrinking space for dissent and protest was significant. And this is throughout UP. Some caste considerations are also playing a role in this dissatisfaction. A senior journalist said, “Most of the BJP and RSS functionaries are from the same caste as the Chief Minister. This has made committed RSS workers hostile”.  BSP has played upon this dissatisfaction by fielding Brahmin candidates on those seats where RSS has gone cold.

An old RSS functionary from PM Modi’s constituency Varanasi revealed that it had planned to boycott the BJP in 2019. In fact, the widespread destruction caused by the Kashi Vishwanath corridor had left many old RSS functionaries disgruntled. Many had lost their homes and shops around it but the internal dissent was not enough to minimally affect the results. This time the rift has become global.    

This may be the reason that Mohan Bhagwat has openly called for not celebrating 100 years of RSS in 2025. The statement came as a surprise just before the first phase because the organisation had chalked out a vast plan for centenary celebrations in March third week when the highest body Akhil Bhartiya Pratinidhi Sabha met in Nagpur. After that, the low voter turnout in successive polls indicated BJP voters’ disillusionment and an inactive RSS. Finally, JP Nadda’s statement confirmed the impending divorce between BJP and RSS, if it is to be believed.

Whatever the case, the cadre of BSP and RSS both are facing the heat of an authoritarian regime. The extent and intent may differ in both cases but this has made space for the Constitution to fill in as an overarching issue of GE 2024. But this has not happened overnight. Discourse over the Constitution started simmering in 2019 and gained momentum after the COVID-induced lockdown was lifted. 

(This is the first article of a two-part series on the subject)

Read The Part II Here

For more details visit us: https://lokmarg.com/

Mohammad Bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa

I Salute Democracy, Constitution Of India: Muslim World League Secy General

Muslim World League chief Mohammad Bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa on Wednesday lauded Indian philosophy and tradition that taught harmony to the world and said that he salutes the democracy and Constitution of India.

He also highlighted the “peaceful coexistence that he witnessed in India is unique.”
Al-Issa who is the current Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL), an organisation based in Saudi Arabia and representing Muslims worldwide is on a five-day visit to India that began on July 10.

He was addressing the “Dialogue for Harmony among Religions,” an event organised in collaboration with Global Foundation for Civilisational Harmony (India) on Wednesday.

In his address, he said that he was delighted to meet the President of India Droupadi Murmu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, intellectual leaders as well as spiritual leaders during his India visit.

In context of the Indian philosophy and tradition, ” Al-Issa said, “I salute Indian democracy with the bottom of my heart. I salute the Constitution of India. I salute the Indian philosophy and tradition that taught harmony to the world.”

He further issued a piece of advice to religious leaders and said there is a need to protect and guide the next generation.

“Whenever there is a lack of dialogue between two, misunderstandings and problems arise. It is hence important that a bridge for dialogue should be built. In order to prevent the civilizational clash, we need to protect and guide the next generation from childhood, ” said Al-Issa.

Al-Issa, who is an Islamic scholar and renowned figure in global affairs also appealed to stand against the narratives about the clash of civilisations and religious hatred.

“We must stand against religious conflict so that fundamentalism does not re-emerge,” he said.

He also took a dig at organisations that promote terrorism saying, “Misconceptions, hate theories and wrong perceptions have expedited the road from radicalization to terrorism. To entrench power, many leaders have used hate narratives to ensure their own control and relevance.”

“There are few organizations that are promoting wrong thoughts. When I saw the religious leaders here (India) and met them, they showed me a different picture talking about dialogue and peaceful coexistence,” Al-Issa added.

The Muslim World League chief also noted the wrongdoings of some religious leaders, who do not work to promote peaceful coexistence.

He said, “Religious leaders today are …not working to promote understanding. Unlike certain organizations, Indian institutions and leaders I met talked about peace, tolerance and understanding rather than asserting their dominance.”

Al-Issa arrived in India on Monday and is expected to meet External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, and Minister for Minority Affairs Smriti Irani.

Earlier today he called on President Droupadi Murmu. As per sources, he might visit Akshardham Temple in the national capital during his visit and meet with some prominent personalities. (ANI)

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Dizzy Heights And Constitutional Selfie

India with all its tragedies also never stops to entertain. And it’s not even Bollywood. It is just everyday Government, businesses and institutions. Two prominent figures are up in the news, aiming for mythological heights but not quite making it. The third one is a bit quiet at this time. The Adani legend continues as he made to the third richest man in the world only for the balloon to burst and land somewhere on a bed of enquiries, accusations and cross-accusations. ‘It’s an attack on India,’ he said; ‘the last refuge of scoundrels,’ said Winston Churchill. We can’t say that about Adani, who after all has been one of the biggest financial muscles behind the rise of Narendra Modi.

Exactly what happened is a bit beyond me, not being a money man myself. How can some one accumulate so much virtual wealth and create a web of intriguing financial instruments and investments networks that apparently had no feet. Seems quite astonishing to me. And then the person being able to reach dizzy figures of $200 Billion without anyone noticing anything wrong.

Now I don’t know about your experience, but I find that if I put in ₹100 of money without proper receipt and where spent in my tax return, Madame Nirmala Sitharaman’s men quickly write back questioning, ‘Aare iss soh rupae kis ko diye bhai? Kaha hai GST, MST, PST, IST etc etc?’ I just made the STs. So how can a man slide crores and crores of rupees past these Sitharaman vigilantes at the revenue office without knowing? Is it possible they are so occupied with ₹100 that it is easier to scam crores past them, and comfortably know they are too busy to look at that?

It needed a western institution to gaze past the shiny balloon rising and rising on hot air to burst it and ask, ‘Where is the Khazana?’ Well on the other hand they could be jealous that another Gujarati has made to the ranks. What with Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Jayantilal Sandesara, Asish Jobanputra… there is certainly a pool of talent in that state.

However, we should not jump to conclusions about the patriotic Adani. After all he was going to save Punjab’s farmers by setting up alternative mandis and buy their land, until they figured out that the saviour’s help might be a one-way road going towards Adani and Co without a return track. All roads lead to Adani.

He might still be hard done by. Let us see how the drama plays out. He might not be able to escape to the capital of world fugitives, the ethical upright British capital of London because he may not have enough money to acquire refugee status.

A Constitutional Selfie

We al like selfies at times, to make us believe how good looking we look against a background of great imagery. So this week, the Chief Justice has done a selfie of the Indian Constitution. ‘The Constitution of India is a remarkable homegrown product of self-governance, dignity and independence and while some speak of it in entirely adulatory terms, many others are cynical about its success,’ said Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud.

Well I never! This is a most flattering selfie of the Indian Constitution against a background of a mythical tapestry of genius taken by no less than the person who represents it, the Chief Justice of India.

Since 1947, legal writer after legal writer of Indian Constitution have been saying the Indian Constitution is a ‘remarkable document’ based on the 1935 Government of India Act. The CJI may not have read the law books they wrote, perhaps not the introductions.

The 1935 Act was the last hurrah of the British to rule over Indians for another 100 if not 1,000 years. Its power structure is all tilted in favour of the governing class, who were the British at the time. It gave little credence and power to Indians to hold power to account.

But events intervened and the British had to leave and go back to their little Island. The boisterous and brave Indian ‘independence movement’ that had been inspired by Gandhi against ‘foreign rule and foreign ways’ sat solemnly after 1947 in the Constitution Assembly and began drafting the constitution of Bharat. After the homegrown word Bharat, they seem to have got stuck with what of the Vedas, the Shastras, especially the Dharma shastras they would use as a template to get rid of foreign ways and build a ‘homegrown’ constitution.

Eureka moment. Somehow they convinced themselves that the 1935 Act was home grown! After all it was inspired by some white sahibs governing in India and then final touches made in Britain. As these white sahibs were eating chicken korma, their minds must have become Indian. So technically CJI is right, it is home grown.

They spent two years finding words such as ‘President’ to replace Governor General. They extended the voting franchise from educated and loyal elite of the British to everyone who had at least a thumb or toe.

However, they retained the power that lay in the Governor General to overrule almost any legislation and introduce his own ‘emergency’ rules. The powers of detentions, the power to appoint judges and much more that the British wanted to keep away from pesky Indians, in case they sabotaged their ‘good intentions’ for the native Indians, have all been kept almost word for word. I didn’t know that Dharma shastras gave that much power to the head of State. So I have been racking my brain on what is home grown about the structure of power in Indian Constitution that is home grown and not based on the Christian idea of divine powers of sovereign Kings. The anointed King of India was of course Jawaharlal Nehru. Never in history of Indian civilisation had so much power been given to one person as sovereign as in the new Republic of India.

Then they needed to look at what the Government will do for its citizens. The Dharma shastras put these as binding duties on the King. Kautilya even said, ’If the King doesn’t fulfil them, the masses can rise against him to replace him’. But the Constituent Assembly decided to look at the Irish idea of non-binding Directive Principles and put these as ‘Directive Principles’! The only homegrown bit was copy and paste.

Then came the issue of democracy. In Bharat of the old, democracy was not ‘majoritarian’. It was almost complete consensus of those given the power to engage in decision making. The Constituent Assembly was well aware that India constituted multiple nations, with their own histories, languages and cultures. But it decided on the ‘British’ majoritarian first past the post democracy. In Britain, there is one language and one dominant culture. Bit difficult to find the homegrown in this except the tendency to be more English than the English.

Then came the matter of human rights! Human Rights have no pedigree in India. So off the wise men of the Assembly went to the United States Bill of Rights and transplanted it on the already hybrid document. It is called ‘Fundamental Rights’. But there arose a conflict. The British would not have called them ‘fundamental rights’. Fundamental Rights in US cannot be taken away. The 1935 Act gave power to the ruling power, the British, to take back any rights the average man decided to exercise against the British.

So in the Constitution, the ‘Fundamental Rights’ have a sentence at the beginning in article 13.4, ‘Nothing in this article shall apply to any amendment of this Constitution made under article 368’. What does article 368 say? ‘368.5[Power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and procedure therefor.]6[(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may in exercise of its constituent power amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of this Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in this article.

It also adopted the Weimer Republic of Germany’s approach to suspending fundamental rights during an emergency! It adopted the German idea of federal structure but still handed power to the centre to suspend state legislatures. It has done that over 95 times since 1947!

So much for the home grown! The Constitution is a hybrid document from German Weimar Republic, US Bill of Rights, Irish Directive Principles, British majoritarian first past the post democracy with rule of law, and bits taken from French and German constitutions. It promotes a European-style democracy. There isn’t a single article that reflects the 5,000 years of Indian civilisation, the Shastras, the concept and accountability of power in the period of great Indian dynasties or Ram Rajya except the word ‘Bharat’.

The only other home grown bit that Indian Constitution has is that there was perhaps no White man in the Constituent Assembly. They were all home grown. Although there may have been quite a few British advisors at the back. And Mountbatten remained Governor General until June 1948 seeing this process through.

Wake up Kautilya, Guptas, Mauryas, Ashoka, CJI says your footprints are in the Constitution. Don’t be dismayed. CJI says, it is based on Dharma shastras, that you all had to rule by. But first CJI needs to ask himself, why do Indian judges still wear black, to mourn the 1685 death of Charles II? Home Grown?

Haldwani Railway Land

SC To Hear Plea Against Centre’s Decision To Ban BBC Documentary

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to list on February 6 a Public Interest Litigation against the Centre’s decision to ban a BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots in the country.

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said it would list the matter for hearing on next Monday.
Advocate ML Sharma, who has filed the PIL, mentioned the matter for an early hearing.

The PIL sought quashing of the January 21 order of the Centre, terming it “illegal, mala fide, arbitrary and unconstitutional”.

Meanwhile, senior advocate CU Singh also mentioned before the bench on how tweets by senior journalist N Ram and advocate Prashant Bhushan with links to the BBC documentary were deleted using “emergency powers” and how students from Ajmer were suspended for streaming the documentary.

The PIL filed by advocate Sharma also urged the apex court to call and examine the BBC documentary – both parts I and II – and sought action against persons who were responsible and were involved directly and indirectly with the 2002 Gujarat riots.

PIL has raised a constitutional question and the apex court has to decide whether citizens have the right under Article 19 (1) (2) to see news, facts, and reports on the 2002 Gujarat riots, Sharma said.

“Issue writ of mandamus to the Respondent for quashing of the impugned order dated January 21, 2023, issued under rule 16 of IT rule 2021 being illegal, malafide and arbitrary unconstitutional and void ab-initio and ultra vires to the Constitution of India to provide complete justice,” the PIL stated.

As per the sources, on January 21, the Centre issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the controversial BBC documentary.

Whether the central government can curtail freedom of the press which is a fundamental right as guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (2) of the Constitution, asked the PIL.

It added, “Whether without having an Emergency declared under Article 352 of the Constitution of India by the president, Emergency provisions can be invoked by the central government?” (ANI)

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Chandershekhar wife bail

PIL To Prohibit Fixing Of Images Of Hindu Deities On Walls

The Delhi High Court on Friday reserved an order on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking direction to the authorities to prohibit the affixation of images of deities on walls to prevent people from relieving themselves on them or spitting on the ‘sacred images or littering.

A Division Bench headed by Chief Justice of Delhi Satish Chander Sharma and also comprising Justice Subramonium reserved its order on the plea after noting down the submissions of the petitioner.
The plea stated that people were using pictures of deities in various places as a measure to stop open public urination. However, these measures are harming the religious sentiments of the people at large.

The petitioner Gaurang Gupta, a practicing advocate, stated that the images are ‘sacred’ to the followers of the religion and that public urination, spitting, and throwing junk is a menace to the public at large and such acts are a violation of the rights enshrined under Article 19(1)(a) and thus, are liable to be reasonably restricted.

Urination, spitting, and throwing junk at an image of God should be considered to desecrate the sanctity of the image of God, the plea stated, adding that it is in excess of Article 19(1 )(a) and can be curtailed as per Article 19(2) under the reasonable restriction of public order, decency or morality.

“The continuance of this malicious practice of using the pictures of God to prohibit public urination, spitting, and throwing junk is greatly violating Article 25 of the Constitution of India. Religion is a very significant aspect in the social fabric of India and the use of revered pictures for such a pm1Jose is hurting the sentiments of the public at large and this will have a large-scale negative impact on the society at large,” the plea read. (ANI)

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President Assent to Three Bills

Do Something For People Languishing In Jails For Petty Offences: Prez

President Droupadi Murmu on Saturday urged courts to help people languishing in jails for petty offences who are not aware of their fundamental rights or fundamental duties that are laid down in Part IV-A of the Constitution.

The President made the remarks while addressing the valedictory function of the ‘Constitution Day’ celebrations, organized by the Supreme Court in the national capital.
President Murmu said, “
Aap logon ko uske liye kuchh karna chahiye. Saalon saal nahi chhuratein hain unko
. (You [courts] should do something for these people. They are languishing in jails for many years).”

The President added that such prisoners have been languishing behind bars for petty offenses such as slapping.

She also pointed out that many, who have taken the lives of others are roaming free but those booked for petty offenses are still lodged in jails.

President Murmu said, “Increasing the number of jails does not qualify as development. We should introspect, instead, on why there should be jails in the first place.”

She said the courts are for the people and by the people and, hence, must think about the people.

Getting emotional as she spoke about her childhood days in her native village, President Murmu said villagers hold three professions — teaching, medicine, and law — in high regard. She said doctors and lawyers take professional vows to help people in need.

She said as Jharkhand governor, she had the opportunity to work for people languishing in jails for petty offenses.

She also acknowledged the contributions of the former chief justice of Jharkhand High Court DN Patel and the chief of Jharkhand State Legal Services Authority Pradip Kumar Mohanty, in this regard. (ANI)

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India Economy In 2022 Modi

For Timely Justice, Our Judiciary Is Taking A Lot Of Steps: Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that for timely justice, the Indian judiciary is taking a lot of steps such as e-initiatives launched today to ensure ease of justice for all.

During the Constitution Day celebrations program in the Supreme Court, the Prime Minister also launched various new initiatives under the e-court project. The project is an effort to provide services to litigants, lawyers, and the judiciary through the ICT enablement of courts.
The initiatives launched by the Prime Minister include Virtual Justice Clock, Justis mobile App 2.0, Digital court, and S3WaaS Websites.

The day has been celebrated as Constitution Day since 2015, to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly in 1949.

“Our country as the “mother of democracy”, is strengthening our constitutional beliefs. With the strength of Pro-People Policies, we are empowering the poor, marginalized, and women with simplified laws. The eyes of the entire world are on India. Rapid development, rapid economic growth… the world is applauding India,” said PM Modi while addressing the event.

The Prime Minister further said that our biggest strength is our Constitution. “We the people” in our constitution aren’t just three words but is a belief.”

“For timely justice, our judiciary is taking a lot of steps… including the e-initiatives that were launched today, ensuring ease of justice for all,” PM Modi.

He said that everyone should enhance India’s prestige before the world and bring its contribution before them.

“New opportunities are coming up before India. Crossing all hurdles, it’s going ahead. A week from now, India will get the G20 presidency. It’s big! As Team India, all of us should enhance India’s prestige before the world and bring its contribution before them. It’s our collective duty,” he said.

The Prime Minister said, “I congratulate all of you for the e-initiatives and ensuring access to justice. Mahatma Gandhi used to say that our rights are our duties. In this “Amrit Kaal”, the countrymen have to fulfill their duties.”

He said that the spirit of India’s Constitution is youth-centric and the development of the country is on the shoulders of the youth.

“Our constitution is open, futuristic, and known for its progressive views. The spirit of our constitution is youth-centric. The development of our country is on the shoulders of the youth. From sports to startups, from information technology to digital payments, Yuvashakti is contributing to India’s progress,” said PM Modi.

The Prime Minister also urged youths to take part in debates and discussions on Constitution to understand the constitution better.

“To make the youth understand the constitution better, I urge them to participate more in discussions and debates regarding the constitution. The youth must know of the constituent assembly debates. It will strengthen India,” he added.

He said that the constituent assembly included 15 women.

“From Durgabai Deshmukh to Hansa Mehta to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, all were instrumental in empowering the women of India,” he said.

PM Modi said that the vision for Amrit Kaal is a judicial system in which it is easy and speedy justice for all. (ANI)

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Split Verdict In Hijab Case

Split Verdict In Hijab Case, Matter To Be Placed Before CJI

The Supreme Court on Thursday pronounced a split verdict in the Karnataka Hijab ban case.

A bench of justices Hemant Gupta and Sudhanshu Dhulia pronounced the judgement today.
Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed the petitions against the hijab ban, while Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia allowed them.

One of the lawyers representing the petitioner said that the matter would be placed before the Chief Justice of India and he would decide whether a new bench would hear the matter or the matter gets referred to a larger bench.

Justice Hemant Gupta dismissed appeals challenging the Karnataka High Court’s order which had upheld the state government’s order to ban wearing hijabs in educational institutions of the state

Justice Gupta said, “There is a divergence of opinion. In my order, I have framed 11 questions. First is whether the appeal should be referred to the Constitution Bench.”

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia allowed the appeals and set aside the Karnataka High Court order.

“It’s a matter of choice, nothing more nothing less,” Justice Dhulia said while pronouncing the order.

The apex court had earlier reserved its order on various petitions challenging Karnataka High Court upholding the ban on hijab in educational institutes.

The arguments in the matter went on for 10 days in which 21 lawyers from the petitioners’ side and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, Additional Solicitor General KM Nataraj, Karnataka Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi argued for the respondents.

The court was hearing various pleas against Karnataka HC’s judgement upholding the Karnataka Government’s decision to direct educational institutes to prescribe uniforms in educational institutes.

Addressing the court, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, in his rejoinder submission had said that the Karnataka Government Circular which enforced the dress code has no reference to the Popular Front of India (PFI).

Various petitioners have approached the apex court challenging the Karnataka HC order upholding the Karnataka government’s order which directs strict enforcement of schools and colleges’ uniform rules.

One of the appeals in the top court has alleged “step-motherly behaviour of government authorities which has prevented students from practising their faith and resulted in an unwanted law and order situation”.

The appeal said the High Court in its impugned order “had vehemently failed to apply its mind and was unable to understand the gravity of the situation as well as the core aspect of the Essential Religious Practices enshrined under Article 25 of the Constitution of India”.

A bench of Karnataka High Court comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi, Justice Krishna S Dixit, and Justice JM Khazi had earlier held that the prescription of uniform is a reasonable restriction that students could not object to and dismissed various petitions challenging a ban on hijab in education institutions saying they are without merit.

The hijab row erupted in January this year when the Government PU College in Udupi allegedly barred six girls wearing the hijab from entering. Following this, the girls sat in protest outside the college over being denied entry.

After this, boys from several colleges in Udupi started attending classes wearing saffron scarves. This protest spread to other parts of the state as well leading to protests and agitations in several places in Karnataka.

As a result, the Karnataka government said that all students must adhere to the uniform and banned both hijab and saffron scarves till an expert committee decided on the issue.

On February 5, the pre-University education board released a circular stating that the students could only wear the uniform approved by the school administration and that no other religious attire would be allowed in colleges. (ANI)

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Has the Indian Supreme Court Blurred Separation Of Powers?

The doctrine of the separation of powers requires that the three principal organs of State – that is the executive, the legislature and the judiciary – should be clearly divided in order to safeguard citizens’ liberties and to guard against governmental tyranny.

One of the earliest and clearest statements of the separation of powers was given by the infamous social commentator and political thinker Montesquieu at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1748:
‘When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty… there is no liberty if the powers of the judging is not separated from the legislative and executive… there would be an end to everything, if the same man or the same body… were to exercise those three powers.’

Therefore, according to the strict interpretation of the separation of powers, none of the three branches may exercise or interfere with the power of the other, nor should any person be a member of any two of the branches. For instance, only by creating three separate institutions is it possible to have a robust system of democratic checks and balances between them.

The Constitution of India does not expressly provide for the separation of powers. Unlike the Constitutions of the US and Australia. However, it still recognises and incorporates the doctrine of the separation of powers between the three principal organs of State. Therefore, whilst no formal or codified lines have been drawn between them, it is widely recognised and accepted that the doctrine of the separation of powers ‘runs through’ the Constitution of India.

Furthermore, there is often an overlap in the scope of the functions of the three branches. Primarily, owing to the parliamentary form of colonial Government in India. In other words, the dividing line between the executive and the legislature is naturally rather a fine one. Nevertheless, under India’s Constitution, the executive can legislate using:

The ordinance making powers of the President and the governors; and delegate executive legislation.

The legislature also exercises some form of control over the judiciary in that it can legislate on the Constitution itself, the jurisdiction and powers of the criminal and civil courts and it can also impeach judges when they are found to be acting or to have acted ultra vires (outside of their jurisdiction).

The judiciary has wide powers to review and strike down unconstitutional executive and legislative decisions and actions. However, the legislature can make such rulings ineffective by amending the law while staying within the constitutional limits. This concept is known as ‘legislative overruling’ and is a prime example of the inherent checks and balances under the Constitution which further strengthen the separation of powers in India.

Moreover and despite the fact that the three branches interconnect and have functional overlaps, the Indian judiciary has recognised the doctrine of the separation of powers as a fundamental feature of the Indian Constitution and an essential principle underpinning the rule of law.

During the course of a recent hearing relating to the Three Farm Laws, the Indian Supreme Court reportedly observed that it has the jurisdiction to stay the implementation of parliamentary legislation and did in fact go on to direct an interim order to that effect. In other words, a judicial order that prevents the executive or the legislature from implementing the Three Farm Laws into India’s domestic legislation.

However, this decision was taken despite the Supreme Courts own reasoning or judicial guidance laid down in the landmark case of Divisional Manager Aravali Golf Course v Chander Haas 2007. In which it was stated:
‘Before parting with this case we would like to make some observations about the limits of the powers of the judiciary. We are compelled to make these observations because we are repeatedly coming across cases where Judges are unjustifiably trying to perform executive or legislative functions. In our opinion this is clearly unconstitutional. In the name of judicial activism Judges cannot cross their limits and try to take over functions which belong to another organ of the State.

Therefore, the Supreme Court has specifically stated that judges must exercise judicial restraint and must not encroach on the jurisdictional capabilities or legislative actions of the legislature or the executive. In other words, the Supreme Court has previously declared that there is a broad separation of powers in India’s Constitution and that each primary organ of the State must remain within its limits and not intrude on the domain or jurisdiction of another.

Therefore, it follows that when the Indian Parliament enacted the Three Farm Laws in September 2020 Parliament was and remains the only organ of State who could repeal the laws or suspend their operation by enacting alternative legislative provisions. However and as previously mentioned, the Supreme Court can declare parliamentary legislation ultra vires if it finds it to be unconstitutional, but it has no jurisdiction to temporarily stay its enforcement without recording a judicial finding that it is on prima facie examination (at first glance) unconstitutional . Therefore, as no such finding has been made in the case in hand, this action cannot be said to amount to anything less than either a monumental demonstration of support on behalf of the judiciary for the plight of India’s small farmers, or a wholly unconstitutional and undemocratic judicial act which in turn should be immediately redressed.

Nevertheless, another fault line that could emerge from the Supreme Court’s intervention stems from the appointment of a four member committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge ‘for the purpose of listening to the grievances of the farmers and the views of the government and to make recommendations’. However, the Supreme Court has previously set up similar committees, delegating some of its powers to committee members to implement or oversee specific laws or an order of the court. For instance, in 2017 the Supreme Court directed the establishment of family welfare committees whose mandate would be to assess complaints of domestic violence before they were investigated by the police. However, this decision attracted widespread criticism and was eventually rolled back. Nevertheless, a committee working to alleviate the pressures and restraints on India’s police force is one thing but a committee recommending whether three pieces of primary legislation must be stayed or repealed is another thing entirely and caution must be paid to the unconstitutionality of it all.

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For instance, whilst the Supreme Court’s decision clearly reflects the legitimacy of the ongoing farmer protests – the Supreme Court would not have issued an interim order if it considered the farmers legal case against the Government to be wholly without merit. If appropriate caution is not exercised by the Supreme Court Judges this judicial decision could have far reaching negative implications for India’s future democratic governance and the rule of law. In other words, public confidence in the judiciary and in the Government is inevitably going to be affected as India’s population begins to lose faith in the sanctity of Parliaments legislative authority.

Perhaps the Supreme Courts objective was to break the ongoing deadlock between the farmers and the Government. For instance, do not forget that prior to the week commencing the 01 December 2020 PM Narendra Modi and his majority government had failed or refused to consult or to negotiate with the farmers and the farmer leaders – a decision which in itself amounts to a clear violation of Articles 2, 10, 11 and 15 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas 73/165 (UNDROP) (of which India is signatory) and various other primary instruments of international law. For more information on this point please see Sikh Human Rights Group working paper entitled Applicable International Treaties, Conventions and Regulations Re: India’s Agricultural Crisis.

Nevertheless, Sikh Human Rights Group respectfully submits that the Supreme Court judges must quickly come to the realisation that the judiciary cannot single headedly resolve the issues surrounding the Three Farm Law and must concurrently declare the Three Farm Laws unconstitutional whilst refraining from trespassing on the inherent jurisdiction of the legislature and the executive. 

For instance, according the Articles 253 and 254 of the Constitution, the power to ratify international Treaties and Conventions is vested with the Government (executive) and there is no need to place the Treaty or Convention before Parliament (legislature) even if the Treaty or Convention has monetary obligations. Therefore, international intergovernmental agreements to uphold the provisions of specific international Treaties and Conventions, such as the UNDROP, are actionable or the provisions are actionable in India’s domestic courts without express Parliamentary legislation to that effect.

Therefore, as Article 9(3) of the UNDROP provides that:
‘States shall take appropriate measures to encourage the establishment of organizations of peasants and other people working in rural areas, including unions, cooperatives or other organizations, particularly with a view to eliminating obstacles to their establishment, growth and pursuit of lawful activities, including any legislative or administrative discrimination against such organizations and their members, and provide them with support to strengthen their position when negotiating contractual arrangements in order to ensure that conditions and prices are fair and stable and do not violate their rights to dignity and to a decent life’.

In SHRG opinion this provision clearly provides the Supreme Court with legitimate grounds to declare the Three Farm Laws ‘unconstitutional’ as Article 21 of the Constitution specifically states that ‘no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty’.Which in turn has previously been held by the Supreme Court to encompass a constitutional right to earn a livelihood or a decent standard of living. For example, in the case of Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipal Corporation (1986) it was stated by the presiding Supreme Court judges that:
‘The question which we have to consider is whether the [constitutional] right to life includes the right to livelihood. We see only one answer to that question, namely, that it does. The sweep of the right to life conferred by Article 21 [of the Constitution] is wide and far-reaching. It does not mean, merely that life cannot be extinguished or taken away as, for example, by the imposition and execution of the death sentence… That is but one aspect of the right to life an equally important facet of that right is the right to livelihood because, no person can live without the means of living, that is, the means of livelihood’.

By Mr Carlos Arbuthnott

(The writer is a Master of Laws in international human rights and Human Rights Officer with the Sikh Human Rights Group. Views expressed are personal)

‘Traffic At Shaheen Bagh A Mess But A Small Price For…’

Mohammad Atif, a 24-year-old M Tech student who stays in Shaheen Bagh, says the cause to save our Constitution is bigger than the minor inconvenience for the local commuters in the locality

I belong to Lucknow but have been staying in south Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh area for several months at my cousin’s house. I came here to complete my M. Tech dissertation which coincided with the eruption of Jamia protests and the aftermath. And what a time it has been to be in Shaheen Bagh!

I had to visit my institute in South Delhi daily when the protests were in full swing. I did have to take a longer route to reach because of the arterial 2.5 km stretch at Shaheen Bagh being closed. The protest site isn’t disturbing people as much as the excessive blockades /barriers put in place by the administration even when some feel they are not needed.

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Even newspapers/websites are now reporting that a few of the alternative routes didn’t even need to be blocked and is causing problems to people unnecessarily, especially those travelling to and from Noida, Sarita Vihar, Kalindi Kunj, Jamia, and an alternative route to Faridabad.

Indeed travelling into and out of Shaheen Bagh is even more cumbersome for a daily commuter. For me too, with petrol prices remaining consistently high, travelling the extra stretch to reach my institute on a bike has increased the budget for sure, though not considerably.

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Many people who earlier used to get picked up and dropped at their respective houses for their offices in Noida now have to take the Metro as the cabs can’t enter inside Shaheen Bagh. This might be a difficult thing, especially for women who get dropped during the night. Moreover, travelling in the Metro also cause a dent in many people’s pockets. Middle class might not feel the pinch as much, but the lower income group for whom every penny is important, is finding it more difficult.

However, most locals are considering it as their contribution to nation-building and don’t mind suffering a little bit if the protest makes their voices reach the powers that be. Ambulances and school buses are moving easily though.

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The protest site is near the commercial hub of Shaheen Bagh, so many a shop, outlet etc. have been closed for two months now. It is affecting the livelihoods of people, but again they feel that they are contributing in saving the Constitution and all that it stands for. We just hope that a solution is reached soon and the government initiates a dialogue with the protesters.

There are a few residences near the protest site and I wonder how they are handling all the sounds from loudspeakers day in and day out, though I have been told and have witnessed too ke protest bahut tameez se ki ja rahi hai. Poora khayal rakha ja raha hai ke kisi ko koi pareshani na ho (The protests are being done in a very nice manner and care is being taken that nobody suffers because of the protests).