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Understanding Constitutional Morality in India

Relevance : GS Paper 2, Indian Polity

Introduction

  • Constitutional morality is a concept that refers to the values and principles that form the basis of a constitutional system.
  • In India, the concept of constitutional morality has been central to the functioning of the country’s democratic system.

Background

  • The idea of constitutional morality was first introduced by B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution.
  • He believed that a constitutional system must be based on certain moral principles, such as justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.
  • These principles must be upheld and protected by the state, and any deviation from them must be considered unconstitutional.

Constitutional Morality and the Indian Judiciary

  • The Indian judiciary has played a key role in interpreting and upholding constitutional morality in the country.
  • The Supreme Court has used the concept of constitutional morality in several landmark cases to strike down laws and policies that violate the principles of the Constitution.
  • Some examples of such cases are:
  • In the case of Naz Foundation v. Govt. of NCT of Delhi (2009), the court used the concept of constitutional morality to strike down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalized homosexuality.
  • In the case of K. S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017), the court relied on the concept of constitutional morality to uphold the right to privacy as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution.
  • In the case of Indira Sawhney v. Union of India (1992), the court used the concept of constitutional morality to strike down the provisions of the OBC reservation that violated the principle of equality.

Constitutional Morality and the Indian Parliament

  • The Indian parliament also has a responsibility to uphold constitutional morality in the country.
  • The parliament has the power to pass laws and make amendments to the Constitution, and it must ensure that these laws and amendments are in line with the principles of constitutional morality.
  • However, in some cases, the parliament has passed laws that are seen as violative of constitutional morality.
  • For example, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, which was passed by the Indian parliament, has been criticized by some as violative of the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

Argument against the use of Constitutional Morality by the Indian Judiciary

  • Some argue that the Indian judiciary’s use of the concept of constitutional morality can be dangerous.
  • They argue that the judiciary is not democratically elected, and therefore, it should not have the power to impose its own moral values on the country.
  • They also argue that the use of constitutional morality can lead to the judiciary overstepping its bounds and encroaching on the powers of the executive and the legislature.

Argument in favor of the use of Constitutional Morality by the Indian Judiciary

  • Others argue that the use of constitutional morality by the Indian judiciary is necessary to protect the rights of citizens and uphold the principles of the Constitution.
  • They argue that the judiciary serves as a check on the actions of the executive and the legislature, and it is necessary for it to use the concept of constitutional morality to strike down laws and policies that violate the principles of the Constitution.
  • They also argue that the judiciary is not just interpreting the Constitution but also interpreting the society and its values.

Conclusion

  • Constitutional morality is a crucial concept in the functioning of India’s democratic system.
  • It is the responsibility of the judiciary and the parliament to uphold and protect the principles of constitutional morality, and ensure that laws and policies are in line with these principles. The judiciary has an important role in interpreting the Constitution and striking down laws that violate these principles while the parliament has the responsibility to ensure that laws and policies are in line with constitutional morality.

February 2023
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