No govt can change ‘secular’ from Constitution: Justice Kurian Joseph     

‘Secular’ is in the basic structure of the Constitution and the Preamble. A 13-judge bench had said secularism is a basic structure, it is difficult to change it, highlighted Justice Kurian Joseph

Photo Courtesy: PTI
Photo Courtesy: PTI

Ashlin Mathew

The word ‘Secular’ is in the basic structure of the Constitution as it is in the Preamble. The basic structure of the Constitution cannot be amended. A 13-judge bench had said secularism is a basic structure, so it is difficult to change it, highlighted Justice Kurian Joseph.

“Secularism amendment came after the Emergency and you will not find the it anywhere else in the Constitution but in the Preamble. It cannot be done in the way Article 370 was amended. We need a 15-judge bench to amend Constitution,” said Justice Joseph during a panel discussion on ‘Constitution and Minority Rights in India’ organised by the All India Catholic Union at the Capital on Friday, August 23. Prof Achin Vanaik, social activist John Dayal, lawyer PI Jose, Tehmina Arora of Alliance Defending Freedom and Sister Therese Paul were speaking on the rights too.

“India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. All these are the fundamental aspects of the country and once the Supreme court has held it to be the basic structure, it cannot be changed. No majority government can change it from the Constitution. That is why the Supreme Court said there are certain things which Parliament can change, but there are certain things which Parliament cannot change. Fortunately, as of now secularism is one of those aspects which cannot be changed,” elaborated Justice Joseph.

However, citing the Nepali Constitution, Prof Achin Vanaik pointed out that the Nepali constitution says that the country is secular, but it has given a special status to Hindus. “So, even if it is going to be difficult to remove the word secular, other changes can be anticipated. A lot depends on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution. With what is happening in the Supreme Court now, don’t underestimate the possibility of various kinds of interpretation,” underscored Vanaik, who added that India is a weak secular state and hence a weak democracy.

“In India secularism is taken to mean ‘Sarva Dharm Sambhavam’ – the idea that all paths lead to the same destination and the equality of all religions. The idea of tolerance is the fountainhead of Indian secularism. ‘Secularism’ doesn’t mean the separation between religion from politics. You cannot have a democratic state which is not secular, but you can have a secular state which is not democratic such as Soviet Union and Kemal Ataturk’s Turkey,” said the former Delhi University professor.

“We have to fight to get much more and show the pro-Hindu biases,” said Vanaik, who questioned the need for the name ‘Bharat’ in the Constitution and explained that it referred to the ‘Bharat varsh’ before the Islamic era.

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