Is Amit Shah above the Constitution? Have oaths of office become meaningless?

A citizen wonders if oaths of office administered to ministers and judges have lost their relevance and meaning. What if the oaths are seen to be violated?

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

Faraz Ahmad

Amit Shah, the Home Minister, fancies himself as a strongman. The Supreme Court of India, similarly, believes it is the last word on ensuring justice to all Indians. But as a layman, I increasingly wonder whether the minister and the judges take their role seriously. Do they recall the oath administered to them when they assumed their respective office? Or have these oaths lost their relevance and meaning?

Let us take the case of Amit Shah first. The Union Home Minister declared in Calcutta on October 1, a day before the world observed the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, that his Government wouldn’t force ‘Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Christians” to leave the country. He conspicuously omitted to mention Muslims, leaving no doubt about what he had in mind.

He also declared that the Government would first bring in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which will allow refugees from neighbouring countries, barring Muslims, to become Indian citizens. For good measure the Home Minister his resolve to ‘ identify and deport’ each and every infiltrator once the National Register of Citizens ( NRC) is unrolled next year.

Is India’s Home Minister being faithful to the oath of office he was administered?

Just to remind him, the oath reads as follows:

“I, Amit Shah, do swear in the name of God that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will faithfully and conscientiously discharge my duties as a Minister for the Union and that I will do right to all manner of people in accordance with the Constitution and the law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will,” as prescribed in Schedule III, Constitution of India.”

Now the Home Minister may not have much knowledge of the Indian Constitution but Article 14 of the Constitution says, “the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection of the laws”.

Article 15 similarly says that the state shall not discriminate against a person on the basis of religion, race, sex, place of birth or any of them.

Is Amit Shah above the Constitution? Can he, as Home Minister, announce any form of discrimination based on grounds of religion? And if he is guilty, as I believe he is, of violating the letter and spirit of the Constitution by making incendiary speeches, inciting and provoking people and of declaring religious discrimination as a state policy, could he have forfeited the right to be a minister?

Yet another question keeps nagging me. In such a situation, shouldn’t the Supreme Court of India take cognizance of such brazen conduct and serve notice to the Home Minister to explain?

The judges of the Supreme Court are also administered an oath. And they swear by the name of God or affirm, while assuming their office that they would:

…bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that they would uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that they would duly and faithfully and to the best of their ability, knowledge and judgment perform the duties of their office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that they would uphold the Constitution and the laws as prescribed…

But the Supreme Court of India appears to have given a long rope to the Government. The highest court of the land, it appears to lay men like me, is less interested in upholding the Constitution and the law and much more interested in buying the Government’s version on national security, internal security threats from so-called ‘urban naxals’ and executive convenience.

Muslims, rightly or wrongly, believe they are being targeted; that Amit Shah’s real aim is to disenfranchise Muslims, force them to live like second class citizens and forgo civil rights, dignity and employment opportunities.

But the Sphinx-like silence of the Supreme Court is demoralizing and affects faith in the rule of law.

So, perhaps it is meaningless to administer oaths to ministers and judges? The solemn oaths may not mean anything to anyone? As a citizen and a layman, I certainly hope I am wrong.

(Disclaimer: This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own.)

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Published: 3 Oct 2019, 3:42 PM