New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government and the Election Commission why a petition seeking deletion of the word “socialist” from the Constitution should not be allowed. The court issued notices in relation to the petition’s challenge to the 1989 amendment to the Representation of People’s Act, 1951. The amendment requires political parties to swear allegiance to socialism during registration.
The petition also sought to challenge the Constitution (42nd) Amendment Act, 1976, that led to the insertion of the word “socialist” in the preamble of the Constitution.
The not-for-profit Good Governance India Foundation had asked the court to strike down both amendments because, it claimed, they violated the right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, and the right to form associations and unions.
Alternatively, the foundation had sought derecognition of all political parties that have sworn allegiance to socialism even while their political ideology opposed it.
A three-judge bench, comprising Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, justice R.V. Raveendran and justice J.M. Panchal, while admitting the matter, argued that socialism is a facet of democracy.
Representing the foundation, Fali Nariman noted that a related case, filed by the Swatantra Party (formed in 1959 to oppose Nehruvian socialism) was pending before the Bombay high court.
“Why can’t we have a political party that is capitalist in intent?” Nariman asked, while questioning the “hypocritical” pledge of allegiance to socialism made by political parties seeking registration.
The court’s decision to proceed with the case wasn’t appreciated by some politicians. The Communist Party of India’s Gurudas Dasgupta said: “The judiciary has no role in this. The amendment was carried out by Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. The judiciary has no right to interfere with the sovereign right of Parliament to make laws and amend the Constitution. Such a petition should not have been accepted. This is just another case of judicial overactivism designed to pollute the nation’s polity.”
No date was given for the next hearing of the case.
(Ashish Sharma contributed to this story.)