New Delhi: Former Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra on Friday underlined the primacy of constitutional morality in India, saying it must permeate not only justice but all walks of life.

“Constitutional sovereignty matters. That is primary. Everybody, including the parliamentarians and citizens, must adhere to and follow the conceptual essence of constitutional morality and that is why we are here," Misra said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

Misra traced the history of the notion of constitutional morality that has made its way into recent landmark judgements of the Supreme Court.

The former chief justice defined it as adherence to the core principles and subtext of the Constitution and also referred to the term as understood by historians, academicians, scholars at different points in time.

Misra referred to English historian George Grote’s explanation—paramount reverence for the forms of the Constitution, enforcing obedience to authority and acting under and within these forms, yet combined with the habit of open speech.

Misra also cited B.R. Ambedkar, who, he said, insisted on commitment by citizens to constitutional morality. In Ambedkar’s view, he said, nobody should treat the Constitution as alien—or that he does not belong to the Constitution. Over time, when Ambedkar spoke about constitutional morality, he hoped that one day he would see the concept encompass every field and all rights guaranteed by the Constitution, he said.

Misra, who retired on 2 October, has been credited with reinforcing the liberal and progressive character of the country’s highest court of law through his judgements. In the last two weeks of his tenure, he ruled on key constitutional issues such as the challenge to Aadhaar, Section 377 (criminalization of homosexuality), the adultery law, and the entry of women into Sabarimala temple.

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