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SC to hear in April Subramanian Swamy's plea seeking deletion of ‘Secular’, ‘Socialist’ from Preamble

The words 'Socialist' and 'Secular' were inserted in the Preamble of the Constitution under the 42nd Constitutional amendment moved by the Indira Gandhi government in 1976 during Emergency.

Ashesh Mallick Edited By: Ashesh Mallick @asheshmallick07 New Delhi Published on: February 09, 2024 17:39 IST
Supreme Court, Preamble of Constitution, Constitution of India, Emergency
Image Source : ANI Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court on Friday (February 9) adjourned the petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking the deletion of words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Preamble of the Constitution and questioned whether the Preamble could be amended while keeping the date of adoption, November 26, 1949, intact. A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta posed the question to Swamy and lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain. "For the academic purpose, can a Preamble that has the date mentioned, be changed without altering the date of adoption. Otherwise, yes the Preamble can be amended. There is no problem with that," Justice Datta said.

What did the SC say?

Justice Datta further said, "this is perhaps the only Preamble I have seen which comes with a date. We give this Constitution to us on so and so date ... originally these two words (Socialist and Secular) were not there."

Jain said that the Preamble of Constitution of India comes with a specific date, therefore it cannot be amended without discussion.

Swamy intervened and said that the 42nd Amendment Act was passed during the Emergency (1975-77).

Justice Khanna, at the outset, told Swamy that the judges had received the case files early in the morning and due to the paucity in time, they had not gone through them.

The bench said that the matter required detailed discussion and posted the hearing on the two petitions to April 29.

What did the plea say?

Swamy in his petition had said that the two words, inserted in the Preamble through the 42nd Constitution Amendment Act of 1976 during the Emergency, violated the basic structure doctrine enunciated in the famous Kesavananda Bharati judgment by the 13-judge bench in 1973, by which Parliament's power to amend the Constitution was barred from tinkering with the basic features of the Constitution.

"The framers of the Constitution had specifically rejected the inclusion of these two words in the Constitution and alleged that these two words were thrust upon the citizens even when the framers never had intended to introduce socialist and secular concepts in democratic governance," Swamy had said.

It was argued that the insertion of the two words was beyond the amending power of the Parliament under Article 368.

It was further said that Dr BR Ambedkar had rejected the inclusion of such words as the Constitution cannot thrust upon the citizens certain political ideologies by taking away their right to choose.

Background of the case

On September 2, 2022, the Supreme Court had tagged Swamy’s plea with another pending matter which was filed by one Balram Singh and others - for hearing.

Both Swamy and Singh sought the removal of words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ from the Preamble.

The words 'Socialist' and 'Secular' were inserted in the Preamble of the Constitution under the 42nd Constitutional amendment moved by the Indira Gandhi government in 1976.

The amendment changed the description of India in the Preamble from a "sovereign, democratic republic" to a "sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic." Mr Swamy, in his petition, has contended that Preamble cannot be altered, varied, or repealed.

(With inputs from agencies)

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