THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 06 JUNE 2019 (Constitution contains a kindred concept of justice, asks a citizen to be responsive to sufferings of co-citizens (India Express))

Constitution contains a kindred concept of justice, asks a citizen to be responsive to sufferings of co-citizens (India Express)

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Citizenship
Mains level: Highlights the two aspects of citizenship

Context

  • The triumphal moment of Modi 2.0 has led to sincere felicitations by all citizens, but the insidious phrase “left liberals” has resurfaced and pleas have been already aired for a “re-invention of liberalism”.
  • What matters for political and civic discourse is not name-calling but rather the tolerance of the intolerable disrespect for dissent, encouragement for practices of ethnic violence, caste or community-based lynching, and production of social indifference towards states of injustice and human rightlessness.
  • It does not matter for those murdered, and the survivors, whether all this is produced or reproduced by left, right, or centre; all that they insist on is strict scrutiny now and prevention of re-occurrence, regardless of the political labels we choose to affix on the opponents.
  • All political cadres and leaders must encourage and practice the vital difference on which a democratic order is premised the difference between the “adversary” and “enemy”.

The two aspects of citizenship

  • A citizen is a being that knows how to rule and how to be ruled. A democracy views political belonging in terms of a congregation of co-citizens.
  • That is the very meaning of what the constitutional Preamble means when it refers to the value of “fraternity”.
  • Fellow-feeling means that everyone must learn to be a co-citizen first, and then a ruler or a ruled.
  • It is certainly not being anti-national to take the Constitution seriously as providing the means and ends of good constitutional governance and conscientious resistance (peaceful dissent).
  • If so, one must follow the conception of being a constitutionally sincere co-citizen — a conception outlined by the Indian Constitution itself in the Preamble, Part III (fundamental human rights), IV (the directive principles of state policy), IV-A (fundamental duties of co-citizens), and the oath of office that certain political co-citizens and justices take under the Third Schedule.
  • How far the citizen rulers and the ruled have followed this credo requires deep study.
  • But to call anyone attempting to examine this as “left-liberal”, “alt-right”, or by any other name, is in itself constitutionally unjustified.

Post liberal approach

  • The Constitution we have adopted is not “liberal” but “post-liberal”.
  • No constitution in the world contains basic rights that avail not against the state but to civil society.
  • The rights against untouchability (Article 17) and against “exploitation” (Articles 23 and 24) are collective rights of discriminated peoples.
  • They are declared constitutional offences, and the whole scheme of Indian federalism is set aside by casting a legislative duty on Parliament.
  • All Article 19 civil and political rights are declared subject to “reasonable restrictions” imposed by the legislature.
  • Article 21-guaranteed rights of life and liberty are immediately followed by Article 22, authorising preventive detention.
  • As Justice M Hidayatullah wryly remarked about the Ninth Schedule, “ours is the only Constitution that needs protection against itself” (though now the Supreme Court may co-determine what new legislations curtailing rights can still be placed in that Schedule).
  • The power to impose President’s Rule on states may be exercised by the Union but is subject to the process of judicial review.
  • A large number of draconian security legislation have been upheld by the Supreme Court, including some colonial laws violating fundamental human rights.
  • The respect for international law required by Article 51 does not result in enacting even an enabling legislation on custodial torture, let alone a fully-fledged adherence to the nearly universal convention against torture and inhuman, cruel or degrading punishment or treatment.
  • The judicially developed law against sexual harassment at the workplace continues to be stymied at almost all sites.

Conclusion

  • The Constitution contains a kindred concept of justice.
  • Read as a whole, it says in one sentence that only that development is just which disproportionately benefits the worst-off, or the constitutional have-nots.
  • This articulation does not surprise the non-millennials who still recall the favourite song of Mohandas Gandhi (written by Narsinh Mehta): Vaishnava jan to tene re kahiye, jo peed parai janne re (a Vaishnava is one who knows the pain and suffering of others).
  • To be a good citizen is neither to be a liberal, Marxist or a Hindutva person, but to be and to remain responsive to the sufferings of co-citizens and persons.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to Mughal period 'muqaddams' were:
(a) Judicial officer at province
(b) Head of artisan community
(c) Worker in Mughal karkhanas
(d) Village level officer

Answer: D
Mains Questions:

Q.1) It is unnecessary to cite many more features but perhaps it is sufficient to say that ours is not entirely a “liberal” constitutionalism and one needs to appreciate the context of the poignant realities of Indian Partition in which this miraculous document was conceived by far-sighted composite figures. Comment.


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