Constitution contains a kindred concept
of justice, asks a citizen to be responsive to sufferings of co-citizens (India
Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Citizenship
Mains level: Highlights the two aspects of citizenship
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.