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General Studies 2 >> Polity

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CONSTITUTIONAL MORALITY

CONSTITUTIONAL MORALITY

 
 
1. Context
The recent arrest of a serving Chief Minister put the spotlight on the question of constitutional morality. While arresting a chief minister in office may not be illegal, members of civil society raised concerns over moral behaviour that political institutions should uphold.
 
2. What is Constitutional Morality?
 
  • Constitutional morality involves upholding constitutional principles within a democratic framework.
  • It extends beyond literal interpretations to include a dedication to values like sovereignty, social justice, and equality during constitutional interpretation.
  • The term was initially coined by British historian George Grote in his extensive work, A History of Greece.
  • Grote examined the reforms of the Athenian Constitution by Cleisthenes, a pivotal figure in the establishment of Athenian democracy.
  • Grote underscored the necessity of a constitution that could cultivate civic responsibility among citizens and prevent the abuse of power by oligarchs and despots through coercion.
  • Fundamentally, constitutional morality represents a balance between liberty and restraint. It signifies citizens' adherence to constitutional authorities while retaining the freedom to criticize those in positions of authority
 
3. Different Perspectives
 
  • On November 4, 1948, during his address to the Constituent Assembly on ‘The Draft Constitution’, Dr. BR Ambedkar introduced the term constitutional morality. He advocated for integrating administrative structures into the constitution and cited the classicist Grote in his remarks.
  • Ambedkar was actually more acquainted with a different interpretation of the term from its origins in the 19th century.
  • This interpretation defines constitutional morality as the norms and procedures that guide decision-making in situations where the Constitution is silent or allows discretionary powers.
  • However, contemporary usage of constitutional morality commonly refers to the principles embodied within a constitution itself.
  • According to this perspective, adherence to constitutional morality means adhering to the substantial moral principles inherent in a constitution. For instance, the principle of non-discrimination is often considered a fundamental aspect of modern constitutional morality
 
4. Constitutional Morality in Indian Constitution

Although the term constitutional morality is not explicitly mentioned in the Indian Constitution, its principles are deeply ingrained in various provisions:

  • The Preamble articulates the foundational values of our democracy, such as justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.

  • Fundamental Rights protect individuals from arbitrary state actions, with the Supreme Court empowered to enforce these rights under Article 32.

  • Directive Principles offer directives to the state for achieving the constitutional goals, drawing from Gandhian, socialist, and liberal philosophies.

  • Fundamental Duties outline citizens' responsibilities alongside their rights.

  • Checks and balances, including judicial review and legislative oversight, ensure accountability in governance.

It is noteworthy that the discretionary powers of the state and the principle of non-discrimination are closely linked to the concept of constitutional morality

 

Supreme Court Judgements

  • The 2015 Krishnamoorthy case underscored the Supreme Court's view that adherence to constitutional morality is crucial for effective governance.

  • In the Union of India vs. Government of the NCT of Delhi case, the Court ruled that senior officials must abide by constitutional morality and uphold the principles enshrined in the Constitution to prevent arbitrary exercise of authority.

  • The Court, in the Government of NCT of Delhi case (2018), likened constitutional morality to a "second basic structure doctrine," highlighting its role in restraining arbitrary authority.

  • Similarly, in Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that Section 377 violated the rights of the LGBTQI community and contravened the fundamental principles of individual dignity as guaranteed under Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Constitution.

  • In its ruling on Justice K S Puttaswamy and Anr. vs. Union of India and Ors., the Supreme Court affirmed the constitutional validity of Aadhaar with certain limitations, underscoring the judiciary's role in preventing executive overreach.

  • In the Justice K S Puttaswamy case (2018), the Court reaffirmed its duty to uphold constitutional morality by striking down any law or executive action that goes against the constitution

 
5. Challenges

Neglecting constitutional morality can profoundly impact democratic processes. Recent discussions have raised several pertinent questions:

  • To what extent can individuals be educated to uphold the moral principles outlined in the Constitution and fulfill their duties ethically?

  • Are ruling governments, as accused by opposition parties, using police or investigative agencies to exert pressure?

  • How does unchecked power influence constitutional morality within a parliamentary democracy?

  • In specific cases, such as the entry of menstruating women into the Sabarimala temple, what strategies should be employed to ensure fairness and non-discrimination?

Addressing these fundamental questions is essential for comprehending constitutional morality across different contexts and periods

 

 

 

For Prelims: Constitutional Morality, Preamble, Fundamental Rights, Fundamental Duties

For Mains: Elements of constitutional morality in the Indian constitution

 
Source: Indianexpress
 

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