11 March 2023 1:59 PM GMT
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave speaking on the 'Basic Structure Of the Indian Constitution & its Present Day Challenges' in a lecture organised by the Ernakulam Govt Law College Old Students and Teachers Association at Kochi on Saturday raised concerns about the how democracy was being eroded day by day in India, and constitutional institutions were under attack. “The reason why the...
Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave speaking on the 'Basic Structure Of the Indian Constitution & its Present Day Challenges' in a lecture organised by the Ernakulam Govt Law College Old Students and Teachers Association at Kochi on Saturday raised concerns about the how democracy was being eroded day by day in India, and constitutional institutions were under attack.
“The reason why the basic structure theory is so relevant today is that the body polity has gone down the gutters. All political parties across the board have no respect for the constitution and constitutional morality. They have collectively tried to weaken every constitutional institution.”, the former Supreme Court Bar Association President said.
Dave stressed on the need to protect the basic structure of constitution as present day political parties prioritise wielding power and not the welfare of its own citizens. Speaking on the present day challenges to the basic structure Dave said:
“The political class is thrusting upon us on a day to day basis challenges to the basic structure. Anybody the government doesn’t like is visited with challenges. In today’s times, things are going from worse to worse. We are not governed in the right sense today. Governance is at its lowest ebb in this country. Rule of law has become merely on paper”
Dave pointed out that the multiparty system is a basic structure feature of the constitution as held in Kuldeep Nayar case. In this context, he referred to a statement reportedly said on behalf of the ruling party that they want a “Congress mukt Bharat”. “What they want is an opposition mukt bharat”, Dave said. He pointed out that in the Constituent Assembly Debate, one member had commented that if the ruling party is not allowing the opposition to function, then it will amount to sedition.
Dave said that the opposition parties are sought to be destroyed using central agencies.
“Multiparty system is a basic feature of our Constitution. You cannot destroyed that by using agencies like CBI, ED, income tax and other agencies”.
Dave expressed his disappointment in the state of democracy in India today. “We have a democracy in form but not in substance”, he said. He brought attention to the targeted attacks on critics of the government, on minorities and even stand up comics.
“Today’s political parties do not put India beyond their political ideologies. They are only about the party’s principles, however opposed to the constitution it may be. However against the interest of the citizens it may be. The farm laws were passed without a debate and they were repealed without debate. Look at the irony. There is hardly any debate on the laws passed in the last 8 years. Is this conceivable? It's shocking. But that is precisely what is happening today.” Dave said at the event.
Dave said that Ambedkar and other members of the constituent assembly perhaps may not even have imagined that in the future,people elected to the Parliament would try to take away the fundamental rights of its citizens. However, Ambedkar had warned of concentration of power in the hands of a few and the need to protect the constitution against such abuse of power. Dave quoted Ambedkar in this regard who had said,
‘If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form but in fact, what must we do? The first thing is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. We must abandon the bloody methods of revolution and to observe the caution of John Stuart Mill which is given to all interested in maintenance of democracy, namely, not to lay their liberties at the feet of any great man or give him powers which enable him to subvert the constitution.”
Lamenting on the current political scenario in India, Dave said, "Ambedkar said Bhakti is very prevalent in politics in India. Bhakti in politics is a sure path to dictatorship he had said. That is exactly what is happening today in India. We see all what the bhakts around us are doing, the kind of worshipping that they do is mind blowing.”
Elaborating on how today’s India faces several challenges to the basic structure theory, Dave pointed out,
“Where is fraternity in India today? Is there any fraternity among upper castes and lower castes? Is there fraternity among religions? The kind of society you have in Kerala , every Indian must be proud. But Gujarat where I come from is completely polarised now.”
He also remarked on the how the ones in power at the Centre were destroying Federalism today by dismantling State Governments. “Eight state governments have been dismissed by luring away MLAs. The Supreme Court says the floor test needs to be applied. The MLAs are taken in chartered planes and kept in 7-star hotels. At the day of the floor test, who are they going to vote for? They are going to vote against the party on whose ticket they were elected. Is this the floor test that we really wanted, Is this rule of law?”.
Dave elaborated on the history of the basic structure doctrine, from the constituent assembly debates, to the Golaknath decision, to the time of the emergency under Indira Gandhi, to the Keshavananda Bharti Judgment, to the present day Modi government. He spoke on how Dr. Ambedkar and his colleagues were clear in their minds that the Parliament should have powers to amend the Constitution, however they had warned that if there was no limitation to parliamentary powers there would be tyranny and oppression.
Dave warned that the state of today’s political parties make it very clear why parliament cannot be given unbridled power. “Constitutional principles must remain intact, you cannot allow political parties simply because they are in majority, to do what they want to do. That is why the Supreme Court has evolved the brilliant concept of basic structure. It is a path breaking innovation”
Dave said that as Political parties across the board live for their own existence and not for the welfare of the people, it is the responsibility of lawyers and law students, to take the constitution to the people. Citizens of the country are not aware of their fundamental rights and that is reason why the government and the police act with impunity, Dave stated.
Dave in his concluding remarks said that “The basic structure theory has served us well and it is here to stay for a long long time. We as people must make sure that this is known to the people. How it is protecting us today, how our liberty is safe in the hands of this law. How it looking after our welfare.”
The function was inaugurated by Sri. P Rajeev, Law Minister of Kerala and was presided by Justice Jayashankar Nambiar, Judge, Kerala High Court. The event was held at Angan Auditorium, Bharat Hotel, Ernakulam.
Live updates of the event can be accessed here.
Click here to watch the streaming of the event.