Justice Markandey Katju –
26th January is being celebrated as Republic Day in India, but I have renamed it as ‘ Cheer Haran ‘ Day. The truth is that the Constitution promulgated in 1950 has been flagrantly flouted and torn to shreds and has been rendered a scarecrow, hollow and empty, and now only acting as an instrument to deceive the people. Consider the facts:
(1) The Constitution ‘guaranteed’ equality among the people vide Articles 14 to 18 which were proclaimed as fundamental rights. Also, Article 38(2) stated: ” The State shall strive to minimize inequalities in income “. Article 39(c) stated that the State shall direct its policy to ensure that there is no concentration of wealth.
But what is the reality today? It is reported that 7 Indians own wealth equal to the wealth of the bottom 50% of the 132 crore Indian people who are abysmally poor.
So much for equality
(2) Article 21 ‘guaranteed’ liberty. But sedition and preventive detention laws make a mockery of it, as exemplified by the recent concocted and fabricated cases of the Bhima Koregaon accused, the journalist Kishorechandra Wangkhem, etc. Even a satirical tweet can result in deprivation of liberty, as illustrated by the case of Abhijit Iyer Mitra, and the much flaunted ‘custodians of the rights of the people’ rejected his bail plea with the flippant remark ” You are safest in jail “.
Although in Romesh Thapar vs State of Madras ( see online ), a judgment given by the Supreme Court a few months after the promulgation of the Constitution in 1950, it was held that in a democracy people had the right to criticize the government, it is often dangerous to do so. In West Bengal, the Jadavpur University Professor Ambikesh Mahapatra was arrested for circulating cartoons of CM Mamata Banerjee, and a farmer Silanath Choudhary was arrested for telling the CM in a public rally that she had not kept her election promises. In Tamil Nadu, the folk singer Kovan was arrested for singing a song criticizing the then CM Jayalalitha for profiting from state-run liquor shops. In Maharashtra, the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested on sedition charges for making a cartoon depicting politicians as corrupt.
So much for liberty.
(3) Article 25 ‘guarantees’ freedom of religion. But that did not prevent the lynching of Muslims by gau rakshaks, prosecution of Muslims on false charges, vandalization of Churches in Delhi or persecution of Christians in Orissa.
So much for our secularism
(4) Article 39(f) directs the state to ensure that children develop in a healthy manner, and Article 47 directs it to raise the level of nutrition. And yet over 70 years after Independence, 47% of Indian children are malnourished. We have the distinction of having over one-third of the world’s malnourished children (see data given by the Global Hunger Index). In this respect, we are worse than sub-Saharan countries like Somalia.
(5) Article 39A states that the State shall ensure that the legal system promotes justice. But with 33 million pending cases and cases often taking decades to decide, where is justice?
(6) Article 41 states ” The State shall make effective provision for securing the right to work and education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age and sickness ”
But our State is in the hands of our crooked netas who are only interested in power and pelf, and care two hoots for this provision (probably very few would even know of its existence).
Prime Minister Modi, in his 2014 election campaign, promised to create 2 crore jobs annually if BJP came to power. But it is estimated demonetization alone destroyed 2 crore jobs, and unemployment is mounting to record heights in India.
As for good education, it is available only to a few in India, and most schools are in an abysmal condition.
The same can be said of the state of public health in India, despite Article 47. For the rich and mighty there is state of the art hospitals, but for the masses there is little.
(7) Article 43 states that the State shall endeavor to secure a living wage to workers, industrial or agricultural. But with the massive level of unemployment in India, and the contract system largely replacing security in employment, a worker dares not ask a wage higher than whatever pittance he gets lest he loses his job. And as for farmers, this provision is a cruel joke on the over 300,000 farmers who committed suicide in India.
(8) Article 48A directs the State to protect and improve the environment, but the pollution levels in most Indian cities (even the capital Delhi) has reached record heights, and our rivers are badly polluted.
So what is there to celebrate about? Cheer Haran has been done to our Constitution. Is there no Lord Krishna to save the country’s honor?
[Justice Markandey Katju is former Judge, Supreme Court of India and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own]