Constitution Day: Five Reforms We Hope to See
The 26th of November is celebrated every year, since 2015, as the ‘Constitution Day’. On this occasion, here is a short post on 5 changes that, IMHO, would make the Constitution truly secular and republic.
- Equality under Article 30
Expand the scope of Article 30(1) and make it applicable to all, agnostic of religious or linguistic identities. This will be the real reform towards empowering lesser privileged classes, much much more than what the sustained attempts at entitlement have achieved, over the past 70 years.
It will also remove a glaring discrimination that exists in the Constitution today — considering some classes as more capable of running and managing their own institutions than the rest.
2. Repeal Article 15(5)
Private educational institutions cannot be made to pay the price for the failure of the Government, over the past 70 years, to provide good quality education to all sections of society.
The present Government has shown great initiative, and execution ability, to effect meaningful transformation in the lives of the underprivileged in other areas through reforms such as JDY and Ujwala schemes. It, therefore, surely has the means to transform the anamolies in the area of providing compulsory education to under-privileged sections of society, *on its own*. Article 15(5) tramples on the Fundamental Right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(g). Hence it must go.
Private institutions must be encouraged to do more charity in this domain, rather than being coerced into it.
3. Amendment of Article 25(2)
The Constitution does not have special provisions granting the State powers to intervene in economic or political activities of other institutions such as private enterprises, charitable institutions — or even educational institutions.
There is, therefore, no justification for the State to enforce itself through Article 25(2)(a) on religious institutions. This Article has to go.
There are various provisions in the Constitution (under Article 19(2) for e.g.) and enough laws for the State to intervene in cases of mismanagement, corruption, etc.
Article 25(2)(b) puts a responsibility on the State to “reform” Hindu temples and religious institutions. THIS IS AS COMMUNAL A RESPONSIBILITY AS IT CAN GET. Again, there are enough provisions elsewhere in the Constitution (Articles 14 and 15, for e.g.) for the State to intervene to prevent discrimination and other ills. There is no need for the State to keep a special focus on Hindu religious institutions through this Article. It must therefore go.
4. Addition of a new provision under Article 25
The State must recognize, and accept, that Hindu religion, by virtue of being a pagan practice, consists of numerous rituals and customs. Freedom of religion, in the case of Hindu religion therefore, has to translate into freedom for practising its rituals and customs. The measure of which ritual conflicts with the secular requirements of the State cannot be the same for Hinduism as they are for non-pagan religions.
Hence a new sub-Article under Article 25 that grants Hindus the freedom to practice rituals and customs, and takes out all Hindu religious practices out of the purview of judicial review is needed.
Again, just like all other rights, these can, and will, be subject to reasonable restrictions ALREADY covered by other Articles of the Constitution.
5. Re-introduction of NJAC provisions
Checks and balances for all organs of the State are a must. While there are enough such checks for the Legislative and the Executive in the Constitution, the Judiciary is not subject to the same level of sub-servience to the Constitution. The NJAC bill of 2015, which was a step in the right direction, has been held as unconstitutional and struck down by the Supreme Court.
Many subsequent events have highlighted the need for more transparency and accountability in this wing of the State.
Therefore, there is urgent need for Constitutional reform in this area. Genuine flaws of the previous bill, if any, can be weeded out and the remaining provisions of the bill must be re-inserted.