Challenging the Constitution & the Supreme Court

BJP president Amit Shah’s speech in Kannur must be seen as a direct challenge to the Constitution and the Supreme Court.  Though he was speaking about the BJP’s participation and support to the protests opposing the Supreme Court judgement allowing entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple, the significance of his remarks lay in his peremptory tone of intimidation and veiled threat to the judiciary. 

In the course of his speech, he declared “I want to tell the (state) government and those who pronounce orders in court that you should issue orders that can be implemented, not the ones that break the faith of the people”. 

As for the state government, which upholds the implementation of the Supreme Court verdict, he threatened to pull down the government.

So, there it is in crystal clear terms – that the courts should not heed the constitution, but the “faith” of the people.  Any government which implements a judicial verdict which “breaks the faith of the people” deserves to be overthrown. 

Here again is an illustration of the RSS and its political front, the BJP’s outlook that the constitution and its institutions must be subordinate to the goal of a Hindu Rashtra and adhere to the regressive value of Hindutva.  Arun Jaitley, the union finance minister, speaking at an RSS-sponsored foundation a day after Amit Shah’s speech, made the same point in a more sophisticated manner.  He spoke about the dichotomy between “Constitutionalism” and “devotees” and argued that the right of religion must take precedence over the right to equality and dignity where matters of religious faith and rituals are concerned.

Amit Shah’s pronouncement came three days before the Supreme Court hearing on the appeals on the Ayodhya judgement of the Allahabad High Court.  The speech can be seen as a warning to the Supreme Court that only such a verdict on Ayodhya would be acceptable which is implementable (in the opinion of the BJP-RSS) and that which does not “break the faith of the people”.  Parallel to the pressure mounted on the court for a speedy hearing and a desirable judgement, another track was opened with the demand that the central government take legislative steps to enable the building of the temple.  The RSS chief, Mohan Bhagwat, in his Vijayadashami speech stated that they would wait for the Supreme Court judgement. Obviously, the call for the government to act was meant to pressure the court to come to an early verdict.

However, the Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice, on October 29 stated that there is no urgency to hear the petitions and announced that the bench to be constituted for hearing the case would decide in January the dates for the hearing to begin.  By this step, the court has decided not to oblige the Sangh outfits who want a verdict which could be utilised for communal polarisation during the Lok Sabha elections. 

The Supreme Court stance has evoked criticism and protests from the saffron brigade.  There are calls for an ordinance to be promulgated or, legislation to be brought in the winter session of parliament. Union minister, Giriraj Singh, has warned that the Hindus may lose patience if there is further delay.  Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Adityanath, wants all other options to be explored for facilitating the building of the temple. 

The Modi government is in no position to pass an ordinance, or, to bring any legislation on the Ayodhya issue as the dispute is being dealt with by the judicial process and has now reached the Supreme Court.  There is no way the government, or, the ruling party can circumvent this process.  But, for the RSS and the BJP, Ram temple has to be made into a burning issue in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election.  That is why the orchestrated attempts to bring the temple issue to the fore will continue. 

The implementation of the Sabarimala verdict is, therefore, a test case.  The BJP hopes to make the Sabarimala temple verdict an issue to mobilise “devotees” and make gains.  But the situation in Kerala is different.  There is a Left Democratic Front government which is firmly committed to secular values and has assumed the responsibility for implementing the Supreme Court verdict. The democratic and secular consciousness of the people of Kerala will thwart their nefarious designs.  Kerala will show the way on how to combat the politics and maneouvres of the communal forces. 
(October 31, 2018)

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