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Constitutional Morality

  • Context (IE): The recent arrest of a serving Chief Minister has brought the question of constitutional morality, highlighting the importance of moral behaviour that political institutions should uphold.

What is Constitutional Morality?

  • Constitutional morality is a concept that emphasises adherence to the principles and values enshrined in a constitution within a democratic system.
  • It goes beyond strict legal interpretation, encompassing values like social justice and equality.
  • Constitutional morality balances freedom and restraint, requiring citizens to submit to constitutional authorities while retaining the freedom to criticise those in power.
  • It encourages the evolution of law in response to changing societal norms and values.
  • Courts use it to adapt legal principles to reflect contemporary understandings of justice, equality, etc.
  • Ambedkar’s perspective defines constitutional morality as the norms and procedures guiding decision-making in cases where the Constitution is silent or grants discretionary power.

Constitutional Morality in the Indian Constitution

  • The term “constitutional morality” is not explicitly mentioned in the Indian Constitution, but it is implicitly observed in several sections and various Supreme Court judgements.

In Constitution

  • Preamble: It outlines democratic principles like justice, liberty, and equality.
  • Fundamental Rights: It safeguards individual rights against arbitrary state power (Article 32).
  • Directive Principles: Provides guidelines for the state to pursue social and economic goals.
  • Fundamental Duties: These are the responsibilities of citizens towards the nation.
  • Checks and Balances: To prevent concentration of power.
  • Concepts of Discretionary Power and Non-discrimination are closely linked to constitutional morality.

Supreme Court’s Interpretation

  • Naz Foundation v Government of NCT, 2009: This case distinguished public morality from constitutional morality, asserting that constitutional values should take precedence over popular morality.
  • Krishnamoorthy case, 2015: It is essential for Good Governance
  • Union of India vs. Government of NCT of Delhi: High-ranking officials must adhere to constitutional values to prevent misuse of authority.
  • Government of NCT of Delhi case, 2018: The Court likened constitutional morality to a “second basic structure doctrine,” emphasising its role in curbing arbitrary authority.
  • Navtej Singh Johar case (2018): Right to privacy and dignity for LGBTQI+ community. Highlighted its role in fostering a pluralistic and inclusive society while upholding constitutional values.
  • Justice K S Puttaswamy case (2018): Aadhaar’s validity was upheld with restrictions, highlighting the court’s role in checking executive overreach.
  • Joseph Shine v. Union of India, 2018: The judgment emphasised that constitutional morality should guide the law, prioritising equality, non-discrimination, and dignity.
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