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20th November 2023 (12 Topics)

Doctrine of Constitutional Morality

Context

Recently, the Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud has asked for that ‘the doctrine constitutional morality’ should not be rejected.

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More about the news:

  • Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud underscores the significance of constitutional morality, asserting that it shouldn’t be dismissed due to potential conflicts with existing social practices.
  • Emphasizing the universal acceptance of certain constitutional values, he highlights the intentional incorporation of provisions from other jurisdictions into the Indian Constitution.
  • Chandrachud views the Constitution as a dynamic document, evolving through over a hundred amendments to address India’s unique challenges.
  • He advocates understanding it as embodying universal values while adapting to local needs. 
  • The Chief Justice stresses that constitutional morality aims to reform societal practices, preventing dominance based on religion, caste, or ethnicity.
  • Addressing diversity in judicial appointments, he notes the changing demographics in the legal profession and underscores the need to support exceptional candidates overcoming gender, religious, and caste prejudices.
  • Regarding the role of courts in social dialogue, he sees a complementary relationship with Parliament, both contributing to societal transformation within their institutional boundaries.

What is Constitutional Morality?

  • Constitutional morality pertains to the principles and values that form the foundation of the constitution, directing both government and citizens in their conduct.
  • It encapsulates the concept that the constitution is not solely a legal instrument but also a moral guide, mirroring the collective values and dreams of a society.
  • Additionally, it emphasizes the importance of interpreting and executing the constitution in alignment with these core principles and values, rather than merely adhering to it as a technical, literal document.
  • Thea term “Constitutional Morality” is not mentioned in the constitution.

What are some significant Supreme Court judgments relating to Constitutional Morality?

Constitutional morality has been referenced in multiple instances by the Supreme Court, including:

  • SP Gupta Case/First Judge Case (1982): The Supreme Court labeled constitutional violations as a grave breach of constitutional morality.
  • Naz Foundation vs. Government of NCT of Delhi (2010):The Court prioritized constitutional principles over societal perceptions concerning the legitimacy of same-sex relationships.
  • Manoj Narula vs. Union of India (2014):The Chief Justice of India emphasized constitutional morality as a commitment to constitutional norms, discouraging actions contrary to the rule of law or reflective of arbitrary conduct.
  • NCT of Delhi vs. Union of India (2018): The Supreme Court aligned constitutional morality with the essence of the Constitution, emphasizing strict adherence to its principles.
  • Navtej Singh Johar vs. Union of India (2018):The Court distinguished between constitutional and public morality, asserting that constitutional morality prioritizes justice over societal acceptance, leading to the decriminalization of homosexuality under Section 377 of IPC.
  • Joseph Shine vs. Union of India (2019):Upholding gender equality and the right to equality, the Supreme Court annulled Section 497 of IPC, criminalizing adultery, emphasizing that constitutional morality should guide laws rather than the state’s prevailing common morality.
  • Indian Young Lawyers Association &Ors vs. The State of Kerala &Ors., (2019) (Sabarimala Case): The Court ruled that barring women aged 10-50 from the Sabarimala temple violated key principles of constitutional morality i.e. Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. It clarified that the term “morality” in Articles 25 & 26 of the Constitution pertains to constitutional morality, not popular morality.

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