Socialism and its interpretation by the Indian Judiciary

Socialism and its interpretation by the Indian Judiciary

A constitution to be living must be growing. If impediments to the growth of the constitution are not removed then it will suffer from vital atrophy. The word “socialist” was not there in the preamble originally. It was added by the 42nd amendment to the constitution in 1976.Though the term has not been defined in the constitution it does not envisage doctrinaire socialism in the sense of insistence of state ownership as a matter of policy. It does not mean exclusion of private enterprise and complete state ownership of material resources of the nation.

Jawaharlal Nehru described democratic socialism as one, which will be based on political liberty, equality and tolerance. Under democratic socialism we could maintain individual freedom and initiative with centralized-social control and planning of the economic life of the people. Hence, he wanted to follow a middle path. He evolved a system of mixed economy as an alternative to both the rival systems, drawing the positive aspects of each and rejecting their negative aspects. It would be a combination of free private enterprise and state controlled economy. Nehru favored a positive role for the private sector, which culled for effective State regulation and control. Large-scale industries, which needed huge capital investment, would also be in the public sector. Nationalization was advocated to gain state control over key industries.

In India there has always been an emphasis on mixed economy, i.e. along with a public sector, the private sector also has a role-play. The government accepts the policy of mixed economy where both public and private sector both exist side by side. The Supreme Court in a number of decisions referred to the concept of socialism.

According to the Supreme Court, the principal aim of socialism is to eliminate inequality of income and standards of life and to provide decent standard of life to working people. Democratic socialism aims to end poverty, inequality of income, disease and to provide a decent standard of life to working people. Socialist concept of society should be implemented in the true spirit of the constitution.

In Samantha vs. State of Andhra Pradesh the Supreme Court has stated while defining socialism “Establishment of the Egalitarian social Order through the rule of law is the basic structure of the constitution”. The Court laid emphasis on social justice so as to attain substantial degree of social, economic and political equality. The court, to bring about the distribution of material resources of the country and to serve common good furthered the idea of distributive justice.

Justice Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan said:

“Why do you define socialism in the narrower sense as the communists do? … Why don’t you go by the broader definition, which mandates the state to ensure social welfare measures for all the citizens as a facet of democracy?”

By reading the word socialist in the preamble with fundamental rights contained in Article 14 and 16 the Supreme Court has deduced the fundamental right to equal pay and equal work and compassionate appointment.

Judicial Approach in interpretation of the Constitution:

Initially the predominant approach of the indian judiciary was positivist i.e. to interpret the constution literally and to apply to it the same restrictive cannons of interpretation as are usually applied to the interpretation of ordinary statutes.But things have changedand the judicial approach to the constitution is no longer solely one of statutory interpretation.The law creative role of judge is very well recognised in modern times.The American Jurists greatly emphasise on such a judicial role.A judge is not an automaton ;he has to make choices out of several alternatives. The liberal apporach gives a creative and purposive interpretation to the constitution “with insight into social values and wit sulppness of adaptation to changing needs”.Modern scholars by and large now favour liberal judicial approach to the constitution.The constitution is a mechasim through which laws are made; It is not a mere statute which declares what a law is to be. The liberal judicial interpretation of the written constitution emnates from the feeling that the function of interpreting the written constitution is very crucial to the governmental process in the country and therefore the judicial interpretation of this task has to be entirely different from that of interpreting a statute.The liberal approach has an ideological tinge to it;the court casts themselves in the role of the protector and guardian of the constitution especially of fundamental rigts of people an democratic values.The courts while adopting the liberal approach expands the frontier of the people/s fundamental rights so as to make the government more liberal and democratic. A creative interpretation of the constitution involves-

  • Interpreting the powers of the government affecting person and property
  • Interpreting people’s rights broadly and liberally rather than mehanically and literally.

The Supreme Court has emphasized in many cases that the constitution should not construed in any narrow and pedantic sense. To express this idea chief Justice Kania pointed out in the Gopalan case “Although we are to interpret the words of constitution on the same principles of interpretation as we apply to any ordinary law these very principles of interpretation compels us to take into account the nature and scope of the act we are interpreting- to remember that it is a constitution; a mechanism under which laws are to be made and not merely an act which declares what a law is to be.”

In Pathuma the Supreme court has emphasized that the judicial approach to the constitution should be dynamic rather than static.

In India Cement case the Supreme Court held “It has to be remembered that it is the constitution that requires interpretation. It is a mechanism under which laws are to be made and not merely an act that declares what a law is to be.”

In S.R. Chaudhuri vs. State of Punjab the Supreme Court said:

“Constitution provisions are required to be understood and interpreted with an object oriented approach. A constitution should not be construed in a narrow and pedantic sense. The words used may be general in term, but its full import and true meaning has to be appreciated considering the true context in which the same are used and the purpose which they seek to achieve. We must remember that the constitution is not just a document is the solemn form but a living framework of the government of the people exhibiting a sufficient degree of cohesion and its successful working depends upon the democratic spirit underlining it being respected in letter and spirit”

Submitted By-

Faculty of law, DU (2nd Year)