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Constitutional Clarity


On the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution, the Supreme Court performed its constitutional duty by clearing the political impasse in Maharashtra by ordering a trust vote. This was followed almost immediately by Ajit Pawar’s resignation as Deputy Chief Minister and the announcement by Devendra Fadnavis that he, too, was quitting as his government ‘no longer’ had a majority. So, unlike other nations where the hunger for power can lead to widespread mayhem, the processes of a document created over seventy years ago showed the way forward in what is undoubtedly a complicated situation where right and wrong are difficult to determine from a purely subjective point of view. It may be argued that the constitutionally mandated election in Maharashtra created difficulties in the first place and did not exactly reflect the will of the people. However, for anybody with any degree of foresight, the outcome of the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance is also a foregone conclusion. The only reason to worry is the havoc a Sena Chief Minister is going to wreak in the interim. Here, too, the constitutional safeguards and provisions will play an important role. In the meanwhile, the Supreme Court will examine the Governor’s role in the light of subsequent events, the outcome of which will become known some months down the line. At the same time, it must also be remembered that the Constitution – already the longest in the world – has been amended 104 times. Even the preamble has seen the addition of two words – secular and socialist. The Supreme Court has had to iterate that its ‘basic structure’ cannot be changed. In fact, changes have to be tested on this principle. This does emphasise its constant as well as flexible character. As such, there is scope for making provisions in the Constitution to deal with the ‘stolen or betrayed mandate’ kind of situation that has occurred in Maharashtra. A case filed in court on this may seem frivolous at this point, but it certainly raises a critical issue. The cobbling together of a working majority to prevent fresh elections will lead to a legitimate government, but it will not only lack ideological cohesion, it will also have little moral authority. It will be interesting to see how ‘doing the right thing’ constitutionally will lead to better consequences. However, the right to entertainment is also a right that citizens enjoy. Maharashtra will enjoy a lot of this in the coming days, and not just in Bollywood!