Constitutional Erosion and the Challenge to Secular Democracy in India
Constitutional Democracy in Crisis? (Mark Graber, Sandy Levinson, and Mark Tushnet, eds, Oxford. Univ. Press, 2018)
18 Pages Posted:
Date Written: May 14, 2018
This chapter examines how the ongoing drift toward increasing religiosity in electoral politics and constitutional governance poses a significant threat to the ideal of a secular constitutional democracy enshrined in the Indian Constitution. I argue that India is in the midst of an intensifying process of “constitutional erosion” whereby the increased resort to and use of religiosity in elections and governance are continuing to weaken and undermine secularism as a constitutional and governing principle. The continuing invocation and deployment of religion and religious rhetoric in elections and government policies threatens other core constitutional values—including unity, com- munal harmony, and political stability—and as a result, poses a fundamental threat to the integrity of India’s constitutional order. Since the 2014 elections, BJP policies, speeches, and rhetoric have inflamed communal tensions and have triggered an increase in anti-Muslim violence, and also led to significant attacks on intellectuals and critics of the government.
The chapter argues that that India’s current constitutional and legal framework, and its framework of electoral regulation, are failing to adequately restrict and contain the increased use of religion in electoral politics, and in governance. In particular, I argue that the Indian Supreme Court’s decision in the Hindutva cases, along with relatively weak enforcement of criminal prohibitions on the use of religion in the Representation of People Act, have created “political space” for ongoing deployment of religious speech and rhetoric in elections. Through statutory interpretation of the RPA, the Supreme Court of India has arguably helped to facilitate a weakening and erosion of secularism in India’s constitutional framework. India thus illustrates the need to explore how constitutional secularism is gradually eroded through the interrelated processes of increasing resort to religiosity in politics and electoral corruption, which prevent other parties from challenging the drift toward majoritarian religiosity.
Keywords: Secularism, Constitutional Erosion, Constitutionalism, Democracy, Constitutional Democracy, India, BJP, Hindutva
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