Jaitley takes on Congress over constitutional principles

New Delhi, Nov 27 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday took on the Congress, saying those who imposed Emergency rule in the country and “snatched” the fundamental rights of the people were now talking about constitutional principles.

“Fundamental rights were snatched during the Emergency. The government convinced the Supreme Court that during Emergency people lose the right to life and liberty provided under Article 21 (of the constitution),” the BJP leader said in the Rajya Sabha.

“After the Emergency, Article 21 was made non-suspendable, which means we are far more safe today. People who supported the Emergency are now talking about constitutionality. People lost the right to live during the Emergency,” he said, adding it was the “greatest challenge to democracy”.

He said: “A constitution and its provisions were used to subvert democracy during the Third Reich in Germany. You imposed Emergency, detained opposition leaders, censored newspapers, and brought into force a 25-point economic programme.”

Jaitley also took a dig at the Congress for not adhering to the constitutional provisions of Article 44 and 48 which deal with the formation of a uniform civil code and prohibition of cow slaughter, respectively. “Had Ambedkar proposed Article 44 and Article 48 today, I wonder how would the House have reacted.”

“Former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi wrote to the states, asking them to make laws under Article 48 of the constitution, and all states except Kerala and West Bengal made laws,” said Jaitley.

Speaking on the role of the judiciary, Jaitley said the independence of judiciary was a part of the basic structure of the constitution.

“Separation of powers between legislature, executive and judiciary was one of the core ideas Ambedkar gave to us. How many bullets are to be fired in an encounter cannot be determined by courts,” said Jaitley.

The BJP leader was participating in a discussion in the upper house to mark the 125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, the main architect of the Indian constitution.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said in the Lok Sabha that ideals and principles enshrined in the constitution were being “deliberately attacked”.

Jaitley said: “Ambedkar is not just the architect of our constitution but also a social reformer.

“Ambedkar fought against social evils. He showed the way to escape social injustice and showed the way to fight discrimination. Democracy has strengthened over the past 65 years.

“The constitution envisaged by Ambedkar rejected theocracy. It was not anti- or pro-religion. It said that the state will not discriminate on the basis of religion,” said the minister, the leader of the upper house.

Talking about terrorism, Jaitley said: “Today the biggest challenge for any constitutional process is terrorism.

“We need to confront the challenge of terrorism. When convicts in terror attacks were being punished, some portray them as martyrs… How would have Dr. Ambedkar reacted to this,” Jaitley asked, hinting at Yakub Memon, the 1993 Bombay bombings convict who was hanged in July this year.

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