Sharmila Tagore, SY Quraishi, 6 others write open letter to “introspect & audit” the working of Constitution

Eight eminent personalities, including a former Chief Election Commissioner, a former Supreme Court judge and actor Sharmila Tagore, have appealed to people to “introspect and audit” the working of the Indian Constitution.

The letter – titled “70 years of Indian Constitution: a defining moment” – comes at the time when protests are raging across the country over the proposed imposition of the National Register of Citizens, the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Population Register. In the letter they wrote that 70 years of the working of the Constitution provided the citizens the opportunity to introspect and overcome the shortcomings.

“We appeal to all citizens to utilise this solemn occasion to celebrate our success, reflect our current concerns, particularly about our plural, secular society, and resolve to fulfil the Constitutional goals envisaged by Dr Ambedkar and our forefathers as summed up in the Preamble,” they wrote.

Apart from Sharmila Tagore, the other signatories are former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi, former Supreme Court judge J Chelameswar, former Army Commander Lt Gen Harcharanjit Singh Panag, filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Carnatic musician TM Krishna, former chairman of UGC and ICSSR Sukhdeo Thorat and former member of the Planning Commission Syeda Hameed.

In the letter, they asked whether the Constitution was a “mere administrative manual” which “enables governments to claim legitimacy for abuse of power and allows the citizens to convert liberty into licence disregarding rights of others”. They asked if it was “simply another text” that had been penned by ink or whether it was “a sacred text written in the blood of innumerable martyrs who transcended the barriers of caste, religion, ethnicity and language”.

The protests against the CAA are being held on the grounds that the new law discriminates on the basis of religion, which goes against the basic principles of the Constitution. Scores of applications have been filed in various courts across the country calling the CAA “unconstitutional”. While the courts are scheduled to hear them, the Centre has appealed to the Supreme Court to transfer all the petitions to the apex court for hearing so that there are no conflicts in the judgements. The Supreme Court will hear the matter soon.

In the letter, Tagore, Quraishi, Chelameswar and the others appealed to people to introspect whether “truth and non-violence”, two values held close to the heart of the Father of the Nation – continue to inform our actions in the public sphere”.

Chelameswar was among the four senior judges of the Supreme Court who had held a press conference a year ago protesting against the then chief justice on various issues that they said were tarnishing the image of the country’s apex court and warned the damage it could cause to the country’s democracy.

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