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President Draupadi Murmu Must Uphold the Constitution

S N Sahu |
Does taking up the mimicry of the V-P serve the cause of the highest office?
droupadi murmu

Image courtesy: Flickr

It is rather extraordinary that President of India Draupadi Murmu has defended the Vice-President of India and Chairman of Rajya Sabha Jagdeep Dhankhar on the issue of an opposition leader mimicking him. Indeed, she was silent when Dhankhar, on multiple occasions, acted in ways which amounted to contradicting the promises and ideals of the Constitution.

Why was the President, who has taken an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution”, silent when Dhankhar made a clear statement questioning the Kesavananda Bharati judgment? In that judgement, the Supreme Court held that Parliament could not amend the basic structure of the Constitution. Dhankhar outraged the nation when he claimed that Parliament is supreme in amending the Constitution even if it is violative of the basic structure doctrine upheld by the Supreme Court. 

President KR Narayanans Legacy 

The President should have intervened when V-P Dhankhar made an uncalled-for attack on the basic structure doctrine, which the Chief Justice of India described as the North Star guiding us. Her predecessors, specifically President KR Narayanan, remained at the forefront of upholding the Constitution by stating, We have to consider whether it is the Constitution that has failed us or whether it is we who have failed the Constitution.”

He made that historic statement when the regime headed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee expressed an intent to review the Constitution. Vajpayee altered his decision to review it and appointed a commission under Justice MN Venkatachaliahs chairmanship to review the working” of the Constitution. 

Narayanan had the strength flowing from his adherence to constitutional morality to take on Prime Minister Vajpayee when it came to protecting the Constitution. So why does the mimicry of Dhankhar exercise President Murmu while she remains silent and indifferent when he attacks the basic structure doctrine? 

Silence on Actions of Governor 

The President has also remained quiet on the actions of several governors in Opposition-ruled states when they paralysed the legislative functions by not taking any decision on the Bills passed by assemblies. For instance, the governments of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Punjab had to move the Supreme Court.

Only after the apex court observed that an unelected governor could not act to subvert the decisions of the legislative Assembly duly elected by people that some of those governors made decisions on those Bills. In Punjab, a Supreme Court Bench comprising the Chief Justice of India, Dr DY Chandrachud, and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, in its order of November 9, 2023, disapproved Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohits stand not to permit some Bills passed by the state Assembly by questioning the validity of the session itself.

The apex court dubbed the action of the governor as playing with fire” and sharply remarked that any attempt to cast doubt on the session of the legislature would be fraught with great perils to democracy”.

When the Supreme Court held to account all such actions of those governors, appointed by President Draupadi Murmu, for violating the Constitution, she remained silent. She should have told them what they were doing negates the Constitution, which they are bound by their oath to preserve, protect and defend”. As the head of the State, she should have desisted from joining with issue Chairman Dhankhar vis-a-vis Opposition parties on the mimicry issue, which has nothing to do with the Constitution.

Presidents Name Being Dragged Into Politics

President Draupadi Murmu is being dragged by the BJP leadership, including the Prime Minister and Home Minister, who, during recent election campaigns, stridently claimed that the BJP, for the first time, chose a tribal woman to occupy the highest office in the Republic. In doing so, they indirectly dragged the incumbent in the office of the President to garner favour during an electoral contest.

It certainly diminishes the image and dignity of that office, which must remain above political parties and their considerations. It would have been appropriate if President Murmu had appealed to the BJP leadership to eschew invoking her name in election campaigns. It is inexplicable why she does not oppose these partisan considerations of the ruling party. 

Silence on Manipur 

Murmu has also remained silent on the continuing violence in Manipur despite the Supreme Courts observations that the state machinery has failed to protect the life and liberty of its people. She should have taken up the matter because the constitutional scheme of governance completely collapsed. She, as a defender of the Constitution, should have taken a stand in defence of the fundamental law, especially when it is being violated, and the Modi regime maintains a deafening silence on it.

When violence in Manipur was tearing up our constitutional protections in a state, she could have acted as a balm for the people of the strife-torn region. That would have elevated her stature. But how does taking up the issue of mimicry of Dhankhar serve the cause of the highest office she occupies? It is high time that the dignity of the highest office is upheld and safeguarded. 

The author served as Officer on Special Duty to the President of India, KR Narayanan. The views are personal.

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