Constitutional morality means the adherence to the norms of the Constitution in a democracy. It is not just limited to following the constitutional provisions in their literal sense, but includes a commitment to an inclusive and democratic political process in which both individual and collective interests of the society are satisfied. It requires a practical percolation of values like sovereignty, social justice and equality in the realm of constitutional adjudication.
While the term ‘Constitutional Morality’ is not found in Indian Constitution, nevertheless it is rooted in various facets of the constitution.
- Preamble – Spells out values like justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to be the foundation stones of our democracy.
- Fundamental Rights – Protects the rights of individuals against arbitrary use of power by the State. Especially, Article 32 provides for enforcement of these rights in SC.
- Directive Principles – Guidelines to the State to implement the vision of the makers of the constitution. These include Gandhian, Socialist and Liberal-Intellectual directions.
- Fundamental Duties – Citizens not only enjoy rights but have to fulfill certain duties towards the nation.
- Check and Balances – like Legislative check on executive; judicial review of legislative and executive actions etc.
Constitutional Morality as per various Supreme Court Judgements
- Government of NCT of Delhi Vs. Union of India – All high functionaries need to follow constitutional morality and protect the constitutional values spelt out by the Constitution. Constitutional Morality acts as check on arbitrary use of power by high functionaries.
- Navtej Singh Johar & Ors. Vs. Union of India – Supreme Court opined that Section 377 violates the right of members of the LQBTQI community on the bedrock of the principles enunciated in Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution [dignity of individuals]
- Naz Foundation case, the Supreme Court opined that only Constitutional Morality and not Public Morality should prevail
- Justice K.S. Puttaswamy & Anr. Vs. Union of India & Ors. – SC upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar subject to certain limitations. Constitutional Morality ensures courts must neutralize the excesses of power by the executive and strike down any legislation or even executive action if it is unconstitutional.
- Indian Young Lawyer’s Association v. State of Kerala [Sabrimala Case]– SC opined that constitutional morality which includes values like justice, liberty, equality and fraternity ought to be preferred over customary values, traditions and beliefs. It allowed the entry of women into sabrimala temple irrespective of their ages. [fighting perception, stereotype and prejudices]
Constitutional morality is crucial for constitutional laws to be effective. Without constitutional morality, the operation of the constitution tends to become arbitrary, erratic and capricious.