New Delhi, Feb 5 : Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh on Friday said that the Chair cannot decide to take up a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Preamble to the Constitution. He asserted that the “decision is to be taken by the House and not the Chair”.
The remark was made by the Deputy Chairman after BJD MP Amar Patnaik on Friday moved a Private Member’s Bill to amend the Preamble to the Constitution to insert the word ‘Ahimsa’.
On this, the Deputy Chairman Harivansh Narayan Singh said that in the last session member Manoj Jha had opposed the introduction of a private members bill by BJP Member K.J. Alphons to amend the Preamble to the Constitution and the introduction of the bill was deferred on the request of the Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
“There are a number of rulings given by the Chair in this House giving the same ruling. The Chair has never taken the responsibility of declaring the bill to be ‘ultra vires’ of the Constitution or not. The question of ‘ultra vires’ may not be decided by the Chair but left to the House, if the party is aggrieved they can move the court,” Harivansh Narayan Singh said.
He also quoted the earlier decisions in the past where the Chair refused to take the responsibility of declaring the Bill to be ‘ultra vires’ of the Constitution or not.
Speaking on the bill, the Congress lawmaker Anand Sharma said, “This House does not have the mandate to change the Preamble. He also said that it was not a matter of tinkering with the basic structure of the Constitution and that cannot be done. This has come in the past when many governments came up with such amendments and those were set aside by the Supreme Court, and here we were talking about the amendment in the Preamble to the Constitution.”
“The Preamble to the Constitution cannot be changed. I would urge the members concerned in the larger interest of the country where questions are being raised about the integrity of our commitment to the Indian constitution, this should not be allowed,” Sharma said.
Responding to Sharma’s comment, Patnaik said that the two words ‘socialist and secular’ were added to the Preamble by 42nd amendment, “so it can be changed”.
In response to Patnaik, the TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Ray said that the insertion of ‘socialist and secular’ words happened long before, before the Kesavananda Bharati judgment in Supreme Court.
“The Apex Court then further ruled that the supremacy of the Constitution cannot be changed, whether by the Court or Parliamentary authority, they have to abide by the Constitution. The judgment is still subsisting and therefore the Preamble to the Constitution cannot be changed,” Ray added.
The Deputy Chairman, following the debate, ruled that the Chair cannot decide, it is for the House to decide.