Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development Satyapal Singh delivered a remarkable speech on Saturday. Singh on Saturday stated that minorities enjoy a plethora of rights whereas the majority has no such concessions, and strongly advocated for a need to “revisit” the way that we as a state and a people have interpreted the constitution in the last few decades.
Noting that all are equal before the law, Satyapal Singh said, “In the last two decades, the way the Constitution has been interpreted and the laws have been interpreted, it requires revisit. Let us revisit them.”
Singh was speaking on ‘Rule of law and role of B.R. Ambedkar in nation-building’ at an event at Delhi University, commemorating the 127th birth anniversary of the Dalit icon and framer of the Constitution.
“The kind of rights that have been given to minorities in the Constitution, still they feel cheated about it. They have the rights to run their institutes, religious institutions, but the majority does not have. Law is equal to all,” Satyapal Singh said.
According to Singh after nearly 70 years of independence we have tried to interpret the constitution, but “we are not able to internalise it”.
“Rule of law means law is equal to everyone. However, a person stealing Rs 100 and another stealing Rs 100 crore get the same punishment. Does it give justice to the society? I say it does not. Therefore, there is a need to amend laws,” he said, adding that in the recent past, the law has failed to safeguard individual rights which led to discrimination.
There is merit in what the minister pointed out in his speech. Equality can’t be expected at the expense of the majority or the rule of the law. The laws of our country are not contemporary and representative enough of our diverse nation. In a nation where the preamble guarantees equality before law, each year we see people being treated differently based on their financial and social status, and while others are made to face the music these people cut corners to evade the law and make a mockery of justice.
He also mentions how punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed and this has been one of the key debates that has ensued in the judiciary for a long time. A person who has laundered a thousand rupees faces the same reparations or jail time as someone who has laundered millions of rupees. This unproportionate justice creates an unjust and flawed perception of law among the general populous.
“Law should spare none to ensure nation building,” he added.
“You want to have a strong democratic country, where everyone gets educated. We have the law, Right to Education (Act), but in the last eight years are we able to implement it? We are not. Still millions don’t go to school because the law does not have teeth,” the HRD Minister said.
Satyapal Singh also pointed out how our laws lack affectability. He mentioned the RTE Act and how the policy making apparatus was not in touch with ground reality, which makes the policy impact much more limited than expected. He spoke about how partiality has been ingrained in this law by restricting one religious institution while giving a free hand to others in the education sector. Such move is anti-thesis to what our constitutional fore-fathers envisioned for India.
What Mr. Satyapal Singh stated is certainly worth taking note of. Since he spoke as an individual at that event and not as a representative of the state we can only hope that state and his party takes note of these suggestions.