Constitutional morality in its strictest sense of the term implies strict and complete adherence to the constitutional principles as enshrined in various segments of the document. When a country is endowed with a Constitution, there is an accompanying promise which stipulates that every member of the country right from its citizens to the high constitutional functionaries   must   idolize   the   constitutional   fundamentals.

This duty imposed by the Constitution stems from the fact that the Constitution is the indispensable foundational base that functions as the guiding force to protect and ensure that the   democratic   setup   promised to the citizenry remains unperturbed. The constitutional functionaries owe a greater degree of responsibility towards this eloquent instrument for it is   from this document that they derive their power and authority and, as a natural corollary, they must ensure that they cultivate and develop a spirit of constitutionalism where every action taken by them is governed by and is in strict conformity with the basic tenets of the Constitution.

In this context, the observations made by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar are of great significance:¬

“Constitutional   morality   is   not   a   natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realize that our people are yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic.”

Constitutional morality is that fulcrum which acts as an essential check upon the high functionaries and citizens alike, as experience has shown that unbridled power without any checks and balances would result in a despotic and tyrannical situation which is antithetical to the very idea of democracy.

The following passage from Manoj Narula v. Union of India[1] can aptly be quoted to throw some light on the idea:¬

“If   men   were   angels,   no   government   would   be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external   nor   internal   controls   on   government would   be   necessary.   In   framing   a   government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the   next   place   oblige   it   to   control   itself.   A dependence   on   the   people   is,   no   doubt,   the primary   control   on   the   government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

In the said case, it has been further observed:¬

“Regard   being   had   to   the   aforesaid   concept,   it would   not   be   out   of   place   to   state   that institutional   respectability   and   adoption   of precautions for the sustenance of constitutional values   would   include   reverence   for   the constitutional structure. It is always profitable to remember the famous line of Laurence H. Tribe that a Constitution is “written in blood, rather than ink.”

Constitutional morality acts as a check against lapses on the part of the governmental agencies and colourable activities aimed   at   affecting   the   democratic   nature   of   polity.   In Krishnamoorthy   v.   Sivakumar   and   others[2], it has been explained thus:¬

“Democracy, which has been best defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people, expects prevalence of genuine orderliness, positive   propriety,   dedicated   discipline   and sanguine   sanctity   by   constant   affirmance   of constitutional morality which is the pillar stone of good governance.”

Constitutional   morality,   appositely   understood,   means the morality that has inherent elements in the constitutional norms   and   the  conscience   of   the   Constitution.   Any   act   to garner   justification   must   possess   the   potentiality   to   be   in harmony   with   the   constitutional   impulse.  

When one is expressing an idea of generosity, he may not be meeting the standard of justness.   There may be an element of condescension. But when one shows justness in action, there is no feeling of any grant or generosity.  That will come   within   the   normative   value.   That   is   the   test   of constitutional   justness   which   falls   within   the   sweep   of constitutional   morality.   It   advocates   the   principle   of constitutional   justness   without   subjective   exposition   of generosity.

Constitutional objectivity:

Our Constitution, in its grandness, resolutely embraces the theory of “checks and balances”. This concept of checks and   balances,   in   turn,   gives   birth   to   the   principle   of “constitutional   objectivity”.   The   Constitution   expects   the organs   of   the   State   adorned   by   high   constitutional functionaries that while discharging their duties, they remain alive to the allegiance they bear to the Constitution. Neutrality as envisaged under the constitutional scheme should guide them in the performance of their duties and functions under the   Constitution.   This   is   the   trust   which   the   Constitution reposes in them.

The founding fathers of our Constitution had a vision for our   Nation   whose   ultimate   aim   was   to   make   right   the upheaval   that   existed   before setting   up of the Constituent Assembly. The concept of constitutional objectivity is, by itself, inherent in this vision and it is incumbent upon the organs of the State to make comprehensive efforts towards realization of this vision. But, at the same time, they must remain true to the   Constitution   by   upholding   the   trust   which   the Constitution places in them and thereby exhibit constitutional objectivity in its truest sense.

In Indra Sawhney v. Union of India and others[3], the Court observed: ¬

“…Therefore,   the   permissible   judicial   creativity   in tune with the Constitutional objectivity is essential to the interpretation of the Constitutional provisions so that the dominant values may be discovered and enforced.   At   the   same   time,   one   has   to   be   very cautious and careful in approaching the issues in a very pragmatic and realistic manner.”

The aforesaid passage tells us in an illuminating manner how the Court is expected to proceed on the path of judicial creativity in consonance with constitutional objectivity having a keen sense of pragmatism.

It can be said without inviting any controversy that the concept of constitutional objectivity has to be equally followed by the Executive and the Legislature as it is the Constitution from   which   they   derive   their   power   and,   in   turn,   the Constitution expects them to be just and reasonable in the exercise of such power. The decisions taken by constitutional functionaries, in the discharge of their duties, must be based on normative acceptability.

Such decisions, thus, have to be in accord with the principles of constitutional objectivity which, as   a   lighthouse,   will   guide   the   authorities   to   take   a constitutionally right decision. This action, needless to say, would be in the spirit of the Constitution. It may be further noted here that it is not only the decision itself but also the process adopted in such decision making which should be in tune   with   constitutional   objectivity.  

A decision by a constitutional functionary may, in the ultimate analysis, withstand scrutiny but unless the process adopted for arriving at such a decision is in tandem with the idea of constitutional objectivity, it invites criticism. Therefore, the decision making process should   never   by-pass   the   established   norms   and conventions which are time tested and should affirm to the idea of constitutionalism.


Govt of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India (2023)

[1] (2014) 9 SCC 1

[2] (2015) 3 SCC 467

[3] AIR 1993 SC 477