When the more is not merrier: No majoritarianism in a constitutional state

Used to, as most of us are, with the idea of ‘the more, the merrier’(‘जितना ज़्यादा उतना अच्छा), Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra’s rejection(अस्वीकृति/नामंजूरी) of majoritarianism(बहुसंख्यकवाद) in the form of letting(देना) a referendum(जनमत संग्रह)decide(निर्णय करना) the fate(भाग्य) of decriminalising(विलुप्त करने) homosexuality(समलैंगिकता ) is a useful ‘wake up and smell the coffee’ moment. In a parliamentary democracy(लोकतंत्र ), ‘majority(बहुमत)’ — holding the greater number —is imbued with protective(रक्षात्मक) significance(अभिप्राय/महत्व) . Historically, India being ruled by an elite(कुलीन/अभिजात वर्ग )minority(अल्पसंख्यक) — a religious one during(दौरान) the Mughal era, a foreign one in the case of British rule, and if you’re of a certain(निश्चित/कुछ) ilk(पहले), a Lutyens’ ‘English-speaking’ minority for the greater stretch(खिंचाव) of independent India —may have led to an understandable faith in the value of the ‘will of the majority’ in this variegated nation of ours. But majoritarianism is a different(विभिन्न/अलग) kettle of fish. While numbers are also stacked(ढेर लगाना/तोड़ना-मरोड़ना) up here, majoritarianism imposes(लागू देना/प्रभाव डालना) the will of the majority on the rest.

The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Misra rightly and clearly stated that it follows “the concept(सिद्धांत/अवधारणा) of constitutional(संवैधानिक ) morality(नैतिकता ) and not majority morality”. In the context of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code making same-sex relationships(संबंध) illegal(अवैध), this meant(मतलब ) that even if, out of ignorance(अज्ञानता ) ormalice(द्वेष/दुर्भाग्य), most Indians prefer(पसंद करते हैं) the law to remain intact(बरकरार रहेगा), Article 14 — ‘The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal(बराबर ) protection(सुरक्षा) of the laws within the territory(क्षेत्र/भूख़ंड) of India Prohibition(रोक/निवारण) of discrimination(भेदभाव/पक्षपात) on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth — will come between this majoritarian wish. In another era, the inhuman and inhumane(अमानवीय ) practice of sati (‘self-immolation’ of Hindu widows) was abolished(समाप्त करना) not because most Hindus demanded its prohibition. It was stopped, with majoritarian upper-caste Hindu resistance(प्रतिरोध/विरोध) , because it was a heinous(जघन्य/घोर) practice that no matter of cultural(सांस्कृतिक ) relativism(सापेक्षता/सापेक्षवाद) should have tolerated as a ‘local religious or cultural’ rituals(अनुष्ठान. The word ‘referendum(जनमत-संग्रह)’, to modern Indian ears, of course, triggers ‘Kashmir’. For those who find it difficult tountangle(सुलझाना/खोलना) the bully(भयभीत करना/धमकियों) in ‘majoritarianism’ from the simple fact in ‘majority’, understand why holding a referendum among Kashmiris for independence from India can’t be on the cards. There are some things better left outside the ‘will of the majority(बहुमत) ’, especially(विशेष रूप से)when those things go against the grain(बीज) of good sense and humanity.


Important Vocabulary

1.Referendum(जनमत संग्रह)
Synonyms: election, poll, vote, mandate

Synonyms: area, bridge, distance, length, radius
Antonyms : stagnation

Synonyms: connotation, implication, sense, understanding, acceptation
Antonyms : exterior, exteriority, outside, insignificance, meaninglessness

Synonyms: elimination, exclusion, repudiation, veto, bounce
Antonyms : allowance, ratification, welcome, acceptance, approval

Synonyms: careful, defensive, jealous, possessive, vigilant
Antonyms : careless, inattentive, negligent, attacking, harmful

Synonyms: convinced, positive, sure, assertive, assured
Antonyms : doubtful, indefinite, uncertain, unsure, doubting

7.Stacked(ढेर लगाना/तोड़ना-मरोड़ना
Synonyms: convinced, positive, sure, assertive, assured
Antonyms : doubtful, indefinite, uncertain, unsure, doubting

Synonyms: constraint, embargo, exclusion, injunction, prevention
Antonyms : allowance, permission, aid, approval, help

9.Bully(भयभीत करना/धमकियों)
Synonyms: oppressor, rascal, annoyer, bulldozer, harrier



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