ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Decoding Secularism

It is assumed that the secular state, howsoever constructed, will minimally have to contend with and respond to each of the demands of equality, liberty and neutrality. The liberal claim rests on the impossibility of different religious communities in the same democratic polity to live together in harmony, without some model of secularism that embodies the normative force of liberty, equality and neutrality. This paper interrogates the theoretical consistency of this claim and the range of its applicability. It looks at certain judgments of the US supreme court to illustrate how a particular manner of secularism has been put together, and the challenges it poses to liberal democracy. Similarly, the judiciary in India has formed the significant site where contests under the banner of secularism have taken place in the last 50 years. Indian secularism, it appears, stretches beyond the range of secularism as understood by liberal political theory. However, it is unable to coherently hold together what might be a distinctly Indian understanding of the idea of secularism.

Interpreting Narmada Judgment

In judging the Narmada Bachao Andolan case, the Supreme Court, using the 'separation of powers' doctrine, side-stepped the issues of entitlement and suffering, and chose to concern itself only with the issues of relief and rehabilitation. It was only on the latter issue that the court was willing to hear the representation of the NBA. The weak interrogation of the doctrine of separation of powers allowed the court to abdicate much of its responsibility to those affected by the Narmada dam project.

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