Removing the word ”secular” from the preamble to the Constitution will sound the death knell of democracy in the country, former Supreme Court Justice KM Joseph said on Thursday, Live Law reported.

The words “socialist” and “secular” were not part of the Constitution adopted in 1950 and were added in 1976 through the 42nd constitutional amendment.

On Thursday, Joseph said that the concept of secularism is inherent to the Constitution.

“Secularism is absolutely indispensable in a democracy,” he said while speaking at an event at the Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association. “If secularism is going to be removed by any government from the Preamble to the Constitution, under the impression that by merely removing the word secularism you are removing the features of secularism…even if it is removed, it will sound the death knell of democracy.”

The former judge said that the Constitution guarantees equality before the law, equality of opportunity, prohibition of discrimination and the right to life, all of which collectively uphold secular values.

“No functionary, no representative, no minister can endorse any religion, can take sides in a fight between religions,” Live Law quoted him as saying. “That leads to the impression that the other religions are secondary, which is not because all religions under the principle of secularism must be treated equally.”

Some leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have pushed for the removal of the words “secular” and “socialist” from the Constitution’s preamble. BJP leader Subramanian Swamy has filed a plea in the Supreme Court that seeks to delete the two words from the preamble. In 2015, a controversy erupted after the BJP-led Union government’s advertisements on Republic Day had omitted the two words from the preamble.

In September, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, the Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha, claimed that the two words were missing from the preamble in the copies of the Constitution distributed to the MPs in the new Parliament building.