Lok Sabha TV- Insight: Constitution Day
Lok Sabha TV- Insight: Constitution Day
The Indian Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949. In its meeting last year, the Government decided to observe this day as the Constitution Day to honour our Constitution and its promulgation. The day is celebrated to preserve and value the rich heritage of composite culture and to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of harmony and brotherhood among all countrymen. The Constitution came into force on 26th January 1950.
- What are the significant aspects of Indian Constitution?
As far as Indian Constitution is concerned, it is one of the most progressive and organic document. It creates a structure, environment or a culture in which socio-economic justice to all, dignity to all, secularism, social development are so easily achievable provided the people believe in that system which the Constitution has bestowed upon the leadership.
It creates very strong institutions and gives space like independence and impartiality of judiciary, independence of media and a lot of leverage to the legislature to make policies. The question is how do these institutions coordinate and check each other. There can be no Constitution which can be self-executing. It only describes, prescribes and gives an institutional mechanism. It depends upon strength of those institutions how they work and more than that who are manning those institutions. The major problem which India is currently facing is that most of these institutions either under their own pressure or because of their own weaknesses are getting diluted or other institutions are making them weak.
The Constitution has marched too far from 1949 to 2016 and has succeeded to a great extent. Most of the pessimism and cynicism about Constitution is very ill founded because a constitutional democracy cannot be static. It is full of new needs and challenges every day.
- What makes the Constitution effective and credible?
The Constitution has evolved and changed over the years. There have been over more than hundred amendments in the Constitution based on the needs and requirements of the country the recent one being the GST. It is an amalgamation of various Constitutions around the world. The people in the Drafting Committee who framed the Constitution came up with a document that they knew would require a lot of changes over the years to come and left scope for changes.
Any institution is as good or bad as the people who are responsible for manning that institution and a tussle is supposed to be healthy in a democracy to ensure that all the institutions maintain their respective independence and are not controlled by anybody else. In recent times, it is seen that lot of institutions that are not performing as per expectations of the people and this is primarily because of lack of good leaders in these institutions. There will always be shortcomings.
People will always expect more from the Constitution which is expected in a healthy democracy. Though there is scope for improvement but by and large the citizens of the country should be happy with what they have got. Barring some exceptions, our institutions have performed in a credible manner. Whatever happens in Parliament is a reflection of what is happening in the nation. Parliamentarians are given the rights to raise their voice when they feel that the voters are suffering. Judiciary is the strongest pillar of Indian democracy. It has kept every other institution in check though judiciary needs to keep a little more check on itself as well. There are issues with the judicial appointments and transparency. Judicial activism is good for India. People expect judiciary to be active when they see the other wings not functioning properly. Judicial activism has to club itself with judicial restraint. If this does not happen, it would become imperial judiciary.
- How has the Constitution evolved over the years?
Socialism is still relevant in our Constitution if we see the number of people below poverty line which constitutes 30% of the Indian population. Therefore, socialism remains relevant to the extent that if there is an aim to bring economic equality firstly, the disparity between the rich and the poor has to be reduced. This has been said in the Preamble to ensure social, economic and political justice as well. When the Constitution framers did so, they did it in the context when the land did not belong to the tiller. So they were very keen on abolishing Zamindari. They made provisions for that and one of the first acts of the Parliament was to abolish Zamindari and large land holdings at that time.
A Constitution has to be judged by the outcomes of the policies being followed by the country keeping in mind the constitutional principles. Now, India has become one of the 10th largest and fastest growing economies in the world. The programmes like MNREGA and others are dedicated to improve the income of the poor people like farmers and labourers. There is a thrust in this area which has come from Directive Principles of State Policy which are not legally enforceable but has to guide the actions of the Government.
Article 51A for Fundamental Duties came in much later. During independence, there was much emphasis on liberties and freedoms of speech, expression and the right to express our views. Duties were not emphasized much at that time. But as the country’s economy and polity evolved, it was felt that the duties should also be emphasized.
The Kesavanand Bharti case is the heart, mind, soul and body of the Constitution of India. A review petition was filed against the doctrine of basic structure judgement. There have been different definitions for basic structure of the Constitution. Some of the key phrases have been supremacy of the Constitution, republican and federal government, maintenance of separation of powers, mandate to build a welfare state under the Directive Principles of State Policy, maintaining unity and integrity of India, sovereignty of the country, essential features of individual freedom, provision of socio economic justice and many others in this regard.
- Comparison with other Constitutions across the world:
The Indian Constitution has taken many features from different Constitutions across the world. The concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity were taken from French Constitution, idea of Five Year Plan from USSR and socio economic rights from Ireland and the laws on which Supreme Court works was taken from Japan. The Government of India Act 1935 provided the base on which the Indian Constitution was drafted.
Today, if we look at our neighbourhood like Pakistan which subverted its Constitution, brought in military rule and tried to justify army dictatorship did not adhere much to its Constitution. Sri Lankan Constitution has also gone through drastic changes and Nepal is struggling to make a new Constitution as well. India is much better off as compared to its counterparts. If a comparison is made for Indian Constitution with other Constitutions, apples have to be compared with apples. The context in which India became independent and the Constitution was written, those circumstances did not prevail in other countries. Our Constitution was born out of the circumstances of that time. What makes it one of the best Constitutions in the world is the fact that it can change with time.
The three primary institutions have to self-restrict and control themselves at the apex level. There is no other constitutional mechanism trying to resolve differences between these three bodies i.e. executive, legislature and judiciary. Powers have to be exercised with restraint and maturity must prevail here. The amendments have to be brought about from time to time as the state of a nation changes with respect to economic growth, globalization etc. It is required to have a pro people approach and adopt policies on these lines.