GS Paper 2
Syllabus: Polity: Indian Constitution
Direction: This is important for Mains. Keep ready the points about the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian constitution.
Context: The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, for ‘We the people of India’. After being unnoticed for a long, the day began to be celebrated as Constitution Day since 2015
The Constitution of India after more than 72 years of its adoption continues to function as the framework within which the government of our country operates.
- Another testimony is that despite amending it more than 100 times its basic premises remain unaltered because of the political and judicial maturity
- An enduring constitution is a rare phenomenon and acts as the soul of a nation or the defining identity of a country
Sources of Constituion:
- Tilak’s Swaraj Bill of 1895 (which included rights to free speech, free press, and equality before the law)
- Declaration of Rights of 1918 (where the Indian National Congress demanded that civil and political rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom of press and association and for all this to be included in the Government of India Act 1919).
- Resolution of Fundamental Rights and Economic Changes at the Karachi Session of the Congress in 1931
- Government of India Act, 1935
Constitution has a clear imprint on day-to-day life:
- Rights we enjoy— it is the Constitution which made this possible through fundamental rights.
- Freedom of movement
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom to choose a calling of our liking
- Freedom to buy, sell and carry on any trade
- Freedom to wear garments of our choice
All these freedoms emanate from the Constitution in the form of fundamental rights.
Weakness of the constitution:
- Law is a weak source to bring about change in human thinking and behaviour: Just because the Constitution declared all Indians as equals, equality does not prevail from the day of such a declaration.
- Poor awareness: Constitutional values such as respect for women, empathy towards the weak and the meek, and rejecting dowry, caste and creed as the basis to measure the values of a person are seldom practised.
- Hardly any focus on the Constitution at the school level, not to speak of tertiary education
Changes in the Indian Constitution:
The Constitution of India is called a living document rather than a closed and static rulebook. The procedure of amendment in the constitution is laid down in Part XX (Article 368) of the Constitution of India to meet the aspirations and the need of the coming generations but despite amendments to make the much-needed changes the basic principles have remained inviolable.
Despite amendments, the basic premises remained unchanged:
- The farsightedness of the constituent assembly – It is true that the Constitution makers were very farsighted and provided many solutions for future situations. The basic framework of the Constitution created by the constituent assembly is very much suited to our country.
- They wanted the Constitution to be ‘flexible’ and at the same time ‘rigid’. They have created a different kinds of amendment procedures ranging from a simple majority to ratification by the states.
- Basic structure Doctrine – The Supreme Court has given a clear list of the basic features of our Constitution, which cannot be amended. Judiciary has the power to decide whether an amendment violates basic structure or not. The Kesavananda Bharati ruling has set clear limits on Parliament’s power to amend the Constitution which helps in making the basic premises unchangeable.
- The doctrine of basic structure restrained the authoritarianism of the government. Had the judiciary not invented the doctrine, India would have gone on the same path as other 3rd world countries, it could save democracy in India.
- Maturity of the Political Leadership-. Political parties, political leaders, the government, and Parliament, accepted and followed in letter and spirit the idea of an inviolable basic structure. Even when there was talk about a ‘review’ of the Constitution, that exercise could not cross the limits set by the theory of the basic structure.
- Judicial efforts and interventions – During the controversy between the Judiciary and the Parliament, the Parliament thought that it had the unchecked power and responsibility to make laws (and amendments) but the Judiciary insisted that it has to take place within the framework provided by the Constitution and parliament should not bypass the basic features.
- For example – After the Supreme Court gave the ruling in the Kesavananda case some attempts were made to ask the Court to reconsider its ruling. When these failed, the 42nd amendment was made and parliamentary supremacy was asserted. But the Court again repeated its earlier stand in the Minerva Mills case (1980).
- Indian Constitution accepts the necessity of modifications according to changing needs of society. – Even after so many changes in society, the Constitution continues to work effectively because of this ability to be dynamic, to be open to interpretations and the ability to respond to the changing situation. This is a hallmark of a democratic constitution
- There has been enough flexibility in interpretations-. In a democracy, practices and ideas keep evolving over time and the society engages in experiments according to these. A constitution, which protects democracy and yet allows for the evolution of new practices, becomes not only durable but also the object of respect from the citizens.
The Constitution empowers the people as much as the people empower the Constitution. The framers had realised that no matter how well written and how detailed, it would have little meaning if it failed to establish a symbiotic bond with the institutions and the people.
It was the foresight, intellect and ingenuity of the great men in the Constituent Assembly that helped succeed in framing a Constitution whose acceptability has only grown with each passing generation.
Q. ‘Despite undergoing many amendments, the constitution of India has remained intact and the basic premises have not changed’. Comment. (15M)