Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
26th November 2016 is 67th Constitution Day of India. Hence here is a brief lookout of India’s journey with its Constitution.
Impact on other countries
In the context of India’s freedom movement and revolution, constitution making process has left a deep imprint in entire world, mainly in the developing world and particularly in many new nations that came up after WWII.
The importance of Indian constitution lies in the fact that
It is a product of very peaceful revolution that India had
Constitution is a work of deliberation
There are very few constitutions in the world which have been worked out in detail by a galaxy of people. In India, Rajendra Prasad (Chairman of Constituent Assembly), Sardar Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru and Abul Kalam Azad forthcomingly contributed to making of constitution and drafting of constitution by Dr. Ambedkar.
Comparison with other Constitution
Indian constitution has adopted many good things from different countries. It is still different from other constitutions of the world. Though it is not a unique constitution, Dr. Ambedkar made it clear that constitution is written at a time when much of problems have been settled and there is a larger consensus. It is not an attempt to make a novelty but it is an attempt to make a federal constitution.
The comparable thing is found in American constitution varies from consideration to constitution and deliberation and Madisonian amendments (a structure of government in which the powers of the government are separated into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial).
The American constitution also came out of deliberation. First there was a trial for confederation which failed twice and then the Philadelphia convention and then the final constitution that has survived very minor amendments.
India’s constitution is looked down frequently as a book which is not original because at that stage originality was not a possibility. Dr. Ambedkar said– the fundamental position had been clear by that time, but the comprehensiveness, the matter of detail, the way the consensus evolved and way the contradiction of India were addressed by the constitution is one reason that the constitution has survived even today. There are amendments but the constitution has never changed its fundamentals. This a unique achievement in developing world.
The survival of Indian constitution is unique in the sense that India is a society and polity of major contradictions. In a context of non-European world where the constitution making is still going on, there it is found that Indian constitution is being consulted, talked about and also being followed in many countries. The reason being the socio-economic conditions of many of these countries are similar to India.
The fundamental right to equality does exist on paper but hardly practiced in reality. Hence, on the topic of equality, Dr. Ambedkar has clearly said that in a situation like India where there is a caste system and economic inequality, the equality is very hard to conceive. That is why, India is not yet a nation, it is becoming a nation. In this process, all such questions will be addressed.
Sustainability of constitution
If looking at the context of constitution, it depends on the situation, how it is made and how it develops. India and Pakistan became independent at the same time. But Pakistan had to struggle for a constitution till 1958 and even today, liberal democracy is not well-settled in Pakistan. It was due to existence of good political party in India led by capable leaders whereas Muslim League was not exactly a party but a pressure group which made constitution making a difficult process. So, crucial basis of constitution is how it is formulated, what are its historical context, its social conditioning are important. This is why Indian constitution is attractive to many.
Rise of constitutionalism comes in 18th century with the consolidation of liberal individualism. A constitution is a power map by which two things are established
Power relationships within the government
Relationship of government with society
India had a favourable position because it had a well organised political party and also had civil service based on merit. Because of these two and sagacity of relationship at that time, there is a continuation of liberal democracy, virtually uninterrupted except for 19 months of emergency.
The reason for a stable constitutional existence is for the fact that India has been able to work out lot of institutional arrangements. For example, rotational government is an accepted fact at centre and state level and end of domination of one party system present in the early years.
Similarly, there are increased constitutional provisions that are being increasingly followed. For instance
Bommai case where it is decided how the majority and the minority is determined in a legislative assemblies.
Talks of fundamental rights
Menaka Gandhi case where right to travel outside the country comes under personal liberty guaranteed by article 21
Keshavanandan Bharati case where it was established that there is a basic structure of constitution. This judgment was attractive because the judges never defined what basic structure is.
So there is a flexibility which the modern world demands. From a command economy to a demand economy, India could reach it easily because of this flexibility.
Indian constitution provides for a multiparty democracy with considerable amount of stability. Yet, the institution have remained largely stable as despite alteration of power, there is larger continuity of entire system. Hence, Indian Constitution’s performance has been credible.
There are certain disagreements between judiciary-executive-legislature. But this happens everywhere. Yet India’s constitution has never been threatened by their disagreements.
The continuous electoral process in the country powers way for stable democracy. Here, there is regular election to all the three tiers of the system- federal, state and local elections.
The constitutional amendments are essential because many administrative changes have to be brought about with evolving time but the basic structure remains intact and un-violated.
Ivor Jennings thought that Indian constitution is very cumbersome but Granville Austin thought otherwise. Whatever it may be, Indian constitution has stood the test of time and has become a good example for newly emerging nations.
Lessons from India can be taken in form of:
Uninterrupted continuation: Nobody talks for new constitution.
Indian federalism. From a quasi-federation, there is cooperative federalism.
Co-existence of national and regional parties and attempt at creating a nation unified economically with GST.
Important indicators which show that Indian constitution is based on rule of law, equality and fraternity is an example to the world.
Whenever there is a constitution debate or new constitution in making, there will be a mention of Indian constitution.
Connecting the dots:
What are the features of constitution that India borrowed from world and now world can borrow from India. Analyse.