72nd year of adoption of the Indian constitution

72nd year of adoption of the Indian constitution

News Analysis   /   72nd year of adoption of the Indian constitution

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Published on: November 27, 2021

Making of Indian Constitution

Source: The Economic Times

Context:

The author talks about the significance of the constituent assembly on the eve of the 72nd year of adoption of the Indian constitution.

Editorial Insights:

The Constitution of India is the rule-book for democratic governance in India. It came into force on 26 January 1950 and to date remains one of the biggest milestones in the history of our country.

The Constitution of India was enacted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949.  This enactment completes 72 years on November 26, 2021.  The Indian Constitution was a product of deliberations of the Assembly for over three years.

Framing a constitution is never a simple task but it was especially hard for India given the extremely tumultuous situation at the time. A newly independent country with a highly unequal social order was a daunting challenge to deal with, especially when it was still reeling under the effects of partition.

 

Challenges in framing the Constitution

  • The Constitution took a significant amount of time to be framed and though it continues relying on many institutions established by the British it borrows different aspects from various constitutions.
  • However, widespread debates & deliberations are surrounded by demands for an indigenous Constitution.
  • Undoubtedly, the biggest challenge facing the assembly was to create a political framework that keeps the various communities and princely states happy in India and prevent Balkanisation.
  • The members were acutely aware of this as Delhi was facing enough violence that they often needed curfew passes to attend Assembly sessions.
  • The fact that the Assembly also functioned as an interim Parliament would have also informed the members about the scale of administrative work needed to ensure unity.

 

Other major challenges faced by the assembly:

  • To frame a constitution that would uplift downtrodden sections of society. This meant providing an assurance to minorities regarding the protection of their rights as well as creating a welfare State that could improve their social and economic status.
  • To ensure democratic processes for citizens in perpetuity – the fathers wanted their vision of the country to remain after their death.
  • To frame a constitution capable of effectively handling communal violence. This was largely motivated by the violence occurring due to the partition.
  • To frame a constitution that could integrate princely states and their various demands.

Salient Features of Constituent Assembly:

  • The Constituent Assembly of India came into existence as per the provisions of the Cabinet Mission Plan of May 1946. Its task was to formulate constitution/s for facilitating the appropriate transfer of sovereign power from British authorities to Indian hands.
  • The Assembly was to have proportional representation from existing provincial legislatures and various princely states.
  • The bulk of these elections was completed by the end of July 1946.
  • The Assembly was to have three sections: Punjab & North-West, Bengal-Assam, and the Rest of India.
  • The Constitutions were to be formulated for the Indian Union, each Section, and each of the Provinces therein.
  • The Muslim League, which had won the bulk of the 80 Muslim seats and dominated two smaller Sections, chose not to participate so the Assembly never convened separately in sections.
  • Assembly held 12 sessions or rounds of sittings.
  • Membership of the Assembly kept varying for different reasons, other than resignation and death.
  • After the passage of the Indian Independence Act by the British Parliament it was decided that those members who wish to retain their seats in the provincial legislature would vacate their seats in the Assembly.
  • Biggest change in membership was caused by the declaration of Partition of India.
  • After initial disinterest, the princely states started negotiating with a committee of the Assembly for their representation.
  • Over a period, hundreds of princely states were grouped into larger associations, and provisions were made for them to elect their representatives to the Assembly.
  • The Assembly took the help of several non-members in the formulation of the Constitution

Resolutions were moved for setting up committees as and when the need arose, and adopted after discussion.

Functions of the Constituent Assembly

Framing the Constitution.

Enacting laws and being involved in the decision-making process.

It adopted the National flag on July 22, 1947.

It accepted and approved India's membership of the British Commonwealth in May 1949.

It elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India on January 24, 1950.

It adopted the National anthem on January 24, 1950.

It adopted the National song on January 24, 1950.

Criticism of the Constituent Assembly

 

The grounds on which the Constituent Assembly was criticized were as follows:

Not a Popular body: Critics argued that the members of the Constituent Assembly were not directly elected by the people of India.

The Preamble says that the Constitution has been adopted by the people of India, whereas it was adopted by only a few individuals who were not even elected by the people.

Not a Sovereign body: The critics stated that the Constituent Assembly was not a sovereign body as it was not created by the people of India.

It was created by the proposals of the British rulers by executive action before India’s independence and its composition was determined by them.

Time-consuming: The critics maintained that the time is taken to prepare the Constitution was too much in comparison to other nations.

The framers of the US Constitution took only four months to prepare Constitution.

Dominated by Congress: The critics continued to argue that the Congress in the Constituent Assembly was quite dominating and imposed its thinking on the people of the country through the Constitution drafted by it.

Dominated by one community: According to some critics, the Constituent Assembly lacked religious heterogeneity and was dominated by the Hindus.

Lawyers Paradise: Critics also argued that the Constitution became bulky and cumbersome due to the dominance of lawyers in the Constituent Assembly.

They have made the language of the Constitution difficult for a layman to understand. The other sections of the society couldn't voice their concerns and were unable to participate in the decision-making process during the time of the drafting of the Constitution.

Significance:

  • The Indian Constitution being the longest constitution of the world was adopted and enacted on 26th November 1949. & it is unusual for it has endured across seven decades and with consistency.
  • In many ways through the 72 years of its existence, the Constitution has played a transformative role, in transforming not only the functioning of the government but also Indian society at large.
  • First & foremost, it transformed the people of India from being British colonial subjects to citizens of a republic, and through the Constitution, India became the largest democracy on earth.
  • The Indian Constitution is unusual for it has endured across seven decades and with consistency. Constitutional democracy was formally suspended only once from 1975 to 1977 during an emergency.
  • Though there have been other problems in its operation, the Constitution of India has provided stability to the political and legal culture of the country.
  • The Indian Constitution was an ambitious document, it wanted to achieve all its ideals simultaneously through the governance of the country, many saw the Indian Constitution as a revolutionary document.
  • It was made over three years. Many constitutions in Africa and Asia were drafted later keeping the Indian constitution as a role model.
  • The Preamble which embodies the spirit of the constitution clearly and unequivocally states, that justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity are the foundation stone of the Indian Republic.
  • The constitution brought into existence full-fledged democracy founded on universal adult franchise and equality of all citizens.
  • Firstly, it sought to transform the individual’s legal relationship with the state. It transformed the subjects of the colonial regime into citizens of a republic.
  • The Indian constitution brought transformation, in the colonial rule and replaced it with democracy, by introducing subjects of sovereignty and public participation.
  • Apart from the universal adult franchise and Parliamentary democracy, freedom of speech, expression, association, and conscience and the right to life and personal liberty, and also the right to equality before the law.
  • These fundamental rights were not there in the Government of India Act, 1935. As such, the fundamental rights signified a great shift in constitutional philosophy.
  • Another main feature of the Indian Constitution is its aim to re-construct the state and society.
  • The preamble and its three words liberty, equality, and fraternity is the mantra that instills life into the Indian Constitution.
  • Political democracy, cannot last if it is not based on social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life, in which there is liberty, equality, and fraternity are the basic principles. These three are inseparable – liberty, equality, and fraternity have to live together.
  • The Indian Constitution is an organic document compared to a living tree because it evolves and is updated through various judgments so that it keeps pace with the changing times.
  • The best example of this living tree is the expansion of Article 21 (Right to Life), which has expanded through various judgments and has gone much beyond what was contemplated by the makers of the constitution originally.
  • The Right to Life is today not only a right to stay alive but to ensure a decent living. Many rights such as the Right to Education, the Right to information, the Right to shelter, and many more have been brought into the ambit of the Right to Life, through judicial pronouncements and judgments.

 

Conclusion:

The constitution of India thus emerged out through a process of intense debate and discussion. The Constituent Assembly debates show us many conflicting voices and the many articulated demands that had been negotiated in framing the Constitution, giving us an understanding of the vision of this committee and the aim and aspirations of the member of the committee which has been translated into the various provisions of the Constitution.

The aim of the constitution was not just to give India a “Law Manual”. “We wish to bring about a fundamental alteration in the structure of Indian Society ….” - Dr. S Radhakrishnan

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