Constitution: Why and How?
1. Definition: ‘Constitution’ is a compact document that comprises a number of articles about the state, specifying how the state is to be constituted and what norms it should follow.
2. Need for a constitution: We need constitution for the following reasons-
(i) To provide a set of basic rules that allow for minimal co-ordination amongst members of society.
(ii) To specify how the government would be constituted and who has powers to make decisions in the society.
(iii) To lay some limitations on government’s power by guaranteeing rights to the citizens.
(iv) To enable the government to fulfill aspirations of a society and create conditions for a just society.
(v) To express the fundamental identity of people.
3. Effectiveness of a Constitution: The constitution of a country is very much important document if it's seeks to perform above mentioned functions like provision of basic rules, specifications of work, lying limitations on government and provision of a society in which we aspire to live in.
Any constitution for its effectiveness based on the following three things-
(a) Mode of promulgation: This refers to how a constitution comes into being. Who crafted and how much authority did they have?
Our country’s constitution was drafted in the aftermath of popular national movements.
It was formally created by a Constituent Assembly between Dec. 1946 and Nov. 1949.
The Indian Constitution drew enormous legitimacy from the fact that It was drawn up by people who enjoyed immense public credibility, who had the capacity to negotiate and command the respect of a wide cross section of society, convincing the people ‘Constitution was not an instrument for the aggrandizement of their personal power.’
(b) The substantive provisions of a constitution: It is the hallmark of a successful constitution that it gives everyone in society some reason to go along with its provisions.
Indian constitution in this regard provide a reason to all its citizen (majority and minority) to go along with its broad outline. Indian constitution respects and recognizes the identities of its citizen and it also provides framework for pursuing basic justice.
(c) Balanced Institutional design: Well-crafted constitutions fragments power in society intelligently so that no single group can subvert the constitution. The Indian constitution horizontally fragments power across different institutions like the Executive, Legislative and the Judiciary and even independent statutory bodies like the Election Commission.
This system of balanced institutions has the following benefits:
(i) This ensures that even if one institutions wants to subvert the constitution, others can check its transgressions. An intelligent system of checks and balances has facilitated the success of Indian Constitution.
(ii) These fragments provide the right balance between certain values norms and procedures as authoritative and at the same time allow enough flexibility in its operations to adapt to changing needs and circumstances.
(iii) By striking a balance between the possibility to change the provisions and the limits on such changes, the constitution has ensured that it will survive as a document respected by people.
(iv) This arrangement also ensures that no section or group can, on its own, subvert the constitution.
4. Making of the Indian Constitution: Formally, the constitution of India was made by a Constituent assembly which had been elected for undivided India.
The constituent Assembly was composed roughly of the British cabinet, known as the Cabinet Mission. According to this plan-
(a) Each province and each princely state or group of states were allotted seats proportional to their respective population roughly in the ratio of 1:10, 00,000. As a result the provinces were to elect 292 members while the princely states were allotted a minimum of 93 seats.
(b) The seats in each province were distributed among the three main communities- Muslim, Sikh and General, in proportion to their respective population.
(c) The method of selection in the case of representatives of princely states was to be determined by consultation.
5. Composition of the Constituent Assembly: The number of members in the assembly reduced to 299 only after the partition plan of 3 June, 1947. The first meeting of the constituent assembly held on 9 Dec, 1946. This assembly worked day and night for the next 2 years, 11 months and 18 days and finally completed the process of constitution making on 26 Nov, 1949.
The members of the Assembly were not elected by Universal Suffrage, there was a serious attempt to make the assembly a represented body by indirect election.
Members of all religion were given representation under the scheme described above. In addition, it has- 28 members- Scheduled Castes.
6. The Principle of Deliberation: In any assembly that claims to be representative, it is desirable that diverse section of society participate. It is equally important that they participate not only as representatives of their own identity or community. Each member deliberated upon the constitution with the interest of the whole nation in mind.
There were legitimate differences of principles. Almost on every issue that lies at the foundation of a modern state was discussed with great sophistication.
Only one provision of the constitution was passed without-virtually any debate- The introduction of Universal Suffrage (Right to Vote to all its citizens irrespective of religion, caste education, gender or income) every other matter was seriously discussed and debated. Nothing can be a better testament to the democratic commitment of this assembly.
The constitution drew its authority from the fact that members of the constituent assembly engaged in what one might call public reason. The voluminous debates in the constituent assembly where each clause of the constitution was subjected to scrutiny and debates, is a tribute public reasons at its best.
7. Procedures: The constituent assembly had eight major committees on different subject. Usually Jawahar Lal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Patel and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar chaired these committees.
Major committees are mentioned below:
(a) Constitution making union power committee
(b) Union constitution committee
(c) Provincial constitution committee
(d) Drafting committee
(e) Advisory committee on fundamental rights and minorities
(f) Rules of procedures committee
(g) States committee
(h) Jawaharlal Nehru Steering committee
Among these eight major committees, the most significant was the Drafting committee. On 29 August 1947, the constituent assembly set up a drafting committee under the chairman of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to prepare a draft constitution for India.
Each committee usually drafted particular provisions of the constitution which were then subjected to debate by the entire assembly. Usually, an attempt was made to reach a consensus with the belief that provisions agreed to by all, would not be detrimental to any particular interests.
Query or concern was responded to with great care and in writing. The assembly met for 166 days spread over 2 years and 11 months.
Inheritance of the nationalist movement: Constituent Assembly of India could not have functioned if there was no background consensus on the main principles the constitution should enshrine. For decades preceding the promulgation of the constitution, the nationalist movement had debated many questions that were relevant to the making of the constitution.
Perhaps the best summary of the Principles that nationalists movement brought to the constituent assembly is the objective resolution (the resolution that defined the aims of the assembly). Based on this resolution, our constitution gave institutional expression to fundamental commitments:- equality, liberty, democracy, sovereignty and a cosmopolitan identity.
Main Points of the Objective Resolution: This resolution was presented by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on 13 December 1946.
It has the following highlights
Institutional Arrangements: The Constituent Assembly spent a lot of time on evolving the right balance among the various institutions like the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. This led to adoption of the parliamentary form and federal arrangement which would distribute governmental powers between the legislature and the executive on the one hand and between the states and central government on the other hand.
Framers of Indian constitution were not verse to borrowing other constitutional traditions. Indeed, ‘it is a testament to their wide learning’ that they could lay their hands upon any intellectual arguments, or historical example that was necessary for fulfilling the task at hand. So they borrowed a no. of provisions from different countries like-
6. Directive principles of state policy ] From Irish Constitution
7. Principle of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity ] From French Constitution
10. A quasi-federal form of government a federal system with a strong central government.
11. The idea of Residual Powers. ] From Canadian Constitution
But borrowing these ideas was not slavish imitation. far from it, Each provision of the constitution had to be defended on grounds that it was suited to Indian problems and aspirations. India was extremely lucky to have an assembly Parochial in its outlook could take the best available everywhere in the world and make it their own.
Let’s study, constitution of India –Why & How?
Constitution of India was ready and adopted by constituent assembly by 26th November 1949 but it came into force on 26 January 1950 to remember the date and long struggle for Poorna Swaraj that was officially demanded by Congress in Lahore session 1929. On 26 January 1930, our tri color was unfurled on the banks of river Ravi to celebrate the Independence in minds. Until we achieved actual Freedom on 15 August 1947, Indian nationalist leaders kept on celebrating independence day on 26 January on every preceding year. To maintain the importance of the day, our constitution was enforced and India became a Republic.
India’s constitution is a unique document which in turn became an exemplar for many other constitutions, most notably South Africa. We have world’s largest written constitution with 448 articles, 26 parts, 12 schedules, and 5 appendices till date. Initially (26 jan. 1950), our constitution had 395 articles,22 parts, 12 schedules and 4 appendices.
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