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Need for a Constitution
The Constitution serves several purposes. First, it lays out certain ideals that form the basis of the kind of country that we as citizens aspire to live in. A Constitution helps serve as a set of rules and principles that all persons in a country can agree upon as the basis of the way in which they want the country to be governed. The second important purpose of a Constitution is to define the nature of a country's political system. The third significant reason why we need a Constitution is to save us from ourselves.
Formation of the Constituent Assembly
Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946. Its first meeting was held in December 1946. Soon after, the country was divided into India and Pakistan. The Constituent Assembly was also divided into the Constituent Assembly of India and that of Pakistan. The Constituent Assembly that wrote the Indian constitution had 299 members. The Assembly adopted the Constitution on 26 November 1949 but it came into effect on 26 January 1950. To mark this day we celebrate January 26 as Republic Day every year.
Composition of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly was elected mainly by the members of the existing Provincial Legislatures. This ensured a fair geographical share of members from all the regions of the country. The Assembly was dominated by the Indian National Congress, the party that led India's freedom struggle. But the Congress itself included a variety of political groups and opinions. The Assembly had many members who did not agree with the Congress. In social terms too, the Assembly represented members from different language groups, castes, classes, religions and occupations.
The' Resolution' highlighted the objectives and laid down the 'national goals'.
i) Free India will be nothing but a 'republic'.
ii) The ideals of social, economic and political democracy would be granted to all people.
iii) The republic would grant Fundamental Rights to citizens.
iv) The state would guard the rights of minorities and backward classes.
Philosophy of Indian Constitution
The Preamble of the Constitution reads like a poem on democracy. It contains the philosophy on which the entire Constitution has been built. It provides a standard to examine and evaluate any law and action of government, to find out whether it is good or bad. It is the soul of the Indian Constitution.
The Constituent Assembly worked in a systematic, open and consensual manner. A drafting committee under the chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was formed. The drafting committee prepared a draft of constitution for discussion. Several rounds of thorough discussion took place on the Draft Constitution, clause by clause. More than two thousand amendments were considered. The members deliberated for 114 days spread over three years.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's contribution to the Indian Constitution
On August 29, 1947, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was appointed the Chairman of the Drafting Committee that was constituted by Constituent Assembly to draft a Constitution for Independent India. He gave free India its legal framework, and the people, the basis of their freedom. To this end, Dr. Ambedkar's contribution was significant, substantial, and spectacular. Dr. Ambedkars contribution to the evolution of free India lies in his striving for ensuring justice - social, economic and political - for one and all.
Meaning of the Constitution
Constitution is a legal document according to which the country is governed. The centre, as well as the state governments, are all run according to the constitution. The Constitution is considered to be the supreme law.
India as a Republic
A democratic country where the head of the country is elected is known as Republic. Our President is an elected executive head. Thus, our country is known as Democratic-Republic. In some of the democratic countries, the head is not elected but acquire the headship through heredity (King or Queen as in England). There is another form of the government which is known as dictatorship where the ruling power rests with a single dictator or group of dictators.
India as a Republic
A democratic country where the head of the country is elected is known as Republic. Our President is an elected executive head. Thus, our country is known as Democratic-Republic. In some of the democratic countries, the head is not elected but acquire the headship through heredity (King or Queen as in England).
Preamble of the Indian Constitution
The Preamble of Constitution serves the following purposes as the matters of its importance:
(1) It indicates the source from which the Constitution comes into existence, i.e. the people of India.
(2) It contains the enacting clause which brings into force the Constitution.
(3) It declares the rights and freedoms which the people of India intended to secure to all citizens and the basic structure of the Government and the polity which was to be established.
Guiding values of the Indian Constitution
Values that inspired and guided the freedom struggle and were in turn nurtured by it, formed the foundation for Indias democracy. These values are embedded in the 'Preamble' of the Indian Constitution. They guide all the articles of the Indian Constitution.The Constitution begins with a short statement of its basic values. This is called the Preamble to the Constitution.
Implementation of Constitution
The Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution on 26 November 1949 but it came into effect (being implemented) on 26 January 1950. The Constitution as a whole came into force with effect from January 26, 1950.
Institutional design of Constitution
A constitution is not merely a statement of values and philosophy. A constitution is mainly about embodying these values into institutional arrangements. Much of the document called Constitution of India is about these arrangements. It is a very long and detailed document. Therefore it needs to be amended quite regularly to keep it updated. Those who crafted the Indian Constitution felt that it has to be in accordance with peoples aspirations and changes in society. They did not see it as a sacred, static and unalterable law. So, they made provisions to incorporate changes from time to time. These changes are called constitutional amendments.
Significance of January 26
The date January 26, 1950 for commencement of the Constitution was specially selected because of its historical importance. It was on this date, January 26, in 1929 that the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress had for the first time given the call of 'Purna Swaraj' or Complete Independence.
The Indian Constitution provides for a single citizenship. This means that all Indians irrespective of the State of their domicile are the citizens of India. This has been done to promote fraternity and unity among the people.
Universal adult franchise
This means that all persons of 18 years of age and above have the right to vote irrespective of their caste, colour, religion, etc.
Parliamentary form of government
The Parliamentary system of Government is a form of government in which the power to make and execute laws is held by the Parliament. In India, the Parliamentary form of Government exists both at the Centre and in the States. The President of India is only a Constitutional head. The real powers are enjoyed by the Prime Minister who is aided by the Council of Ministers.
Separation of powers
According to the Constitution, there are three organs of the State. These are the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The legislature refers to our elected representatives. The executive is a smaller group of people who are responsible for implementing laws and running the government. The judiciary refers to the system of courts in this country.
Leader of Opposition in the Parliament
In each House of the Parliament, there is the Leader of the Opposition. The leader of the largest opposition party becomes the leader of the Opposition. His main function is to provide a constructive criticism of the government policies. The leader of opposition also gets salary, allowances and other facilities.
India - A Secular and Socialist Country
The Gandhian ideals are aimed to be secured by the incorporation of the word Socialist in the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment. The same amendment inserted the word Secular to reflect the secular nature of Indian society. These values are further strengthened by the word Democratic in the Preamble.
India - A Sovereign Democratic Republic
The Preamble to the Constitution embodies the source of the Constitution i.e., the people of India. The terms 'sovereign', 'socialist', 'secular', 'democratic', 'republic' in the Preamble suggests the nature of the state. The ideals of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity reflects the objectives of the Constitution.
Written and Lengthy ConstitutionThe Constitution of India is an elaborate document and is the most voluminous Constitution in the world. Our Constitution originally consisted of 395 Articles and eight Schedules. An important reason for the extraordinary volume of the Constitution is that it contains detailed provisions regarding numerous aspects of governance. This was done to minimize confusion and ambiguity in the interpretation of the Constitution.Another reason for its unusual lengthy is the incorporation of the good points of various constitutions of the world. The vastness of our country and its peculiar problems has also added to the bulk of the Constitution. Thus, for example, the Indian Constitution envisages laws for the governance of the States too. Detailed provisions regarding the working of the Union Government and the State Governments have been given with a view to avoiding any constitutional problem which the newly-born Democratic Republic might experience in the working of the Constitution.
Written and Lengthy Constitution
Our Constitution is written, lengthy and detailed. A written constitution is that which is based on written laws duly passed by a representative body elected for this very purpose. In other words, a written constitution is an enacted constitution.
- An unwritten constitution, on the other hand, is an evolved constitution. It is primarily based on unwritten conventions, traditions, and practices.
- The Constitution of the U.S.A. is another example of a written constitution and that of England of an unwritten one.