What is a constitution?
Constitution is a compilation of basic but supreme laws accepted by the all stakeholders in a society. These laws are comprehensive and consists of Fundamental Rights, right to vote, right to property etc. Constitution also organizes and define the extent of powers of the elected government and other institutions, the procedure to change the existing laws or make new rules in the future. It also defines the relationship between legislature (Law-making body), executive (implementing body) and judiciary.
Why do we need a constitution anyway?
Food, house, education, equality in society, freedom etc. are fundamental things that we need as human beings to progress. It is very important that our voice is heard in the decisions that affect our life. So, we create governments and give them powers to exercise for proper functioning and greater good of society. But the history tells us that the power without limitations can lead to corruption, dictatorship and oppression. We need to make basic rules to control how that power is used so the government respects our rights and promote our interests. So, whenever we try to setup a new society the first thing we do is write a constitution.
What is the Constitution of India?
It is just a thick book written by some really remarkable people. The book contains rules regarding citizenship, our fundamental rights, fundamental duties as a citizen of this country, guidelines/recommendations to the government while making new laws and policies, form of the government at centre, state and local levels, judiciary, procedure to change the existing laws or make new laws in the future, elections, official language of the Union and of a state etc. It also divides the power to make laws between the Centre and the States very clearly and contains emergency provisions. There are many other laws in the constitution related to budget, centre state relations, minorities, amendment of the constitution etc.
Who wrote the Indian Constitution?
As I said earlier, the authors of Indian Constitution were of extreme merits who understood the law, politics and other aspects of a society really well. They were indirectly elected by the people of our nation through directly elected representatives (like we now elect members of Rajya Sabha). Some of them were nominated by the head of princely states. They were collectively known as Constituent Assembly of India. The Constituent Assembly had 299 representatives, including nine women. B. R. Ambedkar (Lawyer), K. M. Munshi (Politician & writer), Jawaharlal Nehru (Politician), Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (Lawyer), Rajendra Prasad (Political leader & lawyer), Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (Writer & scholar) were some of the prominent members of the constituent assembly. Ammu Swaminathan, Dakshayani Velayudhan, G. Durgabai were among the women who contributed to the making of the constitution. Our constitution is signed by 284 members.
How did constituent assembly work?
The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held on 9 December 1946 in the constitution hall (now the Central Hall of Parliament House) in New Delhi. The Constituent Assembly was divided into different Committees to deal with different aspects of the Constitution. The most important was the Drafting Committee under the chairmanship of the Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. Their job was to prepare a draft of the constitution. The committee prepared the draft and submitted to the Assembly on 4 November 1947. After that the draft was debated and over 2000 amendments were moved over a period of two years. Finally, on 26 November 1949, the Constituent Assembly completed the task and adopted the Constitution.
Our original Constitution is hand-written with beautiful calligraphy, each page beautified and decorated by artists from Shantiniketan including Nandalal Bose and Beohar Rammanohar Sinha. I recommend everyone to visit nearby library and see if they have a copy of the original constitution. Alternatively, you can have a look at the scanned copy here.
What are the sources of our Constitution?
The framers of our constitution were inspired by all the major constitution of the world at that time (i.e. Constitution of Britain, Ireland, USA, Canada, Japan, South Africa, erstwhile Soviet Union, France, Australia etc.). They were also inspired by political revolutions (French Revolution) and ideologies. They also borrowed from many Acts (Laws) passed by the Britishers (Govt. of India Act, 1935). Now it is not to say that our Constitution is copied from other onstitutions. The makers of constitution did not copy the provisions as it is from the source, but modified them keeping in mind their suitability to the Indian society and need, at the same time avoiding their shortcomings. For example, the idea of Fundamental Rights was taken from the constitution of USA but the fundamental rights in our constitution are far more elaborate than that in the constitution of USA.
Is it possible to modify our constitution?
Our constitution itself provides for its amendment to adjust to changing conditions and needs. Our constitution is a blend of flexible and rigid constitution. Which means that it is very easy to amend some articles of our constitution and at the same time it is very difficult to amend certain provisions. The constitution gives the power to amend any article (including Fundamental Rights) of the constitution to Parliament (President + Rajya Sabha + Lok Sabha) only.
Here the catch though, in the famous Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala case in 1973, Supreme Court (SC is the final interpreter of the constitution) laid down a new doctrine of the “Basic Structure/Features” of the constitution. It ruled that amendment power of the Parliament does not enable it to alter the “Basic Structure/Features” of the constitution. Supremacy of the Constitution, Secular nature of the Constitution, Free and fair election are some of the “Basic Features” of the constitution.
The “Basic Features” here does not mean features in conventional sense (like longest written constitution, rigid and flexible etc.) but they have a deeper meaning. We will learn in detail about this when I take up the amendment of the Constitution.
So, how long is this ‘book’ anyway?
Our Constitution is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world. As of May 2017, it contains 448 articles (laws) in 22 parts (Chapters in a book), 12 schedules (Tables/lists given at the end of the constitution like list of states and union territories and their territories) and 118 amendments (Modified or newly added articles).
This was a brief introduction to the constitutionalism and Indian constitution. In the next post we will unfold our constitution and understand the Preamble, which is basically the essence/summary/ abstract/TL;DR/सार of the constitution in one page.
If you want me to take up a current issue (Presidential Election/Language/Fundamental Rights) or something else let me know.
P.S.: If you want to read some books on Indian Constitution and working of Parliament, you can start with Introduction to the Constitution of India by Dr. DD Basu and Our Parliament by Subhash Kashyap.
A couple weeks ago I came across the Gothenburg Art 21 contest. They're accepting artwork entries from all over the world, and the top 21 entries (based on votes) will be painted as huge murals across the city of Gothenburg (in Sweden). To paint them they will employ trained talented unemployed youth, which I think is a pretty noble idea, while beautifying the city.
I noticed that there's no other contestant from India. The subject of my artwork is an elephant, because I thought that represents India well and will be unique for Sweden.
You can view it on the following link, and please do vote too while you're there. All you have to do is press "Vote Now".
(Edited to add the link)
As someone who is born and raised in Canada but has parents who came from India. I always wonder do people in India play any online games? Such as league of legend, Overwatch, world of Warcraft, DOTA and etc. To me, I feel the answer is very little, but I could be wrong. I feel this way because Indians do not like video games as they think it's boring or they do like it but there is not enough technology there. Such as every house has a computer or laptop. It would be cool if more Indians play online games such as the Chinese and the Koreans. Maybe the Indians would be a strong competitor against the Koreans during Esports. I would so root for you.
Thanks. Understood @NandanNilekani claimed that the failure rate vaporises upon multiple tries.
Please vaccinate your kids ! I'm from Kerala and I'm hearing about kids dying from diphtheria, which is sad because that's a vaccine preventable disease. If anyone you know refuses to vaccinate their kids, educate them. I know some religious communities are against vaccination, so reach out to their leaders and ask them for help in raising awareness.
If you go here: http://www.immunize.org/vis/ you can click on each vaccine and get an information sheet on it, very helpful.