Special Content


volume 34, 23-29, November 2019

Indian Constitution and the Citizens

Dr. Subhash C Kashyap

When the framers of our Constitution visualized the future polity for India, they attached the highest importance and primacy to India being fully 'sovereign' with the supreme power of the State vesting in the people and the people of India acknowledging no external authority or superior outside or inside the country. The Constitution of India does not contain any specific provisions in regard to the vesting of sovereignty. But the words "we the people of India" resolving "to constitute India into a sovereign…Republic with which the Preamble begins indicate the residence of sovereignty in the people of India. The closing words of the Preamble which declare that it is the people who "adopt, enact and give to ourselves the Constitution" again indicate that the source of the Constitution is in the people of India.

  • There existed no concept of Indian citizenship before 26 November 1949: Citizenship provisions in the Constitution - Articles 5 to 11 - gave the Constitution Drafting Committee the maximum "headache" and took more than two years to be finalized. Even then, the Constitution only laid down the law in regard to who would be citizens of India at the time of the commencement of the Constitution. It did not provide for the mode of acquisition and termination of citizenship. The Indian Citizenship Act passed in 1955 laid down the law for acquisition and termination of Indian Citizenship.

 

  • No Indian citizen can seek to exclude himself from a situation of National Emergency: While a Proclamation of Emergency is in operation, the situation calls upon all the citizens, irrespective of the State they may live in, to constitute themselves into a single national mould to defend national honour and sovereignty. No citizen should be able to exclude himself from this national effort on the plea that his State was not affected or threatened by the emergency and there he was not concerned. In an emergency, there is only one entity-the Union- and only one nation - India- and all the citizens of India have to rise above local and parochial interests to join together in the national mainstream to meet the challenge to national sovereignty and honour.

 

 

  • Despite ceasing to be a Fundamental Right, an Indian citizens' right to property is still fully protected: While right to property is no longer a Fundamental Right, it is still a constitutional right (Bishamber Vs State of UP, AIR 1982 SC 33). A constitutional safeguard has been provided in article 300A which says that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. Authority of law could be exercised for the general good of the people and to promote public interest and not for arbitrary and punitive action against any citizen. Unless some public interest in involved and the Parliament is convinced of the public interest, a citizen's right to property is fully protected. This protection is not only against State action but also against fellow citizens as well.

 

  • No other law or rule can override Fundamental Rights of citizens offering themselves for public service: With the adoption of the Constitution, the culture and responsibility of the public services had to be radically reoriented. Article 309, while giving the power to the Legislature to 'regulate the recruitment and conditions of service of public servants, subjected to the exercise of this power to the various other provisions of the Constitution, like Article 14 which guarantees "equality before law and equal protection of laws", Article 15 which prohibits discrimination "against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them" or Article 16 which guarantees "equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State." This underlines the concern of the Constitution that even parliamentary powers to so exercised as not to compromise the Fundamental Rights of the citizens offering themselves for public service.

 

  • The Indian Constitution views all Indian languages as equal: Article 350A of the Constitution directs the State to "provide adequate facilities for instructions in the mother tongue at the primary stage of education for children belonging to linguistic minority groups." This provision recognizes the fact that nothing is dearer to the man that his mother tongue. The language policy of our Constitution is reflective of the constitutional preference for all the Indian languages.

 

  • The Indian Constitution seeks to instill feeling of nationhood among the citizens by fostering the value of sharing of resources: Article 297 lays down that "all lands, minerals and other things of value underlying the ocean within the territorial waters, or the continental shelf, or the exclusive economic zone of India shall vest in the Union and be held for the purpose of the Union." Only a few states lie on the sea coast, and if the resources of the sea were monopolized by them alone, the hinterland states would have the feeling of being left out. The vesting of these resources of the ocean in the Union, give the citizens of the hinterland States a feeling of ownership of those national resources. This helps in fostering the spirit of nationhood and a sense of belonging to one nation.

 

(Excerpts from the book Citizens and the Constitution by Subhash C Kashyap published by the Publications Division. Website: www.publicationsdivision.nic.in Price Rs. 220).