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Editorial Articles

Issue no 35, 26 November - 02 December 2022

Significance of the Indian Constitution

Lakshmi J.

India became the largest democracy in the world with the adoption of the Constitution by the members of the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949. In 1979, the Supreme Court Bar Association under the leadership of Dr. L.M. Singhvi, had decided to celebrate November 26 as Law Day. From November, 2015, the Government of India decided to celebrate the 26th day of November each year as 'Constitution Day' to promote Constitutional values among citizens. The notification reads as follows:

"Whereas the people of India, having solemnly resolved to secure to all its citizens Justice, Liberty, Equality and to promote Fraternity among all, adopted, enacted and gave to themselves the Constitution of India in the Constituent Assembly on the 26th day of November, 1949; And whereas the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, provided its invaluable services in drafting the Constitution of India and the nation is celebrating the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in recognition of his contribution to building modern India; Now, therefore, the Government of India has decided to celebrate the 26th day of the November of every year as the "Constitution Day" to promote constitutional values among citizens."

On 26th January 2022, our nation celebrated its 73rd Republic Day. The Constituent Assembly by drafting the Constitution made us responsible for our self-governance. We thereby gained freedom to transform the destiny and to achieve our aims and aspirations. The members of the drafting committee realized that Constitution could not by itself make a new India, but they intended to light the way. The Indian Independence Act of 1947 also empowered the Constituent Assembly to frame laws for India until the new Constitution came into force. The framers of the Constitution borrowed mainly from three sources for making of the Constitutional provisions. The foundation document was the Government of India Act, 1935 passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in London. The Act thereby established a parliamentary system, containing a vast administrative detail for the structure of the government, established a centralized federal system, and provided for elections to provincial legislatures. It provided the basis for the government until the newly framed Constitution replaced it in 1950. The framers also borrowed from other Constitutions to include fundamental rights and directive principles, a body of social and economic rights. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had once said regarding the framing of the Constitution, "This cannot be done by the wisest of lawyers sitting together in conclave; it cannot be done by small committees trying to balance interests and calling that constitution-making; it can never be done under the shadow of an external authority. It can only be done effectively when the political and psychological conditions are present, and the urge and sanctions come from the masses". The framers of the Constitution had more or less done justice to this vision of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on 9th December 1946 in the Constitution Hall, presently the Central Hall of the Parliament House. The Constituent Assembly, put together to draft the Constitution of India, held its first session on 9th December 1946. On 11th December 1946, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as the permanent Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who took the initiative as the Chairman of its Drafting Committee is remembered as the Chief Architect of the Indian Constitution. Dr. Ambedkar had played a dynamic role in leading the drafting committee and Constituent Assembly to guide our country being completely aware of our unique social, cultural and religious diversity. These sessions ended on November 26, 1949. The Constitution's spirit came from a third source: the Objective Resolution adopted during the December 1946 Assembly session. Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru had drafted the Objective resolution which said that the Indian Union, whose integrity was to be maintained, derived its authority and power from the Indian people. On 13th December 1946, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru moved the 'Objective Resolution', which later became the preamble to the Constitution of India. The Preamble of the Constitution contains the direction and purpose of the Constitution. Granville Austin, an American historian on the Indian Constitution has remarked that the provisions of the Indian Constitution are more or less aimed to further the goals of the social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing the conditions necessary for its achievement and is therefore a social document. He says, the commitment to the social revolution lies in Parts III and IV, in the Fundamental Rights and in the Directive Principles of State Policy, the conscience of the Constitution. The Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy had their roots deep in the struggle for independence. The Rights and Principles thus connect India's future, present, and past, adding greatly to the significance of their inclusion in the Constitution, backing the social revolution in India. The Indian Constitution by and large seeks to promote Rule of Law through many of its provisions. For example, Parliament and State Legislatures are democratically elected on the basis of adult suffrage. The Constitution makes adequate provisions guaranteeing independence of judiciary. Judicial Review has been guaranteed through several Constitutional provisions. The Supreme Court has characterized judicial review as a "basic feature of the Constitution" and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar has noted Article 32 as the 'heart and soul' of the Constitution. Further, the Supreme Court has shielded the Constitution from any attack by evolving the basic structure doctrine, which says that the basic features of the Constitution cannot be amended. The Constitutional provisions have now assumed great significance as it is used to control administrative powers lest they should become arbitrary. India's existence till date as a democracy should be credited to its Constitution. The sacred document has survived the test of time and many challenges. It has evolved with time without losing its inherent features and for the same the credit must be given to the framers of the Constitution and to the judiciary for dynamically interpreting the Constitution with the needs of changing times.

(The author is an advocate in the Hon'ble High Court of Kerala. She can be reached at lakshmi@crschambers.com) Views expressed are personal.