Our Constitution, A Beacon of Freedom

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Making of Indian Constitution

Mains level : Paper 2- Indian Constitution

Context

On November 26, 1949,72 years ago, India adopted new Constitution. Provisions of the Constitution like those pertaining to citizenship, a provisional parliament and other transitional measures came into force immediately, on November 26, 1949.

Challenges faced by the Constituent Assembly

  • Boycott of the members: The body was meant to comprise 296 members but was boycotted by some members who would eventually move to Pakistan.
  • Hence, the assembly would be a 210-member body at the initial sessions.
  • Deft statesmanship, not rage was displayed in response to the boycott.
  • Juristicconcerns: There were other juristic concerns.
  • The colonial constitutionalist Ivor Jennings, who long sought to be involved in India’s drafting project but was refused later, asked, why the Constitution of India “plays down communalism?”
  • This was a stinging question, for Partition was the result of communalism, how could any of us forget that?

Important feature of Indian Constitution: Addressing historical discrimination

  • India’s Constitution is unique in its approach for making reparations for historical discrimination on grounds of caste that defines the present and future of so many Indians.
  • By contrast, America’s Constitution makes no apology nor enables reparations for slavery.
  • Despite being a body that was not significantly diverse, the founders, having appreciated the concerns of their people, were able to stand outside of their own privilege and conceive of a founding document that would speak for those who have been silenced for thousands of years.

What makes the Indian Constitution enduring?

  • After having studied every constitution from 1789 to 2005, Tom Ginsburg of the University of Chicago School of Law and his colleagues concluded that on average a constitution survives for around 17 years. 
  •  France with 14 constitutions, Mexico at five constitutions and neighbouring Pakistan with three constitutions typify the global experience.
  • Expansion of freedoms of citizens: India’s Constitution has endured because its founders, its interpreters — the constitutional courts — and litigants in the form of social movements have all ensured that it is used to consistently expand the freedoms of citizens, even if social morality thinks otherwise.
  • Constitutional morality: The Constitution’s morality has stood firmly with disadvantaged castes, women, and religious minorities.
  • Accommodating marginalised groups: In contemporary times, other marginalised groups like LGBT Indians have been heard by constitutional courts that have unanimously found for their freedoms and for a full equality.

Consider the question “Elaborate on the features that explain the endurance of the Indian Constitution.”

Conclusion

Today, we marvel at the 72nd year of the adoption of our Constitution, and 72 years of our birth as “We the People”. But, as we revel in our good fortune, we must also be aware that its endurance is deeply rooted in the ability of all of us to commit to the project of expanding freedom, not contracting it

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