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70 years of Constitution of India

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    5th Feb, 2020

Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950. This Republic Day marked the 70th anniversary of it. Also, during the many student-led protests against Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), Indian Constitution has been a recurring theme.

Issue

Context

Constitution of India came into effect on 26 January 1950. This Republic Day marked the 70th anniversary of it. Also, during the many student-led protests against Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB), Indian Constitution has been a recurring theme.

Background:                                  

  • It’s been nearly 70 years after the Constitution of India first came into effect on 26 January 1950.
  • CAB protests: Recently, protesters against Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) have in defiance, been reading out preamble of the Constitution; because they believe that fundamental Constitutional principles are being weakened by the ruling government.
  • Article 370: Due to abrogation of Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir will also acknowledge and celebrate the “Constitution Day”.
  • Fact check: Constitution of India lies at the foundation of the world's largest democracy.
    • India’s constitution is the longest handwritten document in the world.
    • It has imbibed in it goodness of constitutions of many countries.

Analysis

History

  • Drafting Committee: Drafting Committee was elected by the Constituent Assembly on 29th August 1947.
    • It held its first meeting on 30th August.
    • Since August 30th it sat for 141 days.
    • The first Draft Constitution contained 315 Articles and 8 Schedules.
    • In its final form, the Draft Constitution contains 395 Articles and 8 Schedules.
  • Amendments: The Constitution of India has gone through more than 100 Constitutional amendments.
    • Now the Constitution comprises 466 Articles and 13 Schedules.

Endurance

  • Longevity: The longevity of India’s Constitution is remarkable, especially when compared with the global experience of national Constitutions.
    • On an average, Constitutions around the world have lasted only 17 years since 1789.
  • Among the few that survived: Constitutions in the post-colonial countries, which gained independence after World War II, have been particularly fragile.
    • Pakistan, for example, has had three different Constitutions and large periods of rule without any Constitution.
    • Among the 12 Asian countries that gained independence soon after World War II and drafted Constitutions, only three Constitutions have survived—India, Taiwan and South Korea.
  • Detailed discussions: Indian Constitution’s endurance is attributed to its design and the care with which it was crafted.
    • Since even before independence (1946), an elected constituent assembly of nearly 300 members spent four years debating and defining every aspect of the Constitution—from the idea of India itself to the finer intricacies of federalism.
    • There were a total of 11 sessions of the Constituent Assembly.

The final product

  • Lengthy: India’s Constitution is a 146,385-worded document. It is longer than any other Constitution in the world.
  • Not the most comprehensive: According to Comparative Constitutions Project (CCP), there are 70 major topics that Constitutions around the world typically cover. No Constitution covers all 70 topics, but some Constitutions come close.
    • The Constitutions of Kenya and Zimbabwe, for instance, cover more than 80% of these topics.
    • India’s Constitution is sparser (covering 60% of topics), but in line with the global average in coverage (58%).

Parliamentary vs. Presidential

  • Separation of powers: A central function of the Constitution is to separate and delegate between the three branches of governance: legislature, executive and judiciary.
    • The way Constitutions do this ultimately defines a country’s politics, society and even economics.
  • Parliamentary system: Framers of the constitution believed that given India’s diversity, the country needed a strong government. They felt only a parliamentary system could provide this.
    • Hence, India adopted a system where the elected legislature is responsible for enacting laws, the executive serves as the administrative head of the government, and an independent judiciary is responsible for upholding laws.
  • Success of parliamentary democracy: Parliamentary form of democracy tends to be associated with better economic performance and better growth-promoting policies compared to Constitutions which establish presidential systems.
  • Extent of power: According to CCP, India’s legislature has less power than the average across the 190 countries, but its executive has more power and judiciary has greater independence than global averages.

Rights for citizens

  • Rights for citizens: Another basic purpose of any Constitution is the rights it enshrines for citizens. For this, the Indian framers drew inspiration from American and French Constitutions.
    • As per CCP data, American Constitution grants 35 rights, the Indian Constitution grants 44. This is still less than the global average of 50 rights.
  • Later additions: Few constitutional rights, such as the right to education, only came after Constitutional amendments.

Duties vs. Rights

  • Two sides of the same coin: Mahatma Gandhi said that the true source of rights is duty. If we all discharge our duties, right will not be far to seek.
    • The President said that rights and duties are two sides of the same coin.
    • Our Constitution provides the fundamental right to ‘freedom of speech and expression’ and it also enjoins upon citizens the duty to safeguard public property and to abjure violence.
  • Fundamental duties: By incorporating the provisions relating to Fundamental Duties into the Constitution, Parliament made it abundantly clear that while being alert about their rights, citizens should also be conscious of their duties.

Flexibility

  • Flexibility in amending the Constitution is considered to be one of the biggest factors for the Indian Constitution’s endurance.
  • Amendments: To ensure that the Constitution remains relevant over time, the makers of the Constitution also incorporated provisions allowing future generations to make necessary amendments as may be deemed necessary.
    • Since its inception, the Indian Constitution has been amended 103 times, with the most recent amendment coming in August 2019 (the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir).
    • In contrast, the American Constitution was last amended in 1992 for only the 27th time.
    • The Supreme Court’s ruling in Kesavananda Bharati case, held that basic doctrine of the Constitution cannot be altered.
  • Dynamism: Dynamism of our Constitution is reflective in the relationship and synergy between the Union and States. Move towards 'Co-operative Federalism' is an example of this.

Art in the constitution

  • Calligraphy: The original copy of the Constitution was carved out of his own hands by the then-famous Caligrapher (calligrapher) Prem Bihari Narayan Raizada.
    • Raizada wrote the constitution in italic style, in which he did not make a single error.
    • Raizada did not take a single penny to write the constitution.
    • He only requested to write his name on every page, and his grandfather's name (from whom he had inherited his calligraphy skills) on the last page. His request was accepted.
    • Several students of Santiniketan worked on the borders that frame each page. Among them were Nand Lal Bose and his disciples.
    • The constitution was written in both Hindi and English languages.
  • Bose’s illustrations: Bose harnessed a variety of Indian art traditions, including myths and actual history. Illustrations include:
    • Land of forest, desert, sea and mountain start with the seal of a Harappan bull.
    • The forested hermitages of the rishis.
    • Ram, Sita and Lakshman.
    • The great dilemma of what is righteous action is typified Arjun and Krishna.
    • Division of the relics of Buddha from the life of Ashok.
    • Only one female heroine- Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi.
    • Many styles of Indian art: the wall paintings of Ajanta, Bagh and the book illustrations of Rajasthan, the Mughal, Deccani and Pahari traditions, the sculptures of Konark, Bharhut, Amaravati, Mahabalipuram and the Chola south.
  • Farman style: Constitution as an artefact belongs to a long historical tradition where the most precious manuscripts, ‘farmaans’ and orders of any kingdom were written by hand and endorsed by the signatures of its ruler.
    • The calligraphy was done in the traditional way, as used to be the case with Mughal and Sultanate manuscripts.
    • It was framed in the hashi’a (borders) style.
  • Showcase: Original copies are kept in a glass showcase filled with helium gas in the Parliament House Library.
    • The Showcase was developed jointly by the National Physical Laboratory and the Getty Conservation Institute of America.
  • Manuscript: The manuscript of the constitution was written on a sheet of microbial anti-parchment that survived for a thousand years.
    • Its size is 45.7 cm × 58.4 cm.
    • The manuscript consisted of 234 pages, weighing 13 kg.
    • Constitution was printed by the Survey of India in Dehradun.
    • The English version of the constitution is 21,17,369 words in total.
  • Final copy: The date of 26 January 1950 was deliberately chosen to implement the constitution, as Purna Swaraj was announced on this day in 1930.
    • 284 members of the Constituent Assembly signed the constitution on 24 November 1949 in the Constitution Hall. There were 15 women members among them.

Conclusion

Indian Constitution has also shown remarkable resilience by surviving various assaults on it, especially during the Emergency. The pictures in Indian constitution are based on a history of Indian art from the Harappan civilization up to independence in 1947. Each interprets a specific style from a historical epoch linking the nation with its artistic history. The illustrations must be read not as stills, but as the message they want to impart.

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