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Granville Austin Book Review The Indian Constitution Cornerstone of a Nation

"A tryst with a destiny far from us and the time arrived in front of us to redeem the pledge substantially, all the world sleeps while India got its freedom and life"[1]

The opening words of the book itself make it clear that we the people of India were on our destiny to lay a path for our future.

Here the question is:

Does independent India need a constitution made by the Indians on their own?
In this book, the author makes up the reader's mind with a need of framing the constitution. All the Indians on behalf of them selected the representatives and by them, they are on for a new constitution. This book is the first classic in Indian history that shows all the background work of constituent assembly members and their contributions in brief and up to the point where they are needed. The author portrays the personality and philosophy of key participants and reconstructs the political function of the constituent assembly. This book is indexed as one of the political historical ideas and a political base and motivations and with the manuscript's sources of the constituent assembly.

The author points out that it is "a political history of the framing of the constitution, of how past and present aims of the members who contributed for framing the impossible to possible."[2] He mentions it as a social document. This book is literature on constitutional jurisprudence in Indian constitutional law. The major part of the book revolves around the core concepts of social revolution and parliamentary democracy.

The author's purpose in writing the book is to give the Indians a well-designed book to make the Indians more flexible in understanding the Indian constitution and its framing. There are two reasons for Austin to articulate the book, one is the constitution is the convenient way to understand India better. The other one is a bit easy for him to manage academically because he has some contacts in India that make it easy but it's been quite hard in earlier days to get engaged with the things for him, despite all these hurdles he made an excellent outlet for the Indian base.

The related works in this field will give some more knowledge concerning constitutional framing, here we have one of the literary works "India's Constitution in the making"- B.N. Rau editor: B. Shiva Rao, published by Orient Longmans, Bombay. 1st ed. May 1960.[3] He is the constitutional adviser in the constituent assembly. This volume is a comprehensive one firstly it deals with Indian constitutional problems and the other problems concerned the author and different chapters follow in their sequences, the board pattern set by the constituent assembly.

How the constituent assembly adopted, resolved, commencement and the major objectives, rules of procedure debates, and the purpose of the assembly were mentioned by the author, and on the other side his visit to other nations like the U.S.A, Canada, Ireland, and the U.K. to have a look on some constitutional provisions. The report embodies the details mentioned in one of the chapters. He had mentioned every aspect of the constitutional assembly and their agendas to the best of his knowledge. Granville Austin for some material referred to his book about the constituent assembly debates and the persons who participated in them.

He was described as an independent scholar and political historian. Though he was born in the USA in 1927, he started his career as a photographer and journalist his interest in modern Indian history and his nevertheless struggle for the completion of the doctrinal work gave a fruitful result and he was awarded a doctorate from Oxford University and for his notorious work in respect to "The Indian constitution- the cornerstone of a nation" and "Working a democratic constitution, a history of the Indian experience,1999" and for his struggles and contributions for framing the book, he was honored with India's fourth highest civilian honor "Padma Shri" in 2011. He demised in 2014 though he was not there as a person in between us but his soul remains in his writings.

With his life story and through his scholarly writings he took the initiative to provide an overview concerning constitution framing and the events which had taken place during the sessions. He had gathered all the relevant documents which are needed for his doctrinal work to outlet his contribution towards the nation.

This book is unambiguous and reads friendly to every constitutional follower and every page of the book was prescribed with an apt footnote, the appendices, bibliography, and biography of the members were sculptured in such a way that even a layman can understand the book easily. This has been taken as a reference and cited by many jurists in landmark cases like I.C. Golaknath Nath vs. State of Punjab, AIR 1967 SC 1643, Kesavananda Bharathi vs State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461 and Minerva Mills vs Union of India, AIR, 1980 SC 1789. In its reasoning, the majority relied on cornerstone's theory that the constitution establishes an equilibrium between citizens' rights and the state's socioeconomic objectives

The major contribution of the book is to understand the depth and width of the Indian Constitution and its organized framing by the makers of the constitution. The author describes the major goals of constituent assembly members while framing the constitution are maintaining unity, uplifting social revolution, and a demanded parliamentary democracy. The members of the drafting committee and advisory committee and all the assembly members felt that the spiritual and institutional basis for a new society will be possible only by the adoption of universal adult suffrage, a right providing for equality and personal liberty under the law and independence of the judiciary.

Indian constitution merely is a concept of Indian sovereign people who framed the base document to regulate their lives through peaceful means and rule of law. In the introductory phase, the author is more deliberate to speak about the aims and goals of the constitution makers and the nevertheless struggle and efforts to make it successful the view of the author this book will provide the general reader with some insight into the political bases and motivations of Indian life and at the same time provide the close student of Indian affairs with the first account, based on manuscript sources of the working of the constituent assembly.

The first portion deals with the adoption and the background of enforcement of the constituent assembly the base and the reasons for forming the assembly and there is a discussion about the Indian National Congress also. Firstly, the Indian constitution was not made by a group of lawyers, small committees, and under the shadow of any external authority, it only happens with the sanctions coming from the masses that are the representatives who are elected by the sovereign people and are the makers of the constitution. [4]

The pre-colonial shades were on the formation of administration and political governance author focused briefly on how the Indian congress, Muslim League, Hindu society, the interim government, cabinet missions, and finally constituent assembly which was the key organ in making the constitution were formed and organized. How we were guided for a swaraj which has to be made by our own hands.[5]

India in a short context is famous for its triangular governance which consists of an assembly, congress, and the country. The assembly members have the freedom to express their views in debates and all the proceedings were open to all. There is a criticism that the constitution which was made for the Indian people was merely the ideas of the Indian national congress but in the words of Nehru it was made clear the constitution was drafted for the welfare people. This portion is the base for constitution-making and the further topics which are covered are the concepts which are helpful for human welfare and are adopted and drafted according to the needs.

The second portion, now the constituent assembly was formed, now, the major question is "Which resolution is best to take part in forming the revolution that has to be adopted to set the fire on?". There are three revolutions one the political revolution which ends with independence[6] and the second, the social and economic revolutions. So, the drafters adopted the concept of the socio-economic one, but nowadays under a vast federal structure it has shaped into a political and economic revolution. Doing service to the needy is the major criterion for the makers and that will not be fulfilled until the tears and suffering end.[7]

The alternative to the revolution is the Gandhian alternative concept in which he came up with the idea of a village level of administration and governance would be effective, but the major intention is to make self-governance in large measure in local bodies there will be no place for political parties in compartmentalized by decentralization and its focus primarily on rural society and to elevate the moral being of the Indians.

But the assembly neither accepted nor rejected the concept but politely kept it aside because the Indians majorly demanded parliamentary democracy and representative government from the base of the Government of India Act,1935.

Adult suffrage was introduced to lift the democratic view. All the assembly members believed that "India could become modern, but remain Indian". That's true because though we are highly modernized and civilized still, we all remain as one nation that is "India" and no matter what we are all Indians.

Most interestingly, Austin described the phrase "conscience" to deal with the concepts of fundamental rights and directive principles they are described as the basic rights and layout for people's welfare. Which lays a moral path for every individual. This concept of fundamental rights was adopted from the American constitution and John Rawls in his book "A Theory of Justice" first spoke about the importance of fundamental rights.

There is a differentiation between positive and negative rights. The demand for positive liberty (directive principles) and negative freedom (fundamental rights). In that context, the experience in world war -I and the reforms that took place in the precolonial period, Annie Besant in his commonwealth of India Bill, 1925 came up with seven fundamental rights.

Nehru's report,1928 all the provisions he made were added to the directive principles of how an individual or state should behave. Lastly "The Sapru committee" ended all these in 1945. Both the rights and principles are the sources for legislation reform. The expression of positive and negative rights has provided a thrust toward changing and rebuilding society.

The powers should not be under a single-headed authority they have to be segregated so that every organ has its way of organization structure. So, they adopted a concept of separation of powers to executive, legislative, and judiciary

The Executive: strength with democracy, to form the democratic structure and to fill strength within the Indian administration and to the governance democratic executives means high authoritative officiants' must be needed to fill the gap we have adopted the British parliamentary system for our democratic parliamentary system. The indirect electorate was introduced to elect the eminent for the posts. Their powers have been limited by their respective boundaries. After Rajendra Prasad's several attempts by a convention reduced a mere figure-headed executive, to the fact the cabinet is all-powerful within the firm precedent of the executive.

The legislative: to promote unity in popular government is their agenda to provide minimum reservations to the minorities to create a basis for the social and political unity of the country. They chose this concept to unite entire India under one roof of the electorate having universal adult suffrage through this all the voters will be directly representing the assemblies. In the pre-independence era, there was huge discrimination among the electorates to eradicate this the assembly tried their level best along with the high efforts of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who is a minority subcommittee person and finally, they succeeded in doing so.

The Judiciary: The seat of a judge is a seat of God. The constituent assembly members gave a special portion for the judiciary in the Indian constitution. Judicial review and independence of the judiciary were the essential powers for the free and federal constitution they gave raise to many subsidiary questions and through the Sapru Committee and the ad hoc committee all the queries got cleared by creating an original jurisdiction to the supreme court by appointing high courts in every state by 1956 there are 14 high courts whereas, in the pre-colonial period, there are only three provincial courts and one federal court which later converted to the supreme court. The CA[8] members separated the judiciary from politics including salaries, allowances, impeachment, and retirement under the ground of independence of the judiciary. Uniformity of law was essential to maintain unity in India[9].

The federal state under the supervision of CA members adopted federalism as the key concept by separating union and state relations and distributing powers and provisions among them through a union list, state list, and concurrent list. The division of power under the legislative list and the union executive authority. Following is the six subjects' distribution of powers, the union's emergency powers, the distribution of revenues, national planning, the linguistic provinces issues, and the integration into the federal structure of the former Princely States.

Amendment ‚Äď the flexible federation, the option of amending the constitution after a long debate and opposition, Nehru's silence lead the way of neither dissent nor assent but to fill the gap Ambedkar said with a two-third of the majority in parliament constitutional amendment can be possible under certain circumstances and the preamble and the fundamental rights cannot be amended as per the post republic situation but the situation changed in the present era.

Language: an ever-ending controversial debate between the states and union to elevate on national language but the CA debates all the members with several contentions got compromised for the language half-heartedly and here the Nehru contention is under rich diversity of inheritance how shall we promote the unity. With all the heated debates among CA members, this provision was left to the fate of Indians.

Finally, B.R. Ambedkar: in his words from now onwards, we have no one to blame except ourselves, because for the first time in 150 years, we are responsible for our future, it was an attempt to achieve administrative and political unity and an economic and social revolution. The very teething troubles that the democratic government has had in India emphasize the soundness of the constitution. The constitution has established the accepted norms of 'national' behavior. So, in one sense, the absence of comment about the constitutional situation in India is a mark of the Constitution's effective working.

Harmony has deep roots in India. Based on tolerance and as a multi-diversified state we have to respect all ideologies whereas all the assembly members with the collective mind in several circumstances accepted and gave assent to many provisions. The constituent assembly members made the impossible possible with their efforts. Through appendixes and bibliography, the author gave a brief description of every member, and the role they played in every situation was well articulated by the author while creating the art of constitution framing.

Indian jurists appreciated his work in several aspects and major landmark judgments they followed the footsteps of the "Austin cornerstone" to deal with the cases and to sense the essence of framing the lengthiest constitution and elevate the key concepts in it, this book is jurisprudence and even they have interpreted some issues with the help of this book like Maneka Gandhi case, Keshavananda Bharathi case, Minerva Mills case, etc.,

Thus, the concept of review has covered mostly, all the portions were mentioned precisely and the author has done his best to frame all the manuscripts, documents, and interviews in an organized format in form of literature. Finally, the socio-economic revolution and parliamentary democracy succeeded through the constitution. Nehru's aim of framing a strong document was figured at last. The socio-political document which was named as constitution this book was the major literature in constitutional jurisprudence.

  1. The Indian Constitution is a cornerstone of a nation- "Jawaharlal Nehru" in a speech to the constituent assembly on 14th August 1947. the opening quote of the book.
  2. Norman D. Palmer, reviewed work- the Journal of Asian Studies, Vol.26, No.4, (Aug. 1967), pp.719-720
  4. 1st portion opening quote by Jawaharlal Nehru "the Indian constitution cornerstone of the nation"
  5. Mahatma Gandhi's words in pp:1
  6. K. Santhanam in "magazine section-the Hindustan Times" & in pp.33 of "The Indian Constitution cornerstone of the nation."
  7. Jawaharlal Nehru quote in pp.32
  8. Constituent Assembly
  9. B.R. Ambedkar quote in pp.230

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