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Constitution Of India And Its Relevance

A constitution of a country mentions the basic fundamental rules and legal procedures to be followed inside the boundaries of the nation. It is the blueprint to run the country. It is a necessary document as it establishes laws, rights, and duties for the citizen of the country. It restricts power of the government and prevents them from acting in an arbitrary manner by a system of checks and balance. The constitution not only tells us the laws in the country but also the aspiration of the citizens of the country. The first note in the constitution is the preamble; it is the introductory, succinct statement of the principles in the full detailed text that follows.

The first use of the word 'constitution' was in the 14th century. The world's first ever constitution is of San Marino, country in Europe, active since 1600 and it still remains in force. The Leges Statutae Sancti Marini written in Latin comprises of six books, that is, it is uncodified (written in a few documents). The first with 62 articles establishing councils, courts and other officers' powers and the remaining with criminal and civil law and judicial procedures.

The constitution of United States of America is the oldest, shortest and active codified document in the world, that is, it is one full written document in a single act since 1789. This constitution became a benchmark for republicanism and other constitutions written after. It became a notable model of governance for the whole world and thus several of its provisions are seen in other constitutions as well like rule of law, separation of power, individual rights etc.

Constitution Of India

India was a British colony for more than 200 years, it was only in 1947 that the country got independence from there rule. From 1858 to 1947 Britain controlled everything- political, social and economical aspects of India.

In 1928, an All Parties Conference had a meeting in Lucknow to prepare the Constitution of India, which was later known as the Nehru Report. This was the first meeting for the constitution making in India. This gave a memorandum outlining an appeal new dominion status for the federal set up of government for the constitution of India chaired by Motilal Nehru and Jawaharlal Nehru as the secretary.

But the evolution of the constitution of India was by the Pitt's India Act 1784 (establishing East India Company's rule in India), Charter Act of 1813, 1833 and 1853, Government of India Act 1858 (transfer of the functions of East India Company to British Crown), India Council Act of 1861, 1892 and 1909, Government of India Acts of 1919 (expansion of participation of Indians in government of India) and 1935 (India to become a federation if more than 50% of princely states decides to join it; provincial autonomy was granted, that is, ministers of the provinces were responsible for their legislature; viceroy had residuary power; abolition of diarchy at the provincial level but introducing it at the centre; communal representation but congress rejected it) and the Indian Independence Act 1947 (partitioned British India into two parts- India and Pakistan which were now sovereign).

But to make the constitution for the whole country, all of India was required to be brought together in a union, that is, the princely states to be convinced to join India. The princely states were given a choice to either join one of the two countries being formed- India or Pakistan or be autonomous. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and V.P Menon managed this task of integration by force or diplomacy and until the task of integration was complete India was under the rule of the British Crown and the British Government was responsible for the external security of the country.

Constituent Assembly And Debates

The very first idea of a constituent assembly was by Manabendra Nath Roy, advocate of radical democracy and important part of the Communist movement in India in 1934 and later to make a constitution became an official demand of Indian National Congress in 1935. The demand of constituent assembly was raised and Government of India Act 1935 was rejected as it imposed a constitution against the will of Indians because there were no Indians involved in making of the document. The demand of C Rajagopalachari of making a constituent assembly on 15 November 1939 was accepted by British Government in August 1940.

Under Cabinet Mission Plan 1946, elections were held for the first time for the constituent assembly of India. Elections were of provincial assemblies by single transferable vote system. The elections were of 296 seats, 208 seats were won by Congress and 73 by Muslim League. It was only after this election that the political situation deteriorated and Muslim League refused to cooperate with Congress. There were Hindu- Muslim riots and Muslim League demanded for a different constituent assembly for Muslims in India.

The total representatives were 389 in the assembly, 292 from the provinces, 4 from chief commissioner provinces and 93 from princely states. The Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 9 December 1946, reassembling as the successor to British parliament authority in India, as the Muslim League demanded a separate state they boycotted the meeting. This meeting also appointed Dr Sachidanand as the interim President of the Assembly.

On 3 June 1947, Lord Mountbatten, last Governor General of India, scrapped Cabinet Mission Plan and formed Indian Independence Act to separate nations of India and Pakistan. Thus, as a result of partition a separate Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was established on 3 June 1947. The representatives who were of areas now known as 'Pakistan' ceased to be members of Constituent Assembly of India and the membership of the assembly reduced to 299.

On 11 December 1946, the Constituent Assembly appointed Rajendra Prasad as the President, H C Mukherjee as the Vice President and Sir Benegal Narsing Rau (B N Rau) as the constitutional legal adviser.

On 13 December 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru presented an 'Objective Resolution' in the assembly. The resolution provided the philosophy and principles on which the constitution should be made. These later became the Preamble of the Constitution of India. The resolution stated that the assembly to proclaim India as independent sovereign republic which includes all territories.

The people of India to be guaranteed justice, equality, freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, association, vocation and subject to law and public morality. Adequate safeguards for minorities, backward and depressed classes. The integrity of territories of republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea and air should promote world peace and welfare of mankind. The resolution was unanimously adopted on 22 January 1947.

On 22 July 1947 the assembly adopted the Swaraj flag as the national flag of the country with Ashok Chakra replacing the spinning wheel. On 14 August 1947, one day before independence, the committees for the constituent assembly were proposed.

There were eight committees:
Constitution Making Union Powers Committee, Union Constitution Committee, Provincial Constitution Committee, Drafting Committee, Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and Minorities, Rules of Procedure Committee, States Committee and Jawaharlal Nehru Steering Committee.

On 15 August 1947, India got independent and split into Dominion of India, which was secular and Dominion of Pakistan, which followed Islamism.

Sir B N Rau was responsible for the constitution's general structure and prepared the initial draft in February 1948. This draft included 243 articles and 13 schedules. Sir B N Rau's draft was considered, deliberated and debated by an eight person drafting committee appointed on 29 August 1947, elected Dr. B R Amebdkar as the Chairman and six other members K M Munshi, N Gopalaswami Ayyangar, Muhammed Sadulla, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, B L Mitter and Devi Prasad Khaitan.

A revised draft of the constitution was prepared by committee and submitted to the assembly on 4 November 1947. While debating and deliberating, the assembly moved, discussed and disposed of 2473 amendments out of total 7635.

Before adopting the constitution the assembly had eleven sessions in 165 days.

On 26 November 1949 the constitution was passed and adopted by the assembly, signed by 284 members. This day till date is celebrated as the National Law Day or Constitution Day, this day was chosen to spread the importance, thought and ideas of the constitution.

But the assembly's last meeting was on 24 January 1950, where each member signed two copies of the constitution- one in Hindi other in English. The constitution was handwritten with 395 articles, 8 schedules and 22 parts with each page decorated by artists from Shantiniketan, a meditation centre ashram founded by Maharishi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore. The constitution was published in Dehradun and photolithographed by the Survey of India, whose production took nearly five years.

On 26 January 1950, the constitution came into force and became the law of India after a process of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days and expenditure of Rs. 64 lakhs.

Constitution Of India Influenced By

The constitution of India was inspired and influenced by many other different pre existing constitutions in the world like of United Kingdom, United States of America, Ireland, Australia, France, Canada, Soviet Union, Japan, Germany and South Africa.

From the Constitution of United Kingdom (in force from 1215) the Constitution of India inspired- parliamentary type of government, in which the parliament makes the decisions in the country by debates and deliberations and the party with most seats in the elections form the government and the oppositions are also present.

More powerful Lower House, that is, the Lok Sabha in India, the Lok Sabha has more powers as for any ordinary law to be passed it needs to be passed in both the houses,if there is a difference of views the final decision is taken in a joint session and the view of the Lok Sabha prevails if such differences are still present. Money Bills cannot be originated in Rajya Sabha, they need to be introduced in the Lok Sabha and then are sent to Rajya Sabha for recommendations. Any bill related to budget or money passed by Lok Sabha cannot be rejected by the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha members are those elected by the people and they are the direct representatives but the Rajya Sabha members are those indirectly by the legislative member of the states.

Bicameral Legislature means having two separate assemblies in the country. The United Kingdom has the House of Commons (lower house) and the House of Lords (upper house), the same way India also has two separate assemblies the Lok Sabha (lower house) and the Rajya Sabha (upper house).

Cabinet System, the cabinet is advisory body made up with the head of each department in the government. In India, the union cabinet headed by the Prime Minister and has to take care of the ministry at the central level. Each minister must be member of one of the house of the parliament. There are also state cabinet headed by the Chief Minister of the state and has to take care of the ministry at the state level.

Rule of Law, the ideal that all citizens and institutions in a country, state or community have the same rights and are accountable to the same laws. Everybody is equal in the eyes of law. The President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, a common man etc. all have the same right.

Prerogative Writ, the Constitution of India gives the citizens five kinds of writs- habeas corpus, certiorari, mandamus, quo warranto and prohibition. Habeas Corpus literally means 'to have the body of,' it is bulwark of individual liberty against arbitrary detention. Certiorari literally means 'to be certified' or 'to be informed,' issued by a court higher in authority to a lower court to transfer the case pending with them or quash their order, that is, to seek judicial review of a decision.

Mandamus literally means 'we command,' issued by court to a public official asking to perform their official duties obliged under law. Quo Warranto literally means 'by what authority or warrant,' is issued by a court to enquire the legality of claim of a person to a public office. Prohibition literally means 'to forbid,' issued by a higher court to a lower court to prevent the latter from exceeding its jurisdiction.

Other important things like parliamentary government type, nominal head of the state, single citizenship, legislative procedure and speaker were also influenced by the constitution of United Kingdom.

From the Constitution of United States of America (in force from 1789) the Constitution of India inspired - fundamental rights, these are the rights that have been given to the citizens of a country for the protection from encroachment. They are recognized in the constitution and have great importance in a person's life. In India, the fundamental rights are present in the Part III of the constitution from article 12 to 35. There are 7 broad fundamental rights- right to equality, right to freedom, right to freedom of religion, right against exploitation, cultural and educational rights and right to constitutional remedies.

USA and India both have a written constitution, that is, the constitution is codified and complied in a structured and cohesive manner. While there are many countries that do not have a written constitution like China, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Israel etc. But a written constitution provides stability and much more clarity on the rights of citizens and laws of the land and thus the constituent assembly of India wanted a written constitution.

Federal structure of the government, means that the power and responsibility is distributed across the levels if the government. In India, there is a Union list (includes subjects over which the central government have jurisdiction), a State List (includes the subjects over which the state government have jurisdiction) and a Concurrent list (includes the subjects over which both the state and central government have jurisdiction). Not only these two layers of government, the 73rd and the 74th amendment give many powers to the local government as well.

Judicial review is a process in which the actions of the executive, the legislative and the administrative are subject to review by the judiciary. That is, the judiciary can examine whether the laws made by the executive and legislative is inconsistent with the constitution of India.

Independent judiciary means that the judges can give their decision over a case fairly and impartially free of any undue interference from an external party. That is, the judiciary to not be any other governmental body and have accountability to only the Constitution of India. This is important as it safeguards the rights and privileges provided by the constitution to the citizens and prevent there encroachment from the executive and the legislature.

Other important things like the Preamble to the Constitution, electoral commission, Supreme Court powers, impeachment of the President, functions of the Vice President, President as the commander in chief of the armed forces etc. were also influenced from the constitution of the United States of America.

From the Constitution of Ireland (in force from 1937) the Constitution of India inspired - Directive principle of state policy which are the non justiciable rights and mentions that the state shall promote the welfare of the people by securing and protecting a social order, that is, social, economic and political justice. In Indian constitution, there are 16 principles included in Part IV and between articles 36-51.

Nomination of members to Rajya Sabha by the President, the Rajya Sabha consist of not more than 250 members- 238 representing the states and Union Territories and 12 members nominated by the President. The twelve nominated members are for a six year term for their contribution towards arts, literature, sciences and social services.

Election of the President is done according to the proportional representation system by the instant runoff voting method. The voting is done by a secret ballot system in the assemblies. The method of election of President is given under Article 55 of the constitution.

From the Constitution of Australia (in force from 1901) the Constitution of India inspired - provision of joint session of the Parliament, both the houses are required to pass any bill to become a law but the framers of the constitution of India also provides the solution if there is any deadlock situation between the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.

In such situations a Joint session of both the houses is required. This session is called by the President of India (Article 108) and is presided by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha or in their absence the Deputy Speaker of Lok Sabha or in their absence the Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha. The Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha which is the Vice President of India doesn't preside over the Joint Sessions.

Concurrent list includes the subjects over which both the Union and the state government have a jurisdiction. There are 52 items in this list given in the seventh schedule of the constitution of India. Some of these subjects are- marriage, adoption, wills or succession, divorce, education, forest laws, trade unions etc.

Freedom of trade between states is guaranteed in Part XIII, that is, article 301-307 of the constitution of India. It deals with inter-state and intra state trade, commerce and intercourse within the territory of India.

Other important things like national legislative power to implement treaties even on matters outside federal jurisdiction and the preamble terminology were influenced from the constitution of Australia.

From the Constitution of France (in force from 1958) the Constitution of India inspired - notion of libert�, �galit� and fraternit� (liberty, equality and fraternity)in the Preamble, liberty means the freedom to go where one wants to and do what one wants to until it does not hurt any other citizen of the country. Equality means where everyone is equal and has the same rights. Fraternity is the feeling of friendship and support between people in the group, which is, feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood. To be included in the Preamble of the Constitution is of huge importance because the essence of the constitution is provided in the preamble.

Ideal of republic in the preamble, republic means a country where there is an elected government and an elected head (President). The head of the state is elected by the people and the people have a supreme authority and sovereignty.

From the Constitution of Canada (in force from 1867 and 1982) the Constitution of India inspired - quasi federal government that is despite having federalism and two or more layers of government more power is given to the Central government. The centre can change the name and boundaries of a state, appointment of governors for the state is done by the central government, the office of Comptroller and Auditor General is under the central government, there is centralized electoral machinery as the President appoints the body of election commission but we there are still state election commissions and there is only single citizenship and no state citizenship.

Advisory jurisdiction of Supreme Court means the lower court or any constitutional body can seek assistance from a higher court. Article 143 of the Indian Constitution grants advisory jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of India. Even the President can seek Supreme Court's advice over matters of law or public importance.

Appointment of Governor of state by the centre, article 154 of the Constitution of India vests governor the executive powers of the state. The appointment of a governor is done by the President of India and only an Indian citizen above 35 years of age is eligible to hold the office of a governor.

Distribution of powers between the central and state government is done by the lists (union list, state list and a concurrent list) mentioned in the seventh schedule and article 246 of the Constitution of India. The concurrent list includes the subjects over which both the centre and state can make a decision but the centre has more power than the state.

From the Constitution of Soviet Union the Constitution of India inspired - fundamental duties in article 51A of Part IVA of the Constitution of India. Fundamental duties are the moral responsibility of all citizens that needs to be performed to reach prosperity and uphold unity of the nation, but they are non justiciable and thus cannot be taken into court.

There are 11 fundamental duties given in the Constitution, some of them are- to abide by the constitution and respect its ideals and institution, the National Flag and National Anthem; protect sovereignty, unity and integrity of India; value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture; safeguard public property and abjure violence; defend country and render national service when called upon to do so.

Ideal of justice in the preamble, the preamble gives three kinds of justice- social, economic and political which are secured by Fundamental Rights and Directive Principle of State Policy. Social justice means the equal treatment of all citizens without any discrimination of the basis of caste, color of skin, class, sex etc. Economic justice means no discrimination between people on the basis of economic factors- wealth, income, property etc. Political justice means that everyone has equal, free and fair opportunity to engage in politics without any prejudice.

Planning Commission to oversee economic development, thus a Planning commission was formed by the government of India to oversee the economic and social development by formulation of five year plans. But after twelve five year plans, Planning Commission of India was replaced by National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog for economic development and fostering cooperative federalism.

From the Constitution of Japan (into force from 1947) the Constitution of India inspired � procedure established by law which is the phrase used in article 21 of the Constitution of India. It means that if a bill has been passed by the parliament of India using the proper procedure it is considered as a valid law.

Laws on which Supreme Court functions are defined in articles 124-147 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court is the highest tier court of India and has the power to alter or hold any judgment delivered by the lower courts of the country. It can also act on the matters related to the Parliament, government bodies and the President. The Supreme Court is the interpreter of the Constitution's articles. The Supreme Court has the Original, Appellate, Advisory and Review jurisdiction.

From the Constitution of Germany the Constitution of India inspired - suspension of fundamental rights during an emergency, article 359 deals suspending the fundamental rights of the citizens during the time of crisis. This allows suspension of right to free movement according to the seriousness of the situation. The emergency situation can be war, external aggression or financial crisis in India. After 44th amendment act which was passed after the emergency 1975-1977, article 20 and 21, that is, the protection in respect of conviction for offenses and protection of life and personal liberty cannot be suspended even in case of national emergency.

From the Constitution of South Africa the Constitution of India inspired � process of amendment in the constitution which can be done via an introduction of bill in either house of parliament- the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha, article 368 of the constitution gives parliament the power to amend the constitution. The parliament though cannot amend the 'basic structure' of the constitution as per the Kesavananda Bharti case (1973). The bill must be passed in each house by a majority of total membership of that house and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the member of that house's present and voting. There is no provision of joint setting in disagreement between the houses. The bill only if passed by majority is presented before the President for assent.

Election of members of Rajya Sabha is done by the electoral college of elected members of State Assembly with a system of proportional representation by single transferable vote system. There are 12 members in the Rajya Sabha that are nominated by the President of India for their contribution in fields of art, literature, science and social services.

Relevance Of The Constitution Of India

A Constitution is an important document in modern democracies. The constitution of India mentions the laws that govern the country. A constitution recognizes and protects a nation's value and gives the foundation to build the government and laws. A constitution gives a fundamental structure for the country and community.

It lays down rules for the citizens and the government. In a way that the government officials exercising power could be held accountable to the people they serve. It safeguards against tyranny and abuse of power by the government. It prevents despotic governments (which is not bound by any higher law or constitution). It determines the relation between citizens and the government and protects and provides basic rights to all the citizens.

It helps in separating and distributing power or authority among the institutions of government. It provides a check and restrain to the institutions of government. It defines power and duties of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the government and ensures no branch of government exercises excessive power and maintains rule of law to maintain order and stability. The federal structure of government given in the constitution clearly defines the distribution of power and responsibility for promotion of unity of the country while recognizes the differences.

The constitution ensures equality of all its citizens and prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, caste, gender etc. Equality is critical in promoting social justice and preventing marginalization of certain groups in the society. The constitution celebrates the diversity of India and provides a pluralistic society where people of different cultures, language and religion can coexist harmoniously.

The constitution also works as a social instrument as it provides a basic framework for socio-economic development. It ensures that the marginalized groups receive sense of inclusivity, equality and justice. The Directive Principle of State Policy also motivates the government to create laws.

They serve as an instrument for protecting the environment, uphold the labor rights, promote free access of education to children etc. for equal opportunities, social welfare and promotion of education and public health. Though they are non justiciable and are not enforceable in courts, they are important as they serve as a guide for policymaking for the government.

It also provides legal formwork for economic development as the protection of property rights, regulation of commerce etc.

The independent judiciary of India establishes Supreme Court as the highest judicial authority. The judiciary is the guardian of the constitution and ensures its principles are upheld at all times.

The constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all the citizens irrespective of the class, caste, sex, age, color of skin etc. such as the right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, right to life and personal liberty. The constitution also grants people the right to vote and freedom to express their criticism of those in power. It also serves the purpose of guaranteeing the fundamental human rights of citizens essential to ensure that government does not function in a way that compromises interest of the citizens of country. The constitution ensures that citizens have power to participate in governance of the country.

Constitution also makes sure that there is political stability and keeps the community's sovereignty intact. To make sure that it is strong and is vulnerable to the attacks of external powers. It is also seen that the countries that do not have a rigid constitution their political community is likely to crumble.

Therefore, the constitution of India is relevant because it serves as the bedrock of the nation, protecting citizens and their rights, ensuring social justice and celebrating diversity while striving for unity. Though it was influenced by many different pre existing constitutions of countries with many different ideologies it did not just copy from those.

Each article included in the constitution was firstly debated and after many such deliberations when most or all of the constituent assembly members agreed the principle was written in the constitution of our country as an article. But this was not it, the constitution of India is a dynamic and a living document that still adapts to changing times by amendments while upholding its core values and principles at all times to make it useful to the situations and evolutions in the society.

A constitution makes sure that the society is just for people to fulfill their aspirations and that the government works for the people and not against them, that the government does not abuse their powers and become a tyrant. The constitution makes sure that the values and core principles of the country are upheld at all times. It tells us how and why to live together as a society and what they should do collectively.

Like that the constitution of India states in its preamble that the goal of people of India is to ensure equality, liberty and justice for all citizens irrespective of their caste, class, sex, religion, color of skin etc. and promote fraternity. Thus India is a state which is sovereign republic and is socialist, secular and democratic. It makes its own decision without depending on or be influenced by any other external power.

The constitution is blend of rigidity and flexibility on the basis of its amending procedure. The constitution defines three procedures from simple to most difficult procedure depending on the nature of the amendment. The constitution also embodies the positive concept of secularism, which is, giving equal respect to all religions and protecting all religions equally.

The constitution also establishes political equality by a method of Universal Adult Franchise, giving everyone who is 18 years or above a right to vote in the elections. The constitution of India gives single citizenship to all its citizens to eliminate regionalism and other disintegrating tendencies, to have unity among the people of India.

The constitution of India is world's longest Constitution, containing 395 articles and 12 schedules. United Kingdom does not have a written constitution and USA's constitution has only seven articles. The constitution of India is such an extensive document made in two years eleven months and eighteen days but still it welcomes the amendments to it to make it better for the world around us today.

Thus, there are 90 new articles added since 1951 in the Constitution of India to accommodate the necessary changes and needs of the society while maintaining its core principles. But these articles are added within the pre existing articles, therefore, the total number of articles still remains 395. Thus, it is right to say that the Constitution of India is a living document that adapts to the evolving world. Written By: Vidya Taneja

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