A democratic nation’s constitution represents a mutual agreement of all its citizens to the establishment of the nation. But not many of us know much about our Constitution. The best word to describe it would be obscure. Also it is too long, being the longest in the world; too detailed; too pompous; too legalistic.
The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world,containing 444 articles in 22 parts,12 schedules with 117,369 words in its English–language translation, while the Big Brother United States’ Constitution is the shortest written constitution with just 7 articles and 27 amendments. All this paperwork was meant to resolve any issues,either present at that time or the one that might crop up, but it has done nothing apart from providing colossal number of loopholes to politicians, lawyers, bureaucrats etc. to procrastinate any legal or political process.
It is the spirit of people and not the enormity of the constitution that binds a nation, and US is a testimony to that. As the great American jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said: “The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.“
An outstanding demonstration of the recklessness is found in the Preamble of our constitution itself, which is a brief introductory statement that sets out the guiding purpose and principles of the document. Now any sane person would agree that guiding principles are supposed to be a part of the original document but no. Not in India. Supreme Court of India in BeruBari case(1968) decided that the preamble is not an integral part of the Indian constitution. Pathetic.
The original preamble described the Indian state as a “sovereign democratic republic” and it is only in 1976 that the Forty-second Amendment changed this to read “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.“
Now, these 2 words “socialist secular” are immensely powerful as these form the premise of the political arena today. Our constitution makers are believed to be the foremost political intelligentsia of their time, so it is confusing that in the 3.5 years that it took for the completion of our constitution, they didn’t think of secularism as a guiding principle of our constitution.
Either they were not so intelligent after all, which I am nobody to judge, or they thought that Indians could co-exist harmoniously and we let them down in just 25 years when a need was felt to give “secularism” a special mention in our preamble. The adherence to the term “socialist” by our founding fathers but its inclusion later tells us tons about the fickleness of Indian politics.
The most mind-boggling thing is that in a span of 65 years the constitution has been amended 98 times that boils to the fact that our constitution is amended every 8 months.Unfortunately, these amendments do nothing to remove any of its glaring defects. Instead, many of them have added new defects. US, on the other hand, in its 225 years as an independent nation has amended the constitution 27 times only. Now, some people might argue that India being a diverse and more populous nation in comparison to US calls for greater number of amendments but more often than not, the amendments were carried to satisfy the political whims of ministers/parties rather than for the benefit of the citizens.
Some glaring examples:
- In 1951, just after the enactment of the Indian constitution, Mr. Nehru decided that he wanted to reduce the freedom of operating businesses in India and thus came forth the 1st amendment. It was propitious for him but unfortunate for the nation that Sardar Patel – who had a stronger grasp of the purpose of independence than Nehru did, and who would have probably opposed Nehru’s socialist approach to the economy had he lived longer – passed away in December 1950. And thus came the famous “License Raaj”.
- The 1976 constitutional amendment (the 42nd amendment) that was enacted during the emergency was Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s caprice.The 42nd Amendment is regarded as the most controversial constitutional amendment in Indian history. It attempted to reduce the power of the Supreme Court and High Courts to pronounce upon the constitutional validity of laws. It laid down the Fundamental Duties of Indian citizens to the nation. This amendment brought about the most widespread changes to the Constitution in it’s history, and is sometimes called a “mini-Constitution” or the “Constitution of Indira“. Soon, after the emergency the Janta party came to power and directed all its energy to negate the amendment, for what exact reason, nobody knows.
- Finally, the constitution makers decided that if ever the legislature is at flaw, we should have a judiciary body in place to keep a check but even this power of the Supreme court was curtailed after the judgement of the 1973 Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala which gave birth to the “basic structure doctrine”.The basic structure doctrine is an Indian judicial principle that the Constitution of India has certain basic features that cannot be altered or destroyed through amendments by the parliament. Now these, basic features are so generic that the legislature has managed to side-step any major hinderance in there decision-making process except when the decisions taken were extremely obnoxious.
I can go rambling about all other controversial articles in our constitution like articles 44, 16(4), 370 etc. but all these and many more discrepancies advocate the primal fact that Indian constitution has been largely influenced by the politicians since its inception. It is not a surprise when they mould the system the way they like and get away with it incessantly. And we celebrate their wrong-doings by unfurling the national flag on Republic Day. Perhaps, national holiday is the only visible advantage of Republic Day.