We need to have some rules to govern a country or an institution. Such rules are made after reaching a consensus. The aggregate of such rules is called constitution. A political party, club, RWA (Residents Welfare Association), cricket team, etc. generally has a constitution. Similarly, every country has a constitution which gives guidelines on how to form and run a government and which kinds of rights are given to citizens. It is not necessary that a country with a constitution is a democratic country. But a democratic country always has a constitution. In this lesson, you will learn about the making of the Constitution of India and about certain values described in the constitution. This lesson begins with the history behind making of the Constitution of India. After that, you will learn about the Constituent Assembly which was formed in order to make the constitution. At the end of the lesson, you will learn about the meaning of keywords given in the Preamble of the Constitution.
The struggle for freedom had helped in creating a consensus about the shape a democratic India would take after independence. There were differences of opinions among various leaders of the freedom struggle, but they were unanimous in making India into a democratic country.
Motilal Nehru and eight other leaders drafted a constitution as far back as in 1928. In 1931 at Lahore session of Congress, a resolution was passed about the overall objective of the constitution. Both these attempts had certain things in common, like inclusion of universal adult franchise, right to freedom and equality, and protection of minority rights.
The leaders of the Congress had worked closely with the British institutions which helped them in understanding the role of various institutions in governing a country. Elections to the Provincial Assemblies were held in 1937 in which the political parties of India got an opportunity to participate in popular elections. Although it was not a fully democratic process, yet the nationalist leaders got a chance to learn the art of running a government. They learnt to set up institutions and manage them.
The nationalist leaders also learnt to take the positives from the constitutions of different countries to incorporate them in the Indian constitution by modifying them as per the local need. So, the Indian constitution has influences from democracy in France, parliamentary system in Britain, Fundamental rights in the US and socialism in Russia.
Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946. Its first meeting was held in December 1946. After the partition, the Constituent Assembly was also divided into India and Pakistan's constituent assemblies. There were 299 members in the Indian Constituent Assembly. The Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 and came into effect on 26 January 1950.
The Constituent Assembly was not elected through universal adult franchise but its members came from all parts of India. The members were elected by the members of various Provincial Assemblies in India. They represented all the social groups of India. It can be said that the Constituent Assembly truly represented the society and its aspiration at that time.
The Constituent Assembly held its deliberations in a transparent manner so that different opinions could be heard before arriving at a solution. Pan-India representation in the Constituent Assembly is the prime reason that our Constitution has withstood the tests of time.
To understand the philosophy of the Indian Constitution, you need to understand the preamble of the constitution. The keywords in the Preamble of the Constitution of India are discussed as follows:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA: This statement means that the constitution was not handed down to us by any king or by any outside power, rather it was drawn and enacted by the people of India through their representatives.
SOVEREIGN: The sovereignty means that India is a free country and no external power can dictate the government of India. It is important to note that the British had proposed a dominion status for India which meant it would have been a country under the British monarchy. The Constituent Assembly rejected that proposal and preferred for full freedom.
SOCIALIST: The socialism which is being followed in India is somewhat different than what was being followed in various communist countries at that time. The Indian socialism was about generation of wealth by the society and sharing of wealth equally by the society. It was decided that the government would regulate the ownership of land and industry to reduce socioeconomic inequality.
SECULAR: There is no official religion in India and no religion gets special status from the government of India. Citizens have complete freedom to follow any religion. All religions are treated with equal respect by the government.
DEMOCRATIC: India would adopt a form of government in which people would elect their rulers and hold them accountable. It was also decided that the people would enjoy equal political rights.
REPUBLIC: This term means that the head of the state, i.e. the President of India is an elected person and it is not a hereditary position.
JUSTICE: The land of the law would not discriminate between citizens on the basis of caste, religion and gender. The government would work for the welfare of poor and oppressed so that social inequalities could be reduced.
LIBERTY: Citizens are given the liberty to express their opinions in a way which is found suitable by them. There are no unreasonable restrictions on the liberty of citizens.
EQUALITY: All citizens are equal before the law, irrespective of differences in socio-economic conditions. Every citizen would be provided equal opportunities to improve his/her socioeconomic conditions.
FRATERNITY: Each citizen should respect the spirit of brotherhood and no one should treat a fellow citizen as inferior.
A constitution is not just a statement of values and philosophy. It is about incorporating these values into institutional arrangements. The constitution lays down the procedures for formation of a government. It defines the distribution of power among various organs of the government. It also defines certain limitations to the power of a constitutional body. It describes certain rights which are given to citizens and also describes certain restrictions on those rights.
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