“I am delighted to release the book ‘Constitutionalizing India: an ideational project’ authored by Shri Bidyut Chakrabarty.
The 305-page book analyses how the 1950 Constitution of India was made. Contrary to widely held perception that it was a borrowed document, it underlines that Constitution was the culmination of a process in which contrasting ideas converged to evolve an acceptable set of principles for socio-culturally and economically diverse population.
Providing a glimpse of the fierce debates that took place between liberalism, enlightenment and the Gandhian idea of Swaraj, the author challenges the notion that it is merely a mindless borrowing of constitutional provisions and practices prevalent elsewhere. The book reveals how the ideas with completely different socio-economic roots competed with each other in the making of a Constitution which was acceptable to all.
The book is about the processes and events leading to constitutionalize India in the wake of the British rule. This is also about a journey in which multiple politico-ideological viewpoints were articulated and hotly debated before they gained salience.
The author points out that the making of the Constitution by the Constituent Assembly over a period of less than three years was reflective of the efforts of the founding fathers to translate the nationalist and democratic aspirations of an independent polity following decolonization.
He also observes that there can be no greater evidence of the commitment to constitutionalism and rule of law on the part of the founding fathers than the Constitution that they framed despite serious difficulties due to partition. The commitment to liberal democratic values, as the Constitution Assembly proceedings suggest, remained paramount in the making of the Constitution.
Our founding fathers, undoubtedly gave us, one of the best Constitutions in the world, although it had adopted principles from different countries, including France, USSR and Ireland. Displaying foresight, vision and a flexible approach, they accommodated various viewpoints and made it adaptable to Indian situation.
The author says “The founding fathers practiced, as it has been appropriately suggested, ‘the art of the possible and never allowed (their ideological cause) to blind them to reality’. Being most pragmatic, the framers thus prepared a constitution to act as a guardian on the basis of their understanding of the fundamental ethos of liberal constitutionalism. In articulating their choice, they made a simple and yet radical choice. They decided to trust the people”.
In view of the claim that the Constitution was a culmination of long-drawn processes of socio-economic and political churning over almost two centuries, the book offers a conceptual point by suggesting that three major ideological forces—colonialism, nationalism and democracy seem to have been critical in the shaping of constitutionalism in India.
Even 68 years after it came into force, the Constitution continues to be the guiding light on all matters connected with governance and jurisprudence. We should salute the constitution-framers for giving us a constitution that strengthened parliamentary democracy and stood the test of times, even as it evolved through several amendments.
Sardar Patel, who played a key role in drafting the Constitution, wanted a strong centre and a robust, homogenous administration to maintain the unity and integrity of India. He had presented reports on rights of minorities, tribals and Directive principles, among others, to the Constituent Assembly.
The architect of the Indian Constitution Dr B R Ambedkar in his address to the constituent assembly described how magnificently the framers of the constitution accomplished the formidable task in less than three years. He pointed out that constitutions of America, Canada, South Africa and Australia were much smaller than our constitution.
He had said, our constitution contains 395 articles while the American has just seven articles, the Canadian had 147, Australian 128 and South African 153 sections. He had also mentioned that while the makers of the Constitutions of America, Canada, Australia and South Africa did not face problems of amendments, the Constituent Assembly had to deal with as many as 2,473 amendments.
In his eloquent and erudite speech, Dr. Ambedkar touched upon various aspects and observed that to maintain democracy we must hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. He had said that there was no justification for unconstitutional methods where constitutional methods were open.
The sanctity of our Constitution, a living document, should be upheld by everybody, especially those occupying constitutional posts. Otherwise, we will be doing a disservice to the people and the country and betraying the trust and faith of the founding fathers.
Before I conclude, I would like to recall the sagacious words of Dr. Ambedkar, which are as relevant today as when he had spoken: “ However good a constitution may be, if those who are implementing it are not good, it will prove to be bad. However bad a constitution may be, if those implementing it are good, it will prove to be good”.