Last year, the Government decided to celebrate 26th November as Constitution Day as on this day in 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India adopted the Constitution of India. The date is very pious to the idea of India and reminds of the great struggle by our countrymen to achieve freedom and a constitution of their own.
The constitution of India is the supreme law which provides the framework for governance, establishes the structure, procedures, powers and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles and the duties of citizens. It declares India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic state while assuring its citizens of justice, equality, liberty and to promote fraternity among them.
Last year, many parliamentarians debated widely on the constitution and spoke on it. They were engulfed on the issues of intolerance, secularism and freedom of expression mainly. However the gamut of the Constitution is much wider and we need to analyze the relevance from multiple views. As the country is facing the heat of demonetization to wipe out black money and end corruption on the one hand while on the other we are facing constant firing from across the border and myriad issues affecting the day to day functioning of the governance and public administration.
The constitution has imparted right to equality where we have political equality but socio-economic equality is still a distant dream when our about 300 million population are still poor having very tough time to access basic facilities. Almost 69 percent of India lives in villages and among them a majority doesn’t have good health, education, sanitation, etc. We are still striving to provide work, food and decent living to large mass.
Even on the parameter of justice system, the delayed processes and overloaded judicial structure is well known so much so that CJI Thakur bursted into tears few months back while pleading the Government to provide necessary infrastructure. The long tussle between judiciary-executive is not a secret which hampers overall process of Governance. And our legislature has started waning given their pathetic disruptive show on live television. People have started to lose faith in the representatives they have selected.
While in the era of high internet penetration and information overflow, the Government has regularly censored the contents demeaning the freedom of expression. In the times of instability, insecurity and unsustainablity; the question that we need to ask is that how relevant is our supreme law which was framed decades ago in different times when population of country was lesser and problems were very different from the present times.
To begin with a famous critical quote by a constituent assembly member who said : “We wanted the music of Veena or Sitar, but here we have the music of an English band.” It sums up the way he saw the whole constitution making process but giving full credit to our founding fathers of the constitution, the document became very pragmatic, effective and living. Granville Austin comments, “Yet a constitution, no matter how well conceived, can only establish institutions on paper. Breathing life into them is up to the succeeding generations.”
Our constitution was framed with right intent with accommodative ideas from diverse backgrounds and has very much proved to be a living document. It is flexible and amendments have occurred from time to time to adjust any dynamic change. Yet it is beauty of our constitution that it provides for a platform where our representatives can make changes in it if required. While our neighbors and many other big democracies of the world has faced immense difficulty with their constitution, India has successfully continued to demonstrate the world how Constitution can guide a large country to function in smooth manner.
As the constitution has provided fundamental rights to people to live in a way which they want, it has also given us fundamental duties. These fundamental duties are guidelines to realize the dreams of a peaceful and prosperous country. In the same way, the Governments are also provided with set of instructions known as Directive Principles which must guide their way to make society more inclusive having equal opportunity for all citizenry. It is totally upon the people of India, our representatives, our office-bearers, etc who are holding important posts how they take forward the legacy of our founding fathers. Time to time, from emergency era to arrival of new millennium, we have raised this same question of relevance of our constitution and the continuance of the same constitution bears testimony to the fact of greatness of our holy book. In the conclusion of his Making of India’s Constitution, Justice Khanna writes:
“If the Indian constitution is our heritage bequeathed to us by our founding fathers, no less are we, the people of India, the trustees and custodians of the values which pulsate within its provisions! A constitution is not a parchment of paper, it is a way of life and has to be lived up to. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty and in the final analysis, its only keepers are the people.”
We must remember that the constitution will never fail us but we the people of India will either fail it or keep it great!
ABHISHEK RANJAN is a researcher and policy analyst.