India is renowned for being the world's largest democracy and has also been gifted with a distinguished record of holding the longest Constitution globally. The Constitution, an impressive compilation of 448 Articles divided into 25 Parts and 12 Schedules, was drafted by the Constituent Assembly, and commissioned by the Indian National Congress in response to a call for action. In 1934, M.N. Roy – an Indian pioneer of the Communist movement – first came up with the proposal of forming a Constituent Assembly. Later, in 1935, the demands of forming a Constituent Assembly by the Indian National Congress played a central role. The Assembly labored diligently between 1946 and 1950 to complete the document, which was finally adopted on November 26, 1949. This monumental achievement was then commemorated on January 26, 1950, when it was officially brought into effect and celebrated annually as the Republic Day of India. This article aims to throw light on all the significant historical influences on the making of the Constitution of India.
Influence of British Colonial Rule (1757-1947) on the Indian Constitution:
During the colonial era, the British introduced Acts to simplify the administration of the diverse nation. Some of these influenced provisions in the Indian Constitution and continue to shape governance today. Understanding these pre-independence Acts is crucial to our democratic foundation. Through laws like the Government of India Act of 1935 and the Indian Councils Act of 1861, the British established the ideas of parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, and individual rights. Even though these laws frequently served British interests, they exposed Indians to Western notions of governance and served as a starting point for constitutional debates.
The Indian Councils Act of 1909, also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms, was a British legislation aimed at addressing the demands of the moderates in the Indian National Congress while avoiding the extremists. This act introduced elections to legislative councils and provided for Indian representation in the executive councils of Viceroys and Governors, marking the beginning of the representative system in India.
Effects of Cultural and Religious Diversity on the constitution-making process:
In India, culture, religion, and social life are intertwined. The Constitution-making process involved debates over various cultural aspects like the kind of governance structure to be established, freedom of religion, cultural freedom, minority rights, and equality versus tradition and culture. People and communities made cultural claims. While some Hindus wanted Hinduism to be the official religion, the question of what kind of secularism the Constitution should establish remained a contentious issue.
The Constitution of India has provisions that enable the government to intervene in religious administration for the purpose of promoting social welfare and reform. Additionally, it allows for the opening of Hindu religious institutions of a public nature to all Hindus, as mandated by Article 25. Furthermore, the Constitution seeks to establish a secular state, where every individual is granted the fundamental right to freedom of religion. These measures have been put in place to ensure that all citizens of India have equal access to religious institutions and are free to practice their religion without any discrimination or interference. These Constitutional provisions also address a subject that is unique to India: the caste issue, which the Constitution's founders regarded to be of great importance. Untouchability is clearly prohibited and punished in the constitutional chapter on fundamental rights. Certain oppressed castes in India had been marginalized and excluded from society for ages. An untouchable's touch was seen as impure. These accusations made against untouchables were frequently supported by citations to customs and culture. So, in a manner, the Constitution was fighting against claims of culture when it sought to abolish these egregiously unfair and demeaning historical practices. Because of this, any attempt to preserve current cultural practices, crucial though they were, had to be carefully planned.
The atrocities of communal violence during partition made it imperative to promote intergroup harmony and establish a secular state where people of all religions could live in peace. The potential for religious tensions to threaten the stability of the country was well known to those who drafted the Constitution. In order to combat this, they made secularism a fundamental tenet of the Constitution, guaranteeing that the government would not favor any religion and that all people would have the freedom to practice their religion without fear of persecution.
The profound impact of the challenges posed by the partition of India on the constitutional framework.
The horrific partition events, which caused the country to be divided into India and Pakistan along religious lines, gave rise to complicated problems that needed to be addressed in the constitution's formulation. The Constitution's provisions regarding citizenship, minority rights, and communal peace were shaped by these issues, which also had an impact on other aspects of the document.
Many refugees sought asylum in India as a result of the huge migration and displacement brought on by the partition. Who should be accorded citizenship privileges and the definition of who is an Indian citizen became significant issues. The requirement to grant legal recognition and rights to persons who had been uprooted from their homes during division had an impact on the Constitution's citizenship provisions. For individuals who opted to remain in India or emigrated from the newly formed Pakistan, it tried to foster a sense of belonging. Along with this, foreign policy, security, and defence faced new difficulties with the separation of Pakistan from other nations. The need to secure India's sovereignty and safeguard its interests during partition influenced the Constitution's provisions on defence, foreign policy, and emergency powers.
Gandhian philosophy in the Indian Constitution.
Through his countless writings and speeches, Gandhi unapologetically shared with the world his vision and perception of every facet of humanity. He was passionate in starting conversations with other leaders and common people to share his thoughts and better himself. Gandhi thought about the sociopolitical and economic policies that an independent India should use during this process. He was aware that India would require a constitution, which he saw as a mammoth work drafted in accordance with the fundamental ideas of the Indian freedom movement as well as the ethos and values fostered by our rich sociopolitical traditions and culture. It is necessary to comprehend Gandhi's contribution to India's constitution in stages. Gandhi wrote in "Hind Swaraj" as early as 1909 to express his opinions on India's potential constitution.6 He fiercely voiced his disapproval of parliaments in it. Gandhi's understanding of the construction and form of a constitution was demonstrated in yet another, more pronounced way in the constitution he co-wrote for the people of Aundh in 1923.
According to historical records, Gandhi held a firm belief in a decentralized form of government, which involved the establishment of village panchayats, taluks, and a legislative assembly that consisted of representatives who were chosen by the taluks. In the state of Aundh, literacy was a prerequisite for voting, and the prince spent a decade of his life living and working as a commoner before the first election took place. In addition to this, the fundamental rights of every citizen were also ensured, thereby creating a fair and just system of governance. When we examine Gandhi's philosophy in depth, we can see that he cared about helping the weakest groups and safeguarding the environment in order to promote world peace for the greater good. Based on his concepts of Sarvodaya and Constructive Programme, the Constitution's authors worked hard to inspire and instruct the states to devise measures to remove poverty, illiteracy, and discrimination while supporting economic and social uplift. We have, however, mostly failed to grasp his concepts.
Gandhi had a "trickle-up" approach in mind for the nation's overall development, one that also prioritized equality and sustainability. To realise this Gandhian ambition, the legislative branch and the executive branch must put aside their political differences and adopt new attitudes. To improve the efficiency of the projects emulating Gandhian ideas, numerous procedural and legislative changes are required. Even if there is still optimism regarding the PRIs' strengths, the endeavour to carry out Gandhi's vision in its entirety has been severely hampered by the vested interests of individuals in positions of power and the state's resistance to a meaningful transfer of power. Assume that the goal is to create a panchayati raj system based on a self-sufficient village republic. The system must be severed from partisan politics in that instance, and stronger measures must be used to force villages to produce resources locally.
Ambedkar’s contribution to the Constitution.
Ambedkar and the Indian Constitution are frequently equated in popular culture. He is frequently referred to be the founder of the Indian Constitution and is likely the member of the Constituent Assembly with the greatest level of public recognition. Due to the positions he held, as well as his contributions and remarks in the Assembly, Ambedkar emerged as a crucial figure in the creation of India's constitution. He served as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, the most significant committee in the Assembly, as well as being a member of other significant committees. As its chairman, he had to speak up in almost every discussion to defend the Draught Constitution that the Committee had created.
Ambedkar submitted "States and Minorities" on behalf of the Scheduled Caste Federation to the Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights of the Constituent Assembly in a letter.. States and Minorities created a robust constitutional protection for the Scheduled Caste community that functions as a mini-constitution in and of itself. On numerous facets of the Constitution, Ambedkar made intelligent, well-reasoned, and meticulously studied comments and speeches. Due to his leadership of the constitution-making initiative, he gained the respect and support of other Assembly members.
Here we see, the conventional view on the creation of India’s constitution is that it was driven by nationalist leaders who facilitated elite consensus in the Constituent Assembly. However, this article presents an alternative perspective by delving into the perception and experience of constitution-making at the grassroots level, particularly how ‘We the People’ who were the ultimate beneficiaries of the Constitution viewed this process. This fresh angle highlights the crucial role that people’s interactions with the constitution-making process played in shaping India’s decolonization, democratic transition, and the establishment and longevity of its constitution, despite facing numerous challenges. Notably, this perspective also encompasses the voices of marginalized communities, which are often overlooked in mainstream discussions of constitution-making. Ultimately, this approach provides a more comprehensive understanding of the constitution-making process and its significance in India’s History.
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