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Fortify the Constitution.

India, Jan. 22 -- Few things fascinate the students of political science as the formidable document called 'The Constitution of India'. Like the sweetest of honey formed out of nectar gathered from the best of flowers, the Indian Constitution embodies the best features of other Constitutions like those of the U.K., the USA, Canada, Australia and Ireland. To top it all, it was most influenced by the Government of India Act, 1935 wherefrom the federal scheme, office of the Governor, powers of federal judiciary et al were drawn.

After borrowing the best features of other Constitutions, the framers of our Constitution have made the necessary modifications to suit them to Indian conditions. Thus the idea of the Parliamentary type of government, bicameral Parliament, Lower House more powerful than the Upper Hose and a nominal head - President (like Queen) -are taken from the United Kingdom. Independence of Judiciary, Judicial review, Fundamental Rights and guidelines for the removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts were adopted from the U.S Constitution. The federal system with a strong Central authority was adopted from Canada. Directive Principles of State Policy were borrowed from Ireland. The idea of Concurrent List was taken from Australian Constitution. The provisions relating to emergency were influenced by the Weimar Constitution.

The Constitution is crowned with an extraordinarily strong and meaningful Preamble which reflects the pledge contained in the Objectives Resolution of 1946 to guarantee basic human rights to the people of India: "WE,THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVERIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION."

Indian Constitution is said to be a rare masterpiece carved out of the long and strenuous work of the Constituent Assembly of India that was set up under Cabinet Mission Plan of May 16, 1946 comprising 13 committees. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held on December 9, 1946 with Dr. Sachidanand Sinha as the interim President. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected the President of the Assembly on December 11, 1946. The Assembly took two years, 11 months and 18 days to complete the Constitution. The Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950. As the largest written Constitution in the world, the Indian Constitution originally had a preamble, 395 Articles and 8 Schedules. However, currently it consists of a preamble, 24 parts containing 450 Articles, 12 Schedules, 2 appendices and 114 amendments to date. Although it is federal in nature it also has a strong unitary bias.

The salient features of the Constitution are so unique and baffling that even a cursive look at it makes one feel proud of possessing such a monumental document skillfully woven to look after the social welfare of a people with bewildering diversity, plurality of ethnicity, contrasting customs, castes and communities. In a departure from British era ruled by monarchy, the Constitution of India renders the republican form of polity in the country. It provides for a secular polity denoting there would be no discrimination on grounds of religion, nay there should be equal respect for all religions.

Sovereignty of the people is another unique feature of the Constitution. According to the Constitution, people are the supreme authority. Provision for a federal form of polity and the encouragement to take affirmative action to improve the conditions of the weaker sections of society, provision for the universal adult franchise to mention a few are features that contribute to the uniqueness of the Constitution.

Framed by the representatives of all sections of the society, the Constitution is said to be "framed by the People of India who gave it to themselves". Therefore, it can be shaken and weaken by no outside force but by its own makers: We the people. But unfortunately we have been doing the obvious. We the people of India both rulers and the ruled over the last 60 years have miserably proved that we are capable of rendering the formidable Constitution of our country weak.

The glaring chasm between the theory and practice of the Constitution widens with every passing day. We have brought about ample distortions in our great Constitution to suit vested interests and narrow interests of the high and mighty in the country. The constitutional directives have been bypassed with impunity to satisfy the narrow interests of the rulers and the illegal mafia that fatten them with fund. Successive generations of politicians and powerful vested interests in India have been steadily subverting the Constitution and re-introducing a political feudalism that would make the great founding fathers of our great Constitution turn in their graves.

The greatness of India envisaged in the Constitution basically is that of a spiritual power. The idea of India is born out of the nectar of a thousand flowers that bloom undisturbed in the vast landscape of the subcontinent. The formidable Constitution, the collective resolve of a people who believe in 'Truth' (Satyameva Jayate) is meant to shelter every single citizen irrespective of race and religion, gender and genius under its benign wings.

Articles 25-30 of the Constitution have ample provisions to promote the interests and concerns of the minorities in India. The founding fathers of the Constitution, with great foresight on the possible harassment of the minorities in the hands of the majority, have spelt out a set of 'special rights' for the safety of the minorities and welfare of their institutions. The special rights of the minorities as envisaged in the Constitution are 'corporate rights' that can be claimed in the name and for the benefit of the minority communities. However, defying all the protective provisions to the minorities in the Constitution, there have been flagrant violations of their rights.

While Article 25 grants all the citizens the 'right to practice, preach and propagate' their faiths, Christians are often obstructed and attacked while exercising this right. The unprovoked attacks on Christians while praying in places like Kandhamal of Orissa even on Christmas night, vandalizing their places of worship, meddling with the affairs of their institutions by the state, imputing false accusation of 'conversion' as an alibi to oppress them, mindless killings of the dalits and tribals, the ill-treatment on the Muslims etc are but few whips of the minority-bashing in today's India.

Today the majority-minority rift in India is more visible. The rising resentment against the special rights guaranteed to the minorities in the Constitution has been an irritant for some who cry foul of the great Constitution; hence they demand re-writing of the Statute to suit their pet agenda. A growing aversion towards the constitutional provisions for the welfare of the minorities has been palpable in the recent debate on the inclusion of the minorities in the proposed Lokpal Bill. Minorities, especially Christians and Muslims, are being viewed as second class citizens who can exist only at the largesse of the majority community. Through verbal and physical attacks on the minorities in various States they are told that their safety lay bound with their allegiance or assimilation with the majority community.

This is not a hard reality that has vanished unrecorded. In an article published in the Panchajanya (an RSS-propaganda organ) in the wake of the Masjid demolition in Ayodhya, L.K. Advani urged the religious minorities to "fall in line with the Hindu mainstream. Muslims must think of themselves as Muslim Hindus and Christians should be Christian Hindus. Otherwise, said he, there would be religious riots" (Panchajanya, 24 January, 1993), quoted in 'Religion and Politics' -Valson Thampu, page.156). While the mainstream in general has its own merits it's the oppressive hegemony of its fringegroup misrepresenting it as a fixed monolithic entity set out to suppress minorities that makes a mockery of the Constitution.

The Constitution has been under siege many a time by its own makers. In the present India the fundamental rights of the citizens stand abrogated. The very human rights and human dignity are grossly violated. The right to dissent is taken for enmity. The country is plagued by corruption, religious intolerance and a willful hatred towards minorities.

Let's not forget that the Constitution is a living document and not a structure of fossils left to politicians to play power politics. It's meant to hold the whole country together and not to divide it in communal frenzy and caste divisions.

Every honest citizen can reaffirm with conviction that it is not the Constitution which has failed the people but it is our chosen representatives who have failed the Constitution. As Dr. Ambedkar poignantly remarked in the Constituent Assembly that "If the Constitution which was given by the people unto themselves in November 1949 did not work satisfactorily at any future time, we would have to say, not that the Constitution had failed, but that man was vile" ('We, The People', Nani A. Palkhivala, P 43).

Renewing our faith in the Constitution is urgent to solve many vexed problems that India faces today. We need to endeavour with sincerity and seriousness to remove every injustice and discrimination from every quarter of India. Since our Constitution has provided for an independent Judiciary to whom all citizens can approach for redress against the excesses of the executive, it is the sacred duty of the Supreme Court to be vigilant custodian of the spirit and vision of the Constitution. The political parties of India cannot escape their moral obligation to strengthen the Constitution while they are on war footing to strengthen their party basis. Fortifying the formidable Constitution of India is a sacred duty of every truth-loving citizen.

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Publication:Indian Currents
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 22, 2012
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