Constitution Day - 26th November

GS Paper II

News Excerpt:

The Ministry of Law and Justice, in collaboration with the Indian Law Institute, will celebrate Constitution Day at Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi.

About Constitution day:

  • On 26th November 1949, 73 years ago, the Constitution of India was adopted, coming into effect on January 26, 1950.
    • The Constituent Assembly for Independent India drafted the Constitution for two years, 11 months, and 17 days, with 11 sessions and 7,600 amendments.
  • Since 2015, the day has been observed as Constitution Day, or “Samvidhan Diwas”.
  • As part of this year's celebrations, a national-level transformative Colloquium will feature five technical sessions.
    • The Colloquium aims to explore the crucial link between constitutional values and global aspirations with the planet's well-being and its inhabitants.
    • This will provide an opportunity for legal luminaries, policymakers, and academia, among others, to deliberate upon the reformative needs of our laws, focusing on the vision @2047.
  • Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar, the Vice President of India, will be the Chief Guest and deliver the keynote address in the plenary session.

Significance of the Constitution:

  • The constitution of India provides a foundation for the government and laws. It establishes rules for citizens and the government, safeguarding against tyranny and abuse of power.
  • The constitution serves as a social instrument, providing a framework for socio-economic development, protecting the environment, upholding labour rights, promoting free access to education, and promoting social welfare.
    • The constitution also ensures equality among citizens, prohibiting discrimination based on religion, race, caste, gender, etc. This promotes social justice, prevents marginalisation and celebrates diversity while striving for unity.
  • It also provides legal formwork for economic development, such as property rights protection and commerce regulation.
  • The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens, including the right to equality, freedom of speech and expression, right to life, and personal liberty.
  • The constitution ensures political stability and keeps the community's sovereignty intact. Without a rigid constitution, the political community may crumble.
  • As a dynamic and living document, the Constitution adapts to changing times through amendments while upholding its core values and principles.

Dr BR Ambedkar’s views on the criticism of the Constitution:

  • Critics questioned the Constitution's approach to federalism, protection of minorities' rights, and reliance on other global constitutions.
  • Dr BR Ambedkar addressed these criticisms in his November 4, 1948 speech when introducing the Draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly.
  • Here are his responses on four issues:

a. Draft Constitution being “unoriginal”:

  • Dr Ambedkar argued that the scope of a Constitution has been established for over a century, and all Constitutions should look similar.
  • The only new elements in a Constitution framed so late are variations made to address faults and fit the country's needs.
  • He criticised the charge of producing a blind copy of other countries' Constitutions, stating that the Drafting Committee has not been accused of blind imitation.

b. Not representing the “ancient polity of India”:

  • Dr Ambedkar believed that the survival of village communities is not a matter of pride but instead on a selfish level.
  • He described villages as a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism.
  • Dr Ambedkar criticised the love of village communities, which he believes is largely based on the praise bestowed upon them by Sir Charles Metcalfe.
    • Metcalfe described village communities as little republics with nearly everything they want within themselves, contributing to the preservation of the people of India through revolutions and changes.
  • However, Ambedkar believed that those who take pride in village communities do not consider their small role in the affairs and destiny of the country.
  • He believed that village republics had been the ruination of India and that those who condemn provincialism and communalism should come forward as champions of the village.
  • He was glad that the Draft Constitution had discarded the village and adopted the individual as its unit.

c. Treatment of minorities: 

  • Dr B.R. Ambedkar argued that both minorities and majorities have followed a wrong path, with the majority denying the existence of minorities and the minorities perpetuating themselves.
  • Ambedkar argued that minorities are an explosive force that can blow up the state, as seen in Europe.
    • Ambedkar cited Ireland as an example, where the protestant minority refused to be ruled by the majority, stating that no minority in India has taken this stand.
  • He also argued that minorities in India have agreed to place their existence in the hands of the majority.
  • He urged the majority to realise its duty not to discriminate against minorities and that the majority should not rule the minority.

d. Approach to fundamental rights:

  • Replying to the criticism of the Draft Constitution for its ambiguity regarding fundamental rights and that Article 13, which defines fundamental rights, is too extensive and deceptive, he distinguished between fundamental and non-fundamental rights, stating that non-fundamental rights are created by agreement between parties, while fundamental rights are the gift of the law.
  • Dr Ambedkar also noted that in India, fundamental rights are included in the draft constitution rather than limited by Supreme Court judgments.
  • He argued that the Draft Constitution allows the State to impose limitations on fundamental rights rather than relying on the Supreme Court to intervene in Parliament.
  • He argued that fundamental rights are not absolute rights but rather gifts of the State.

Conclusion:

  • India's constitution is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, and republic, aiming to ensure equality, liberty, and justice for all citizens, regardless of caste, class, sex, or religion.
  • It blends rigidity and flexibility while promoting secularism, respecting all religions and protecting them equally.