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The Constitution Day of India

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   27-Nov-2023 | Tanmaya Kshirsagar



Introduction

‘From chaos to organization’ has always been the nature of an evolving civilization. The decision of framing of the Constitution was one remarkable step for India in that direction. Thus, the Constitution Day is a special day in India that celebrates the adoption of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November, 1949.

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land that defines the rights and duties of the citizens and the structure and functions of the government. The declaration of Constitution Day aims to instill a deeper understanding of the Constitution's role in shaping India's democracy and fostering a sense of national unity. Through various initiatives and educational programs, the government encourages citizens to study and uphold the principles enshrined in the Constitution.

Background to the Formation of Constituent Assembly

The formation of the Constituent Assembly in 1946 marked a crucial step in India's journey towards self-governance. This landmark event was preceded by a series of significant developments that shaped India's political landscape and set the stage for the drafting of its Constitution:

  • The rise of Indian nationalism, spearheaded by the INC and leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, played a pivotal role in awakening the nation's consciousness and fueling the demand for independence.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms in 1917 and the Simon Commission in 1927 marked attempts by the British government to introduce limits on self-governing measures, but these were met with opposition by the ambitious aspirations for complete autonomy.
  • The Nehru Report (1928), drafted in response to the Simon Commission, presented a holistic vision for India's Constitution and highlighted the growing demand for a democratic nation.
  • The Government of India Act of 1935 introduced a provincial autonomy scheme and a federal structure, yet it failed to address the fundamental desire for independence and democraticness.
  • The Quit India Movement in 1942 marked a revolutionary point, intensifying the struggle for freedom.
  • While the Cripps Mission in 1942 and the Wavell Plan in 1945 aimed to find a political solution, they too ultimately proved unsuccessful in fulfilling the national sentiment.
  • In 1946, the Cabinet Mission's proposal for a Constituent Assembly, composed of representatives from various provinces and princely states, provided a breakthrough.

This plan was accepted by both the INC and the Muslim League, leading to the formation of the Constituent Assembly in 1946, a pivotal moment in India's journey towards self-determination.

Constituent Assembly

The Constituent Assembly was a body of elected representatives that framed the Constitution of India. The idea of a constituent assembly was first proposed by M N Roy in 1934 and later adopted by the Congress Party in 1935 as an official demand. The British government accepted this demand in the August Offer of 1940, which also promised more autonomy and representation for Indians.

Under the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946, elections were held for the first time for the Constituent Assembly, based on the provincial assemblies. The total membership of the constituent assembly was 389, of which 292 were from the British Indian provinces, 93 from the princely states, and four from the chief commissioner provinces. The constituent assembly first met on 9 December 1946 in Delhi, with Sachchidananda Sinha as the ad-hoc chairman. Rajendra Prasad was elected as the President and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was the Chairman of the drafting committee. The constituent assembly also functioned as the provisional Parliament of India after Independence on 15 August 1947.

The constituent assembly took almost three years to draft the Constitution of India, which was influenced by the constitutional principles and practices of various countries, such as Britain, USA, France, Ireland, Canada, Australia, etc. The Constitution was finally passed as a guiding and hallmark legal framework on 26th of November 1949 and adopted by the Republic of India on the 26th of January 1950.

Salient Features of the Constitution of India

The Preamble, the soul of the Constitution, encapsulates the nation's identity and purpose. It declares India to be a Socialist, Secular, Sovereign, Democratic Republic, committed to securing justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity to all its citizens. These ideals, etched in the Constitution's very foundation, have shaped India's trajectory as a nation dedicated to the empowerment of its people.

The Constitution establishes a federal system of government, dividing power between the central government and the states. This structure ensures a balance between national unity and regional autonomy, allowing for diverse needs and aspirations to be accommodated. The three branches of government – the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary – are carefully defined, with a system of checks and balances to prevent the concentration of power and safeguard individual liberties.

Fundamental Rights, enshrined in Part III of the Constitution, form the bedrock of Indian democracy. These rights, ranging from the right to equality to the right to freedom of speech and expression, empower individuals to pursue their aspirations and live in dignity. The Constitution further guarantees a host of additional rights, including cultural and educational rights, to protect the diverse heritage and interests of its citizens.

The Constitution also establishes the concept of Fundamental Duties, emphasizing the responsibilities that citizens bear towards their nation. These duties, including respecting national symbols, valuing our freedom, and protecting our environment, foster a sense of civic consciousness and promote collective well-being.

Significance of the Indian Constitution

The Indian Constitution is not merely a legal document; it is a living organism, continuously evolving to address the changing needs and challenges of a dynamic nation. Through amendments, the Constitution has adapted to the evolving social, economic, and political landscape, ensuring that its principles remain relevant and effective. The past years of India’s evolution as a democracy have been a testimony to the significance and dynamic nature of the Constitution. Some developments like the Kesavananda Bharati Case (1973) and the Golaknath Case (1967) have also enabled the lawmakers to preserve the essence of the Constitution by preventing amendments to the basic structure of the Constitution by the Parliament.

Contemporary Relevance

As India continues to grow and transform, the Constitution will undoubtedly play a crucial role in shaping its destiny. It will serve as a compass, guiding the nation through the complexities of the 21st century while upholding its core principles. The Constitution of India, a testament to the power of human ingenuity and the unwavering pursuit of justice, will continue to illuminate India's path towards a brighter future.

Conclusion

Constitution Day serves as a reminder of the nation's commitment to the ideals enshrined in the Constitution and the importance of upholding its values. It is a day to reaffirm our faith in democracy, to celebrate the diversity and resilience of the Indian people, and to recommit ourselves to the pursuit of justice, equality, and liberty for all. Leaders and exemplary personalities in the past decade have gone through unimaginable struggles to achieve freedom, democracy, and independence of thought and expression. Thus, it is important that we as citizens of today respect and celebrate the feat and achievements and continue to dignify the struggle and hard work of the immortal and inspirational leaders.

The Constitution serves as a guiding principle for India's democracy and a symbol of its commitment to justice, equality, and liberty. Celebrating Constitution Day is a reminder of the importance of this document and the values it upholds. It is a day to reaffirm our commitment to upholding the principles enshrined in the Constitution and to work towards a more just and equitable society.

Links:

https://www.mea.gov.in/books-writings-of-ambedkar.htm

https://www.constitutionofindia.net/

https://www.mygov.in/campaigns/constitution-day/

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/constitution-day-all-you-need-to-know/articleshow/72233952.cms

https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-updates/daily-news-analysis/constitution-day-26th-november