Drafting a new Constitution is impossible
- Recently, the Chief Minister of Telangana said India needs a new Constitution.
- According to him, governments at the Centre over the years have been suppressing the powers of the States.
Can the people of India give themselves a new Constitution?
- A lecture titled ‘The Silences in Our Constitutional Law’, said, “We will never be able to piece together a new Constitution in the present day and age even if we tried: because innovative ideas — however brilliant, howsoever beautifully expressed in consultation papers and reports of commissions — cannot give us a better Constitution.
- In Constitution-making there are other forces that cannot and must never be ignored — the spirit of persuasion, of accommodation and of tolerance — all three are at a very low ebb today”.
- We can add a few more forces which cannot be ignored today, such as casteism, nepotism and corruption.
- Granville Austin, in his book The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation, wrote that Ambedkar after losing his seat from Bengal was subsequently elected from the Bombay Presidency at the behest of the Congress high command.
- This shows that the biggest party then had an accommodative spirit, which seems lacking today.
- Ambedkar was trusted for his passion and talent and elected chairman of the Drafting Committee by the Constituent Assembly, which was dominated by the Congress.
- It took two years, 11 months and 18 days to draft the present Constitution. During this period, the members read the constitutions of other nations, consulted constitutional experts, drafted the Constitution, debated it, redrafted it and approved it.
- During Constituent Assembly debates, if five minutes were wasted one day, the House would assemble five minutes earlier the next day and sit until night to complete pending work.
- It showed value for time, and value for work done for the nation. Now, all we see is ruckus and noise in Parliament, with little debate or discussion taking place on Bills.
- During Constituent Assembly debates, dissenters and hard-core critics were tolerated and their suggestions, if found apt, were accommodated.
- If their suggestions were not found apt, there would be a healthy debate. Now, Bills are passed without allowing Opposition members to express their views completely, let alone accommodating their suggestions.
- The members of the Constituent Assembly emerged from the clutches of colonial rule. They knew the sufferings that they and the nation had undergone under foreign rule and were determined to frame a Constitution.
- They spelled out fundamental rights, which allow every individual a right to live their life with liberty and dignity and challenge the state’s arbitrary decisions before an independent judiciary.
- Today’s leaders seem to lack that spirit. Members of the Constituent Assembly chose the nation first; today’s leaders tend to choose their party first.
- As per constitution India is a “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”. It protects the rights of every section of society.
- On the other hand, today’s leaders give priority to particular ideologies and castes.
- Given this, drafting a new Constitution will be a chaotic exercise and will shut the voices of some sections, especially the vulnerable.
- An unelected body was trusted by the Constitution framers to declare the law. The purpose behind choosing an unelected body was that, by its nature of being not answerable to anyone except the Constitution, the judiciary can adjudicate disputes in an independent, free, fair and impartial manner. Today, leaders may choose to become judges as well as rulers.
A strong Centre
- Before independence, India comprised over 550 princely States, suffered from the problems created by Partition and faced a looming economic crisis.
- Thus, the Constituent Assembly’s members tilted towards a strong Centre with a blend of cooperative federalism.
- Governments at the Centre abuse their powers to cripple Opposition-ruled States, but that does not call for creating a new Constitution.
- It calls for seeking a mandate from the people to elect regional parties in general elections so that States can have dominance in the Union, besides approaching the Supreme Court under Article 131 whenever the need arises to resolve conflicts between the Centre and State.