Day 6 – Q 3.Is it fair to conclude that the Indian Constitution was an outcome of the deliberations of a selected elite who were members of the Constituent Assembly? Was the Constituent Assembly even representative in the true sense? Critically comment.
3. Is it fair to conclude that the Indian Constitution was an outcome of the deliberations of a selected elite who were members of the Constituent Assembly? Was the Constituent Assembly even representative in the true sense? Critically comment.
क्या यह निष्कर्ष निकालना उचित है कि भारतीय संविधान एक चयनित कुलीन वर्ग के विचार-विमर्श का परिणाम था जो संविधान सभा के सदस्य थे? क्या संविधान सभा भी सही अर्थों में प्रतिनिधि थी? समालोचनात्मक टिप्पणी करें।
A modern state without a constitution is unimaginable. A constitution is a vital necessity as it determines the Power-relationship between the citizens of a country and between the governors and the governed. For the purpose of determining the form and nature of government and the nature of power relationship, the people set up a Constitution Assembly. Thus the establishment of a representative body for framing of a constitution is implicit in the very concept of democracy.
The Indian Constitution was an outcome of the deliberations of not only distinguished personalities who were members of the Constituent Assembly but also and some nationalist Leaders and People from all parts of the country and from different walks of life
- Constituent Assembly is not just a body of people or a gathering of able lawyers. Rather, it is a nation on the move, throwing away the shell of its past political and possibly social structure, and fashioning for itself a new garment of its own making. The Indian Constitution was designed to break the shackles of traditional social hierarchies and to usher in a new era of freedom, equality and justice.
- It is committed to freedom, equality, social justice, and some form of national unity. But underneath all this, there is a clear emphasis on peaceful and democratic measures for putting this philosophy into practice.
- The first point to note about the Constitution is its commitment to individual freedom. This commitment did not emerge miraculously out of calm deliberations around a table. Rather, it was the product of continuous intellectual and political activity of well over a century. As early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, Rammohan Roy protested against curtailment of the freedom of the press by the British colonial state. Roy argued that a state responsive to the needs of individuals must provide them the means by which their needs are communicated.
- It is not surprising therefore that freedom of expression is an integral part of the Indian Constitution. So is the freedom from arbitrary arrest. After all, the infamous Rowlatt Act, which the national movement opposed so vehemently, sought to deny this basic freedom.
- Once the idea of a nation took root among the elite, the idea of democratic self-government followed. Thus, Indian nationalism always conceived of a political order based on the will of every single member of society. The idea of universal franchise lay securely within the heart of nationalism. As early as the Constitution of India Bill (1895), the first non-official attempt at drafting a constitution for India, the author declared that every citizen, i.e., anyone born in India, had a right to take part in the affairs of the country and be admitted to public office. The Motilal Nehru Report (1928) reaffirms this conception of citizenship.
- The Constitution constantly reinforces a common national identity. India strives to retain regional identities along with the national identity. Common national identity was not incompatible with distinct religious or linguistic identities. The Indian Constitution tried to balance these various identities. This is clarified in the debate over separate electorates based on religious identity which the Constitution rejects. Separate electorates were rejected not because they fostered difference between religious communities as such or because they endangered a simple notion of national unity but because they endangered a healthy national life. Rather than forced unity, our Constitution sought to evolve true fraternity, a goal dear to the heart of Dr. Ambedkar. As Sardar Patel put it, the main objective was to evolve ‘one community’.
In the true sense Constituent Assembly evenly represented.
- Though the Constituent Assembly was constituted through indirect election, yet it can be emphatically said that its membership included almost all the distinguished personalities with the only exception of Mahatma Gandhi who preferred to stay out.
- At that time of Constituent Assembly formation, adult franchise was not yet granted and most members came from the advanced sections of the society. Does this make our Constitution unrepresentative? Here we must distinguish two components of representation, one that might be called voice and the other opinion. The voice component of representation is important. People must be recognized in their own language or voice, not in the language of the masters. If we look at the Indian Constitution from this dimension, it is indeed unrepresentative because members of the Constituent Assembly were chosen by a restricted franchise, not by universal suffrage. However, if we examine the other dimension, we may not find it altogether lacking in representativeness. The claim that almost every shade of opinion was represented in the Constituent Assembly may be a trifle exaggerated but may have something to it. If we read the debates that took place in the Constituent Assembly, we find that a vast range of issues and opinions were mentioned, members raised matters not only based on their individual social concerns but based on the perceived interests and concerns of various social sections as well.
- It is not a coincidence that the central square of every other small town has a statue of Dr. Ambedkar with a copy of the Indian Constitution. Far from being a mere symbolic tribute to him, this expresses the feeling among various section of people that the Constitution reflects many of their aspirations.
Constitution is a living document. Legal provisions and institutional arrangements depend upon the needs of the society and the philosophy adopted by the society. The Constitution gives expression to this philosophy. The institutional arrangements are based on a core and commonly agreed vision. That vision has historically emerged through our struggle for independence. The Constituent Assembly was the platform on which this vision was stated, refined and articulated in legal-institutional form.