Celebrating Constitution Day: Upholding India's Democratic Legacy
Constitution Day, also known as Samvidhan Divas or “The National Law Day”, is celebrated annually in India on November 26th. This day holds significant importance as it commemorates the adoption of the Indian Constitution, which came into effect on January 26, 1950. The Constitution of India is not merely a legal document but the supreme law that governs the world's largest democracy.
Constitution Day is an occasion to reflect on the principles and values enshrined in this sacred document and to renew our commitment to upholding the democratic ideals it embodies.
In 2015, the Indian government officially designated November 26 as Constitution Day. The declaration was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 11, 2015, during the inauguration of the B. R. Ambedkar’s Statue of Equality memorial in Mumbai. The Indian Constitution stands as one of the largest in the world, incorporating elements from the American, British, and Japanese constitutions. It can be considered a synthesis of the best aspects found in global constitutions. Ensuring the protection of fundamental rights, the constitution obliges both state and central governments to uphold these rights both in practice and spirit. Any threat to the democratic and secular foundations of the nation is seen as an affront to the constitution of India, warranting condemnation as it undermines the essence of Indian democracy.
The creation of the Indian Constitution was a meticulous and extensive process, necessitated by the diverse and large nature of the newly independent nation. The Constituent Assembly, convened on December 6, 1946, undertook the drafting of the constitution. This assembly, structured in accordance with the British Cabinet Missions plan, initiated its proceedings on December 9, 1946. The Objectives Resolution, outlining the assembly's goals, was presented in 1946.
Members of the Constituent Assembly were selected through indirect elections by members of the Provincial Legislative Assemblies, established under the Government of India Act, 1935. Representation for all religions and twenty-eight members from the Scheduled Castes was ensured.
The constitution's drafting spanned from December 1946 to November 1949, with detailed discussions in eleven assembly sessions over 165 days. Various committees and subcommittees worked between sessions to revise and refine drafts. Significant attention was given to achieving a balance among institutions like the executive, legislature, and judiciary, resulting in the adoption of the parliamentary form and federal arrangement.
The Constituent Assembly comprised eight major committees, with the Drafting Committee, led by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, being the most crucial. Dr. Ambedkar presented the final draft on November 4, 1948, initiating a five-day general discussion. The second reading, from November 15, 1948, to October 17, 1949, involved the consideration of 7653 proposed amendments, with 2473 discussed. The third reading began on November 14, 1949, and the motion for passing the draft as the settled constitution was declared on November 26, 1949, receiving signatures from members and the President.
The Constitution officially came into effect on January 26, 1950, celebrated as Republic Day.
Importance of Constitution Day:
Constitution Day holds immense significance in the Indian context as it provides an opportunity for citizens to reflect on the principles enshrined in the Constitution. It serves as a reminder of the values and ideals that guide our nation and underscores the commitment to upholding democracy, justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity. The celebration of Constitution Day is not merely a formality but an occasion to renew our pledge to abide by the principles laid down by our founding fathers.
Key Features of the Indian Constitution:
· The Preamble of the Indian Constitution succinctly outlines the objectives and values that the framers sought to achieve. "We, the people of India," signifies the collective will of the citizens to build a just and inclusive society.
· The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights to every citizen, ensuring freedom of expression, equality before the law, and protection against discrimination. These rights form the bedrock of individual liberties in India.
Directive Principles of State Policy:
· The Directive Principles guide the state in framing policies that promote the welfare of the people. They serve as a moral compass, directing the government to work towards achieving social and economic justice.
· India's Constitution establishes a federal structure of government with a division of powers between the central and state governments. This ensures a balance of authority and autonomy at different levels.
Separation of Powers:
· The Constitution delineates the separation of powers among the executive, legislature, and judiciary, fostering a system of checks and balances to prevent the abuse of authority.
Fascinating details about the Indian Constitution include its unique characteristics and the artistic touch it received:
1. Handwritten Beauty: The Indian Constitution is entirely handwritten, showcasing intricate designs on each page. Nand Lal Bose, an artist, contributed to the aesthetic appeal by embellishing the borders of the Constitution pages with art.
2. Dedicated Effort: The entire Constitution was handwritten by Prem Behari Narain Raizada, a skilled writing expert. Remarkably, Raizada dedicated six months to this monumental task and did not seek any financial compensation for his efforts.
3. Physical Attributes: The original Constitution was crafted on special sheets and weighed 3.75 kilograms. Its durability is noteworthy, with the potential to withstand the test of time, estimated to last for a thousand years.
4. Inspirations: The Indian Constitution derives its name from the United States, reflecting the influence of the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, the functional aspects of the Indian Constitution draw inspiration from the British Constitution, contributing to its unique and balanced structure.
Challenges and Evolution:
While celebrating the Constitution, it is crucial to acknowledge the challenges that India faces in upholding its principles. Issues such as socio-economic inequality, caste-based discrimination, and threats to freedom of expression require constant attention and concerted efforts to ensure that the ideals of the Constitution are realized in practice.
In recent years, there has been an increased awareness of the need for constitutional literacy and adherence to the rule of law. Constitution Day serves as a platform to engage citizens in discussions about their rights, responsibilities, and the importance of active participation in the democratic process.
As we commemorate Constitution Day, let us reaffirm our commitment to the ideals that form the backbone of our democracy. The Indian Constitution is a living document that evolves with the changing needs of society. By understanding and embracing its principles, we contribute to the strengthening of our democratic fabric. Constitution Day is not just a celebration but a call to action – a reminder that the responsibility of upholding the values of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity rests with each citizen.