Indian Constitution: Relevance
- GS 2: Indian Constitution—historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.
Constitution of India: Context
- Recently, the Chief Minister of Telangana said that India needs a new Constitution, as governments at the Centre over the years have been suppressing the powers of the States.
Indian constitution: Centre usurping state powers
- The Supreme Court, in judgments such as R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) and Govt. Of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India (2018), has castigated governments at the Centre for trying to supress the powers of state governments.
Making of a new Constitution
- Jurist Fali S. Nariman 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.
Why a new constitution is impossible?
- Appointment of B.R. Ambedkar: Accommodation of Ambedkar showed that the biggest party then, the congress, had an accommodative spirit, which seems lacking today.
- Responsible legislators: 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. This 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.
- Healthy debates: 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.
- High on spirit: 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. 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.
- Democratic principles: The Constitution states that 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 could shut the voices of some sections, especially the vulnerable.
- Trusted unelected body: An unelected body was trusted by the Constitution framers to declare the law. The purpose behind choosing an unelected body was that, the judiciary can adjudicate disputes in an independent, free, fair and impartial manner. Today, leaders may choose to become judges as well as rulers.
Cooperative federalism: Way forward
- Though it is true that Centre abuse their powers to cripple Opposition-ruled States, that does not call for creating a new Constitution.
- The solution lies in seeking mandate from the people to elect regional parties in general elections so that States can have dominance in the Union.
- Moreover, the Supreme Court should be approached under Article 131 whenever the need arises to resolve conflicts between the Centre and State.