Ironically 26/11 is both the anniversary of the horrific terrorist attack on India’s Financial Capital, Mumbai, and Constitution Day, a day to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly of India on November 26, 1949. It came into effect two months later, on January 26, 1950, the day we celebrate as Republic Day.
“If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first to burn it,” said the legend DR. BR. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, but much water has flown under that bridge since then, and it has survived the test of time and those who wanted to rewrite it, though not without scars. What the future holds for it, is anybody’s guess.
It was christened the National Law Day or officially the “ Samvidhan Day” when the Government of India decided to celebrate the constitution on November 19, 2015, the same day on which the government celebrated the 125th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar. Prime minister Narendra Modi announced while laying the foundation stone of an Ambedkar Memorial at Indu Mills compound in Mumbai.
Dr. Ambedkar was a politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalits and Buddhists campaigned against social evils like untouchability and supported the rights of women and labor.
The first constituent assembly met for its first session on December 16, 1946. Towards the course of the next two years from the first constituent assembly, the committee took important decisions regarding the objectives, principles, and other important aspects of the constitution.
The drafting committee of the constitution was headed by Dr. BR Ambedkar who is known as the architect of the Indian Constitution. He was worldwise because of his experiences as a social activist, and an expert in that he had studied the constitutions of about 60 countries before sitting down to draft the Indian Constitution. He is therefore recognized as the ‘Father of the constitution of India.
The original constitution of India was handwritten by Prem Bihari Narain Raizada in a flowing italic style with beautiful calligraphy. Each page beautified and decorated by artists from Shantiniketan. The original copies of the Indian constitution are in Hindi and English kept in special helium-filled cases in the library of the parliament of India. The English version has 117,369 words in it. It took two years eleven months and 17 days to write completely.
The Constituent assembly suggested 26th January as the date for the formal adoption of the Ambedkar drafted constitution as it was the anniversary of ‘Poorna swaraj day’ in 1930, the day Indian National congress hoisted the Indian national flag for the first time. But the adoption of the Constitution in its current avatar came after a long and arduous debate in parliament.
2000 amendments were made when the first draft put up for debate. Over the next 60 years, it was amended only 94 times. .On January 24, 1950, 284 members of the constituent assembly signed the constitution and after two days the Constitution of India was adopted and enforced legally. The national emblem also adopted on the same day of January 26. The constitution of India is inspired by the constitutions of several countries.
The Indian constitution is based on a series of statutes enacted by the British parliament. It is the lengthiest constitution in the world with 448 articles and 12 schedules and yet is much challenged in the courts of law as interpretations are varied to suit vested interests.
The constitution declares India as a sovereign secular and socialist democratic and republic country which makes our country unique. Unity in diversity is the theme that runs through the constitution and celebrates the coming together of various ethnic and religious peoples for a common cause – India.
The constitution’s basic structure is founded on the Government of India Act,1935. The ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity come from the French constitution, while the laws governing the judicial structure – the third arm of the constitutional system in India come from Japan.
The Indian constitution assures its citizens, justice, equality and liberty, and endeavors to promote fraternity and integrity. It provides Indian citizens with a fundamental and inalienable rights regime unequaled by the western world. But it is also too elaborate and open to numerous interpretations. Often it is implemented by the letter and not in the spirit in which it was framed and there hangs a tale of expectations unfulfilled.
There have been several calls to rewrite it in its entirety – to move towards a US type regime, to remove the words Socialist and Secular from the Preamble (They were added subsequently) but the judiciary has blocked these efforts vehemently with judicial proclamations that aver that the basic structure of the Constitution is unalterable.
Samvidhan day is not a public holiday and rightly so, but the public is advised to participate in the sharing, understanding, and dissemination of the Constitution on that day. Schools, Universities, and public institutions are expected to conduct quizzes, debates, speeches, and extempore.
In line with this guideline, the constitutional law studies, and orientation committee of Christ university School of Law in celebration of National Constitutional Law Day, 2020 will be conducting a first of its kind virtual National constitutional law PowerPoint competition. The competition aims at spreading awareness and celebrating the spirit of constitutionalism, enhance the soft skills of the students, and encourage peer learning.
“Of the People, for the people and by the people”, means the Constitution will never say goodbye to its people, for they are the ones that keep it alive. People on the other hand should build a trusting relationship with the constitution as envisaged by its framers. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was indeed right when he observed: “The life of the law has not been logic. It has been an experience.”