The Constitution of India is a document that establishes the political values, the powers of government and the rights of the citizens of the country. It is the supreme law of India and is used by the prime minister, his cabinet of ministers and the courts to govern the country.
Before India came under British rule it was a collection of princely states, each of which had their own law based in separate religions, philosophies, and even ideas about beauty and art. When the British came into power they ruled colonial India with a set of rules and structure of government that was similar to their own.
The leaders of independent India realized that this new code would need to take into consideration the diversity of the land. They used the existing British model of government to set up a new framework that catered to the needs of the various communities of India.
The task of framing the constitution fell upon Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. Although modeled on the British Constitution, it is designed to suit the needs of a developing nation with a much larger population and minorities within it. All this was taken into account when framing the new constitution.
There was a vision for the citizens of free India, an idea or plan for what values the new nation would be built on. This is brought out in the preamble, the introduction to the constitution so to speak.
“We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens:
Justice, social, economic and political;
Liberty, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
Equality of status and of opportunity;
And to promote among them all
Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation;
In our constituent assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution.”
Let us look at the first sentence.
“We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic and to secure to all its citizens.”
It is a declaration that the people of India have defined themselves as free people (sovereign). That there is social and economic equality in this state and there will be no discrimination based on caste or gender. Everyone has equal rights and opportunities to get jobs and earn their livelihood. For example, the government has started a rural employment scheme (socialist).
The government will not favour any one religion (secular). India will never be defined as a Hindu state, even though there is a majority of Hindus in the country. The government will respect the presence of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and any other religion that someone chooses to follow.
All citizens are able and allowed to be part of the government and this person must be elected including the head of the state like the president (republic).
The government will be formed of the leaders elected by the people from each region or constituency and every citizen above 18 is eligible to vote barring none (democratic). India has 546 constituencies, therefore 546 leaders in the parliament.
Just that one sentence is loaded with so much information, you can only imagine what the entire document is capable of talking about. The best part about the constitution is that it allows ‘amendments’ or changes. Naturally, not all the laws suitable for 1950 are suitable now. So the parliament is allowed to take a joint decision on which article of the constitution has to be amended. There have been 99 amendments so far.
Everything that the ruling party needs to know is laid out in the constitution – how many members of parliament, the number of states, the rights of the central government and the rights of the state governments, the fundamental rights and duties of citizens and so on. These are framed keeping in mind that India must always remain a sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic.
We celebrate the framing of the constitution – the rules of our republic – on 26th January each year.
There are 99 amendments to the constitution. Get a friend to find out about 10 of the amendments. Then you do the same. Compare and discuss each individual amendment and how it might relate to the population of India.
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