Time For A NEW I-Constitution….
We the people of India give to ourselves this constitution….so starts the Indian constitution to which all of us right thinking citizens of India give our allegiance to. Did we really give it to ourselves and do we really appreciate or even deserve what we got…this and other questions about the Indian constitution, Our Constitution, was inspired in me by reading a recent news report where the Punjab Chief minister Mr.Badal has said its time for a new constitution for India. Yes, I seem to hear a million voices all over India shouting in unison. We do need a new constitution to fit in with the times. Look how man upgrades an average piece of software undergoes in its lifecycle and we have been having this same constitution since independence…with just minor tweaks here and there. So we should think over what’s wrong with the current one before we could suggest how to improve it. Here goes, my version of certain landmark constitutional events….
1) The first major error was in electing to the constitution panel, people who submitted their inputs to the Indian constitution and then migrated to Pakistan with independence – almost 1/3rd of the committee. I mean how can you take their recommendations seriously, when they were even undecided about their allegiance to the country. I guess they were laughing up their sleeves the whole time they were offering suggestions on how the Indian constitution should look like, after all they were not going to live in a country with the rules they wrote.
2) The next point was in not allowing Dr.Ambedkar, the constitution drafting committee chairman a free hand. From whatever I have read of him, Dr. Ambedkar was a modernist and a pragmatist….he was in tune with the times and had forward thinking (come on, anyone who wears a bright blue suit for all public appearances had to be with the times..) but he was seriously handicapped by all the status quo traditionalists of the committee who forced on him a conservative constitution which was destined for obsolence soon.
3) The emergency provisions: The hero in many books says to the arch villain during a particularly violent scene- I will tear you a new as****le….similarly the constitution was torn a new as****le by Madame Chop-Chop in the emergency era. Madame Chop-chop aka former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi tried to take on everyone at the same time, relying on the power of her brute majority in parliament. She trashed the constitution, wrote graffiti in the Preamble, where she added words like Socialist, Secular etc without really reflecting on how she was tearing apart the whole fabric of the constitution. The moth eaten preamble was left as it is by the courts even after she was trounced in the elections, as the courts found new justifications for the words in a exhibition of self-delusion. The Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme court said that the word Socialism meant only Gandhian Socialism- the despotic rule of the Panchayati Raj rather than Marxist socialism, the rule of the party. The only other country with Gandhian socialism or despotism of the village masses was Cambodia during the Pol Pot era and everyone knows how successful that experiment was.
4) Indira Gandhi also introduced the concept of fundamental duties in the constitution which sorry to say are the most hilarious crap ever written, so much so that I always take care to sit down before I read them for fear of falling down with laughter. Anyone who is ever in a depressed mood and need cheering up should read it too.
5) The Indira Gandhi attacks on the constitution gave the courts licence to meddle and they took it too far in the name f public interest and started poking their noses into everything. The pendulum swung to the other extreme in judicial interpretation of the constitution with the judges imposing their own quirky views on what the constitution really says. For some time, it was free for all.
6) Then came the turn around- the Rajiv era..when former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi restored the balance by two ways, firstly by proving with a brute majority that you can do anything democratically and constitutionally and secondly by showing the crusading judges where they got off. He did this most famously in the Shah Bano case by telling the judges’- to keep off the personal lives of law abiding citizens and stick to hanging the wrong-doers -take that your honours.
7) Finally, came all those effete Prime Ministers, who followed him, IK Gujral, Deve Gowda, VP Singh and Manmohan Singh, who could not even pass normal amendments let alone constitutionally important ones. For example, the women’s reservation bill is still hanging in the balance without any resolution and so is the Lokpal bill and all others.
So that’s the story of the assault and battery on the constitution till now and now the politicians want to further lay hands on it to suit their conveniences. Now I wonder how a constitution drafted by a committee comprising of people like Digvijay Singh, Laloo Prasad, Sharad Pawar and P.Chidambaram would look like? Can you imagine what we will end up having? A constitutional monarchy with Sonia as Queen Mother and Rahul as Prince Regent? I wouldn’t be surprised…