Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Constitution of India: Symbol of Unity in Diversity

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It establishes the legal framework that defines the fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of governmental institutions and establishes the fundamental rights, guiding principles and duties of citizens.

It is the world's longest written constitution, one containing 448 articles in 25 chapters, five appendices, and 98 amendments. In addition to the English language version, there is an official translation into the Hindi language. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is generally regarded as the father of the Constitution of India.

The Constitution follows the parliamentary system of government and the executive is directly responsible to the legislature. Article 74 establishes that there will be a prime minister as head of government. It also establishes in articles 52 and 63 the positions of president and vice-president of India. Unlike the prime minister, the president carries out largely protocol functions.

The Constitution of India is of a federal character. Each State and Union Territories have their own government. The 73rd and 74th amendment also introduced the local system of Panchayat in rural areas and in urban areas municipality. Furthermore, Article 370 of the Constitution grants special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly of India on November 26, 1949, and entered into force on 26 January 1950. The date of January 26 was chosen to commemorate the declaration of independence of Purna Swaraj of 1930. With its approval, the Indian Union officially became the Republic of India and replaced the Indian Government Act of 1935 as the country's fundamental norm.

The Constitution states that India is a sovereign, socialist, secularized, democratic republic that assures its citizens of justice, equality, and freedom and strives to promote brotherhood among them. The words "socialist" and "secular" were added in 1976 by constitutional amendment. India welcomes the ratification of the Constitution on 26 January each year as Republic Day.

The Constituent Assembly was established in 1946 with the purpose of drafting a constitution for India, including what are now independent countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh. The representatives were not elected on the basis of the universal vote but were indirectly elected by the Provincial Assemblies, in which the congressmen were, in general, the majority. Muslims and Sikhs were given special representation as "minorities". The Constituent Assembly required almost three years to draft the constitutional text

The drafting committee was chaired by jurist Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. The guiding ideas were already formulated by Nehru at the opening of the Constituent Assembly. India, Nehru said, will be an independent, sovereign Republic, in which all power and authority will come from the people.

The Constitution will guarantee all the people of India social, economic and political justice; Equality of opportunity, equality before the law, freedom of thought, expression, beliefs, faith, worship, vocation, association, and action, within the limits imposed by law and public morality. The Constitution will provide adequate guarantees to minorities, backward and tribal areas and low-level classes as well as to other lower classes.