India observes Republic Day on January 26 every year. Republic Day marks an important event in the history of India. It commemorates the promulgation of the constitution of India which came into force on January 26, 1950 and established the nation as a republic.
The constitution of a country is the basic law of the land based on which all other laws are made and enforced. It defines the framework and main functions of the organs of government within the state and declares the principles by which these organs are to operate. The constitution is the supreme or basic law of the land which not only sets the framework of basic political principles but also establishes what the various government institutions should do in terms of procedure, powers and duties.
The Indian Constitution was made by the Constituent Assembly which had been elected for undivided India. It was set up according to the outline formulated by the firm’s mission plan. The Constituent Assembly of India first convened on December 9, 1946 and embarked on a historic journey that has seen India achieve independence, decide on its national flag, its national anthem; and finally the adoption of the Constitution which made it a democratic republic. The Constituent Assembly was formed on the basis of population. There were therefore 389 representatives who were called from all over India to form the Constituent Assembly, 296 representatives from British India and 93 representatives from the princely states. The princely states refused participation, so it was formed with the 296 representatives of British India. Members of the Constituent Assembly first met on December 9, 1946.
On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru proposed the historic “objective resolution”. The resolution encapsulates the aspirations and values underlying the constitution. He established the foundations and philosophy of the constitutional structure. On August 29, 1947, under the chairmanship of Dr. BR Ambedkar who declared that Our Constitution would be both unitary and federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances, a drafting committee was formed to prepare a draft Constitution. It was made up of seven members. The Assembly met in public sessions, for 166 days, spread over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution. It delivered its first report on February 21, 1948. At that time, the draft constitution contained 315 articles and 8 annexes. The Indian people had 8 months to discuss the project and propose amendments and no less than 7635 amendments were proposed. In the light of comments, criticisms and suggestions from the public, the editorial board prepared a second draft and published it in October 1948 and was presented to the Constituent Assembly on November 4, 1948, for a first reading. The final project was concluded on November 26, 1949.
At the last meeting of the Assembly, i.e. 24th January 1950, the members of the Assembly signed two copies of the document (one in Hindi and one in English) and also “Jana Gana Mana” was adopted as the national anthem and the first two verses of “Vande Mataram” as the national song. Each member signed Hindi and English copies of the Constitution. The latest signing is that of Feroze Gandhi. He signed in two languages, first in Devanagari and then in Roman script. Most of the others signed in English, the exceptions being Abul Kalam Azad in Urdu and Purushottam Das Tandon in Devanagari.
Congress declared January 26, 1930, “Independence Day”, when the Declaration of Independence was officially signed into law. It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world. At the time of its launch, the constitution had 395 articles divided into 22 parts and 8 annexes and consisted of nearly 80,000 words.
This book is one of 1,000 photolithographic reproductions of the Constitution of the Republic of India. The illustrations represent the styles of the different civilizations of the subcontinent, ranging from prehistoric Mohenjodaro, in the Indus Valley, to the present day. The book’s calligraphy was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizda. It was illuminated by Nandalal Bose and other artists, published by Dehra Dun and photolithographed at the Survey of India Offices. There are three original copies of the Constitution of India. All these copies are kept at the Central Library of Parliament. There is a three-room security enclosure, which you have to go through to see them. The original copy of the Constitution measures 22 inches long and 16 inches wide. It is written on sheets of parchment and its manuscript comprises 251 pages. It is obvious that keeping this precious document requires a lot of effort. Utmost care has been taken to ensure that the original copy of the Constitution is not spoiled, therefore it is kept in a helium filled box.
The Constitution of India is called a living document because it can be amended or modified. It accepts the need for modifications according to the changing needs of society. Thus, both political practices and judicial decisions have shown maturity and flexibility in the implementation of the Constitution. There have been 105 amendments to the Constitution of India till October 2021. The first amendment was made in 1950. After that, the Constitution has been amended 104 times. This is the beauty of the Indian Constitution.
The Indian Constitution which defends the principles of equality, fraternity, secularism, etc. is often considered a bag of borrowings due to the adoption of provisions by various other countries. The guiding principles were taken from the Irish Constitution, our type of parliamentary government with a cabinet system responsible to the lower house is an idea that policy makers borrowed from the British parliamentary system. The Supreme Court, our fundamental rights and the role of the Vice President were suggested by the Constitution of the United States of America. The emergency provisions were drawn from the German Constitution and the French Constitution influenced the concepts of liberty, fraternity and equality. The Japanese Constitution has influenced the operating principles of the Supreme Court. The Constitution of India has borrowed some of its features from 10 other countries, including Britain, Ireland, Japan, the United States, South Africa, Germany, Australia and the Canada.
“The Constitution is not just a lawyer’s document, it is a vehicle of Life, and its spirit is still the spirit of the Age.” This is how BR Ambedkar, the father of Indian constitution described the constitution.
(The author is Incharge Abhedananda Home-Higher Secondary Institution for Specially-abled Children, Solina, Srinagar, J&K)