On 26th November 2019 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of our Constitution Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has emphasized that we should celebrate the Constitution Day with pride and enthusiasms. It is to be noted that on 26th November 1949, the Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly in accordance with the recommendation of the Cabinet Mission plan. And finally, it was implemented on 26th January 1950.
In this respect, nation-wide conferences & seminars including the public meetings were being organized particularly at the national Capital Delhi with immense fervor. Indeed, commemorating the ‘Constitution Day’ is a matter of a great pride and jubilation for every Indian citizen who believed in the sanctity of democratic values and principles. In this connection, a programme was organized at Department of Political Science, Jamia Milia Islamia to celebrate the Constitution Day. In the morning session, the Preamble of Indian Constitution (which is interpreted as the guiding philosophy of our Constitution, broadly mentioned about freedom, justice, equality, social and economy for all Indian citizen of Indian irrespective of caste, religion and ethnicity.) was recited by the students at JMI in the Ghalib (well- known, progressive poet of the late 19th century) lawn. In the afternoon session, a talk was also organized on the theme of “Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated”.
The gathering was addressed by two prominent speakers namely, former Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court, Justice M. Karpaga Vinayagam and by Prof. Velayutham Saravanan, a noted academicician and currently Director, at the Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies, JMI.
At outset, Justice Vinayagam in his address emphasized on Gandhian ethics, morality, and humanistic approach towards justice and peace, underlined the importance of the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution upheld by the Supreme Court in Keshavananda Bharti case vs. the State of Kerala in 1973. As per the judgment, the basic structure of our Constitution cannot be amended by the law-making institutions. The five core Constitutional principles, which are considered as part of the basic structure such as Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Socialist and Republic. This upheld the sacredness of the Indian Constitutions, added by the former Justice. While defining the democracy given by Abraham Lincoln, former President of USA, he said that instead of saying that ‘democracy is by the people of the people and for the people’. In today’s context, it is not wrong to say that now the definition of democracy has practically operated quite different may be called ‘buy the people, off the people and far the people’, said by Mr. Vinayagam.
In short, he emphasized that our life should be based on wisdom, humanistic values rather than power, greed and immoral attitudes. For this, he reiterated several times that kindly read the autobiography of good people mainly ‘My Experiment with Truth’ authored by Gandhi. He said that his life had greatly changed after reading this thought provoking text. While answering the question on recent the Supreme Court verdict over the Babri Masjid, he said that although the demolition was a criminal act but five bench of verdict given by the apex Court must be accepted by both the Hindus and the Muslim for the sake of communal harmony and peace. However, one can have still the constitutional right to file a review petition said by the speaker. While responding to the question regarding Article 370 , that followed by the humanitarian crisis (basic Human rights violations of children and women mainly), he said that matter is still pending in the apex Court, one should adopt a humane approach to deal with situations like this, and let the government function according to the constitutional norms. In doing so, he expressed that through this way normalcy and improvements will be restored rather than adopting unconstitutional methods. Before concluding his talk, he reiterated to the learned audience mainly students, kindly read and have a look both Keshananda Bharti case and, Autobiography of Gandhiji, My experiment with Truth.
While addressing, the audiences, another prominent speaker, Prof. Sravavanan has talked about the rights of weaker section mainly tribal community along with how the Indian Constitutions came into existence. While speaking the background of the formation of the Indian Constitution, he underlined that at the time of framing the Constitution several committees and commissions were created and its recommendations were considered by the different Constituent Assembly bodies. It is pertinent to note that most of the committees were dominated by the members of the Indian National Congress (who mostly belong to upper caste/class).
In other words, the representations of weaker sections in the making of the Indian Constitution were not adequately ensured during the Constituent Assembly deliberations. In spite of this, several provisions and articles were incorporated in our Constitution to deal with problems of the weaker sections including tribal community, he added. It is sad to mention that despite the Constitutional safeguards, in the post-independent India, the consecutive governments including the present political dispensation have not taken any concrete steps to address the socio-economic conditions of weaker sections. And hence, their socio-economic conditions still are not substantially improved, added by the speaker.
Having said that let me briefly discuss the relevance of Constitution and its core value like Constitutional morality in today’s socio-political context. While discussing the importance of the Constitution and its role to limits the power of political executive, a noted social scientist Pratab Bhanu Mehta writes,
“Constitutions not only allocate authority, define the limits of power or enunciate values. They also constitute our sense of history and shape a sense of self. They often mark a new beginning and define future horizons. Despite the centrality of the Constitution to our social and political life, it has been ill-served by our historical imagination. In a very mundane sense, with a handful of exceptions, there is no serious or deep historiography associated with our Constitution, one that can put it in proper historical and philosophical perspective”. ( Pratab Bhanu Mehta, “What is Constitutional Morality”? Seminar, URL, http://www.india-seminar.com/2010/615/615_pratap_bhanu_mehta.htm (Accessed on 27th November 2019).
During the Constituent Assembly debates, Dr. Ambedkar while quoting, a historian like Grote ( He was a noted historian of Greece and expert on the Constitutional morality) on Constitutional morality says,
“By constitutional morality, Grote meant… a paramount reverence for the forms of the constitution, enforcing obedience to authority and acting under and within these forms, yet combined with the habit of open speech, of action subject only to definite legal control, and unrestrained censure of those very authorities as to all their public acts combined, too with a perfect confidence in the bosom of every citizen amidst the bitterness of party contest that the forms of constitution will not be less sacred in the eyes of his opponents than his own.” (Cited by Pratab Bhanu Mehta, “What is constitutional morality”? Seminar URL, http://www.india-seminar.com/2010/615/615_pratap_bhanu_mehta.htm (accessed on 27th November 2019).
Let me conclude that this piece by reminding that what Baba Saheb said long ago if we as a nation will not annihilate the caste and able to deliver justice in realm of social and economic, our polity will face severe crises in the future. For him, without the annihilation of caste, there will be no revolution. However, since the BJP government came to power, subaltern class and citizen of India contrary to the promises made in the preamble of the Indian Constitution and dreams of Baba Saheb, confronting severe challenges in all walks of life. As a result of this, Dalits, minorities, Tribals etc, socio-economic conditions are worsening day by day. To sum up, one could argue that if the present government is really committed to ‘Constitutional Morality’ and serious about to achieve an egalitarian society as Baba Saheb visualized long ago, must addressee the problems of subaltern masses rather than only celebrating the Constitutional Day with hollow promises as often made by the present ruling dispensation during election campaigning.
Let me end this piece by quoting the relevant speech given by Baba Saheb, on 26th 1950, when finally our Constitution came into force. On the occasion of 70th Constitutional day, if one can closely read, Dr. Ambedkar concerns and worries expressed at the time about the future of India, it is not wrong to say that his futuristic predictions about possible contradictions which are still seems to be relevant now because, it is fact that we have got long back political freedom and democracy from the colonial masters, but still Indian subaltern masses are far from getting social and economic justice. While highlighting these contradictions, Baba Saheb Ambedkar rightly says,
“On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics, we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.”
The author is a research scholar University of Delhi.