Musings on the Constitution – I Narasimhan Vijayaraghavan What gumption and gall, you may wonder. I am no Granville Seward Austin (Cornerstone of a Nation & Working a Democratic Constitution) or Hans Raj Khanna
Musings on the Constitution – I
What gumption and gall, you may wonder. I am no Granville Seward Austin (Cornerstone of a Nation & Working a Democratic Constitution) or Hans Raj Khanna- (Making Of India’s Constitution). I claim no scholarship or authority of even elementary school status in this rarefied field. They said they were ‘students’, when they wrote their masterpieces. If that be so, I am a toddler with my two penny reading. Hence, my sincere apologies to all the masters, as I am indulging in these musings. They are but capturing what I had read long ago and a worthy recall in these Pandemic times, which affords the time and space, to engage in this esoteric than the mundane. Those who are offended by this childlike attempt, as an affront to the rich culture and legacy, associated in the Making of the Mother of All Laws, they are free to delete the message on my face, as I may well be deserving of the same. I cannot apologise more for this irreverent and impertinent indulgence.
For one, who had mused on the true and apocryphal, it was not an intellectual pursuit. It was a search into the past, to live in the present, with a few possibly worthwhile experiences. The Musings did gain traction, as the responses one received revealed. From Musing with my senior, there was a pivot to the schooldays, in the fun and frolic mode, amidst pranksters. At this distance, they may seem puerile (that it did not seem to most, is a miracle), contemporaneously, they were divinely delightful. The musings even nudged many an elderly to go nostalgic, to dig into their own days. The exchange was quite entertaining, though may have been least informative and surely not educative.
Time for another pivot on thought. Lawmen and Laymen have everything to do with the Constitution of India. It forms the core of our books as the Holy Book of The Republic. We are 70 years old as a Republic. We are still a fledgling democracy compared to the United States, as a 244 year old. America’s first Constitution- Articles of Confederation was ratified in 1781. On 25th May, 1787, the Philadelphia Convention opened, as the founding fathers met to frame the Constitution. 55 delegates from 13 States met and discussed and debated to come out with a 4200-word draft, and the last of the 13 States, Rhode Island, ratified it on May, 29, 1790. The deliberations were not open to Press or public and Dolly Madison, wife of James Madison, a founder member, sold his closed chambers’ papers for $30,000 to the Federal Government. One can go on and on about such vignettes from the US Constitution, from which we had heavily borrowed, for ours.
Our Constituent Assembly debates were no less fascinating. Babasaheb Ambedkar was the head of the Drafting Committee ,and the leader of the Constituent Assembly, who piloted the mother of all laws, throughout its flight, and let it have a safe landing, despite the turmoil and turbulence of Partition, playing out on the outside of the Council Hall a.k.a. Central hall of Parliament.
(N. Gopalasamy Ayyagar, Mohammed Sadaullah, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, K.M.Munshi, B.L Mittar substituted by N. Madhava Rao, D.P Khaitan substituted by T.T Krishnamachari)
Extracts of Ambedkar’s winding up speech at the Constituent Assembly, on Nov, 25, 1949, make compulsive reading. “Sir, looking back on the work of the Constituent Assembly it will now be two years, eleven months and seventeen days since it first met on the 9th of December 1946…….” In its final form, the Draft Constitution contains 395 articles and 8 Schedules. The total number of amendments to the Draft Constitution tabled was approximately 7,635. Of them, the total number of amendments actually moved in the House was 2,473. ….
I mention these facts because at one stage it was being said that the Assembly had taken too long a time to finish its work, that it was going on leisurely and wasting the public money. It was said to be a case of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Is there any justification for this complaint? Let us note the time the consumed by Constituent Assemblies in other countries appointed for framing their Constitutions. To take a few illustrations, the American….….
On the other hand, this Constituent Assembly had to deal with as many as 2.473 amendments. Having regard to these facts the charge of dilatoriness seems to me quite unfounded and this Assembly may well congratulate itself for having accomplished so formidable a task in so short a time.
The proceedings of this Constituent Assembly would have been very dull if all members had yielded to the rule of party discipline. Party discipline, in all its rigidity, would have converted this Assembly into a gathering of yes' men. Fortunately, there were rebels. They were Mr. Kamath, Dr. PS. Deshmukh, Mr. Sidhva, Prof. Saxena & Pandit Thakur, Das Bhargava alongwith they I must mention Prof. K.T Shah and Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzru. The points they raised were mostly ideological. That I was not prepared to accept their suggestions does not diminish the value of their suggestions nor lessen the service they have rendered to the Assembly in enlivening its proceedings. I am grateful to them. But for them, I would not have had the opportunity which I got for expounding the principles underlying the Constitution which was more important than the mere mechanical work of passing the Constitution. I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.” Cut to 2nd December 1953, when Dr. Ambedkar, while debating on the powers of a Governor, is recorded to have said “My friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody. But whatever that may be if our people want to carry on they must not forget…”? If within three years of the Making of The Constitution, the father of the same was a disillusioned soul, where are we after 70 years on the working of it? Feel safe, I do not intend to sit in judgment. I have no earthly or worthy credentials and as a student of Constitutional law, my training and upbringing may be parsimonious in the terrain. I intend merely to indulge in the periphery. The edges, as it were. Possibly, the interesting and anecdotal, what you and I may know already, but may do well to recall and remember, when right to life itself is at stake, though from an encroachment of a different genre. Rest assured, you may need no constitutional vaccine from this invasion of my Musings’ virus.
The original Constitution of India, adopted on 26 January 1950, was not a printed document. It was entirely handcrafted by the artists of Shantiniketan under the guidance of Acharya Nandalal Bose, with the calligraphy texts done by Prem Behari Narain Raizada in Delhi. This document is now preserved in a special helium-filled case…