The one book which deserves to be mentioned today, the 26th of January (Indian Republic Day) is, of course, the Constitution of India, which was adopted on this date in 1950. The original, having been handwritten in two languages (English and Hindi), is kept in special helium filled cases in the Library of the Parliament.
The Constitution is not merely a book but the soul of a supposedly secular nation. It has now completed 65 years since being put to work; an age when many people reach retirement. Thankfully this does not happen to Constitutions, despite occasional rumblings from certain quarters about the need for an overhaul. Frankly, in our opinion, that is quite silly because through thick and thin, emergencies, amendments and socialisations, the basic framework of the Constitution has weathered it all. We have laws which have been around for more than a hundred and fifty years and no one seems to be in the mood to change those. The Indian Penal Code(1860) with its creaking, ancient and possibly cancerous sections is one which is in desperate need for a complete rejuvenation process. The Indian Contract Act (1872) has remained fairly healthy despite extreme old age and has by and large managed with a few minor surgeries.
The Constitution, with its 448 Articles and 12 Schedules is one of the lengthiest in the world. It incorporates pretty much everything that is required for a country and has been used as a model for Constitutions of other countries which got independence after India. As a document it is pretty impressive.
PS: Although it provides a comprehensive list of fundamental rights as well as duties, typically people have always been more interested in the rights and most people don’t even realise that there are duties.
LL: I wonder if any of our parliamentarians, the ones who aren’t lawyers, have taken the trouble to even zip through it.
PS: As as far as the general public goes, a large percentage of the population has probably not even heard of it.
LL: And out of those who have, a minuscule percentage have probably never picked up a copy. This probably explains the general lawlessness prevailing.
PS: Perhaps it should become mandatory for persons standing for elections and all government servants to take a test on the Constitution and the Constituent Assembly Debates.
LL: And also the Keshavananda Bharati judgement.
(The Keshavananda Bharati case, on the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution, was heard by a 13 judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India. The judgement passed in 1973, runs to one full volume of the All India Reporter.)
PS: The Constitution is obviously not on the top of anyone’s minds, neither is anyone keen on following it and governments are only interested in abrogating as many rights as possible.
LL: The only thing that makes everyone happy is the holiday they get on the 26th and even then they only talk about the parade and not the Constitution. And this time round they have the added excitement of Obama attending as chief guest.