Uploaded on December 1, 2021
Celebrating and Honoring Our Constitution
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam
26th November is observed as the Constitution Day in India- the Constitution was adopted on 26th November 1949, following the ardent and extensive deliberations after India's Independence in 1947. The framers of the Constitution are still remembered for their dedicated effort to put forward a holistic and inclusive document, which aimed for political, social, economic, and cultural equality amongst the people of India. The enormous challenges before the Constitution and its drafting members were defeated with a prudent approach and mindful debate, focussing on the disadvantaged and less privileged sections of society.
The Constitution, since its inception, has evolved and adapted as per the changing times. There have been a total of 105 amendments to date, reflecting the dynamic nature of the Constitution. One of the most pertinent amendments is the 42nd Amendment, known as the Constitution Act, 1976, which made India a secular country (from a "sovereign democratic republic" to a "sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic"), enacted by the Indian National Congress during the Emergency. As B. R. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, rightly pointed "Constitution is not a mere lawyer’s document, it is a vehicle of Life, and its spirit is always the spirit of Age." The Constitution has provided people with support and voice, especially to the vulnerable sections that have been gagged and muffled by the demagogues and tyrannical dictators.
This year too, the celebration of the Constitution was marked with unparalleled fervor and enthusiasm by the stakeholders of India's democracy. What stood out this year was the speech delivered by the Chief Justice of India, N.V. Ramana, who expressed gratitude as well as concerns for the judicial system of India. Referring to the Constitution as the most progressive and contemporary document of the 20th century, the CJI expressed the ahead of its time character of the document. The commendable farsightedness of the Constituent Assembly members, who presented us with a platform to work on the development and upliftment of our society, deserve all the applause.
The speech once again highlighted his appeal for "Indianization" of the laws for mass reach. The use of overwhelming economic resources, hectic court procedures, and complicated language put the judicial system at a distance for the ordinary people- all of this results in hindrance in approaching the court for justice for them. The call for working together of the three organs of India's democracy- the judiciary, the executive, and the legislature- would assist in educating people of their rights and other constitutional provisions.
Stressing on gender equality in the representation of women in the judiciary has been one of the highlights of the CJI's speech. The number of women judges both in HCs and the SC is appallingly low. The historic appointment of three women judges barely cuts the alarming gender gap in Indian courts. Therefore, encouraging women in the judiciary by making it accessible for them is the need of the hour. One of the main concerns, he said, is the physical attacks on judicial officers and also the social media attack/trolling, which need immediate attention from the law enforcement officers.
However, with all the appreciation of India's progress in various sectors, it was a relevant time and occasion to question the democratic credibility of the Indian government, which has been surpassing Constitutional morality and ethics time and again. The subversion of the democratic and Constitutional values under the current regime has become a never ending cycle. Since the Constitution of India has authorized a check and balance system to keep a hold on the abuse of power, therefore, it feels like a missed opportunity for the representative of the judiciary to not accentuate the ongoing invasion of the Constitutional values of India's democracy.
Nevertheless, the essence of the CJI's speech brings hope and optimism from the sacred document of India- the Constitution. Although the dream of an inclusive, receptive, progressive, and flourishing society is still distant but appears feasible if the three pillars and the civil society work in harmony for socio-economic, religious, political, cultural equality.