December 9th 1946, witnessed the inception of a voyage wherein India attained its independence from the British rule, and India changed from “British India” to “India”. The voyage entailed deciding upon its national flag, national anthem, and most importantly the adoption of “The Indian Constitution”.
A demand that India’s political fate should be in the hands of the Indians, was put forward by the Mahatma Gandhi as early as in 1922. In 1930’s, the round table conferences and the statutory commission had failed to satisfy Indian aspirations. Consequently, in 1938 Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru formulated his demand of the constituent assembly.
“The national congress stands for independence and democratic state. It has proposed that the Constitution of free India must be framed, without outside interference, by a constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise” – working committee of the congress in 1939.”
The demand for the formulation of the Indian constituent assembly was somehow resisted by the British government, but with the outbreak of World War II, the British Parliament realised the exigency for a solution to the problem of Indian independence and it’s Constitution. The coalition government of Great Britain in 1940’s realised the fact that the Indians themselves should frame a Constitution for independent India. When the Japanese were at the Indian doors, Winston Churchill the Prime Minister of Great Britain, known well to obstruct Indian independence sent Sir Stafford Cripps with a draft deceleration which was further rejected by the Congress and the Cripps mission was a failure.
After the failed attempts of England to appease the Congress and the Muslim league the British government on December 6th 1946 published the following statement –
“should a Constitution come to be framed by the constituent assembly in which a large section of the Indian population had not been represented. His Majesty’s government would not contemplate forcing such a Constitution upon any unwilling part of the country.”
The next, was the statement of the British government which asserted that they shall transfer the power from the British to the Indians in any case by June 1948, and it was the final declaration of Indian independence which led to the arrival of Lord Mountbatten to India for the transfer of power and to finalise an agreement between the Congress and the Muslim League.
After a lot of efforts by the British Parliament the “Indian Independence Act of 1947” was passed by the British Parliament with Royal assent on 18th of July, which made “India” and “Pakistan” two Dominions with separate Constituent Assemblies and unlimited powers to draft a Constitution for themselves.
The Constituent Assembly met in sessions open to the public, for 166 days, spread over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution. The 308 members of the assembly signed two copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) on 26 January 1950. Though the draft was ready on the 26th of November 1949, 26th January was taken as a historic day for the enforcement of the Constitution because of the Lahore session hosted by the Congress in 1929 on the same day where they adopted the concept of “Poorna Swaraj” or “complete independence”.
On 26th January 1950, the longest written Constitution of the world’s largest democracy came into force, enshrining the principles of natural justice and making India a sovereign, democratic and republic nation with a federal yet unitary structure, making itself “quasi federal” in nature and appointing the Supreme Court as its Guardian, and since then, the Constitution of India has been standing for every individual as the Grund Norm protecting our rights and defining our obligations, reputing itself as the Supreme law of the land. The sacred text is kept in a special helium-filled case in the Library of the Indian Parliament, safeguarding India and its people, and unifying the country; with its 448 articles 25 parts and 12 schedules.
The Constitution, after independence witnessed many amendments which tried to amend the Constitutional Morality of the Indian Constitution and the First Amendment which was introduced post the judgement of State of Madras v. Champakam Dorairajan led to the inception of 9th schedule and Article 31A and 31B, which though inserted for a noble cause, was used as a political tool by government to protect questionable laws like the 69 percent reservation scheme in Tamil Nadu or the SC ST Act, which the present government is planning to put into the 9th schedule to get immunity from Judicial Review. The Constitution of India witnessed its greatest attacks during the regime of Indira Gandhi when the Parliament started to change the foundation of the Constitution and then it was the Supreme Court that had to step in to guard the values of the Constitution. The Thirteen Judge Bench did not bow in front of the government and sealed the gates for amendment of the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution in the case of His Holiness Keshvananda Bharti v. State of Kerala. In this landmark judgement the Court partially cemented the prior precedent of Golaknath v. State of Punjab, which held that constitutional amendments pursuant to Article 368 were subject to fundamental rights review, by asserting that only those amendments which tend to affect the ‘Basic structure of the Constitution’ are subject to judicial review. Although the court upheld the Basic Structure Doctrine by only marginal yet potent majority, it has since gained widespread acceptance and legitimacy due to subsequent cases and judgments. Significant among these was the imposition of the State of Emergency by P. M. Indira Gandhi in 1975, and the subsequent attempt to suppress her prosecution through the 39th Amendment. When the Kesavananda case was decided, the underlying apprehension of the Majority Bench that Elected Representatives could not be trusted to act responsibly was perceived to be unprecedented. However, the passage of the 39th Amendment proved that in fact this apprehension was well-founded. In Indira Nehru Gandhi v. Raj Narain, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court used the Basic Structure Doctrine to strike down the 39th amendment and paved the way for restoration of Indian democracy.
Then came the darkest day for the Indian Constitution when the judgement of ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla was passed in the corridors of the Supreme Court, where the principles of Natural justice had failed to protect the people of India and the judiciary had knelt down in front of government, it was the day, when Article 21 and consequently the Fundamental Right to Life, stood suspended. The day also witnessed legal positivism attaining its pinnacle in the Indian legal system and it remained so until the pronouncement in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India when the Supreme Court redeemed itself from its wrongdoings in ADM Jabalpur and marked the inception of the values of natural law philosophy in the Indian Constitutional scheme. In ADM Jabalpur case, though, there was a voice, the voice of Justice HR Khanna, which dissented from the majority decision, but it went in vain against the rest of the 4 judges in ADM Jabalpur. However the judiciary amended its mistake. The mistake made by a father, was years later corrected by his son, while delivering the judgement on Right to Privacy Justice DY Chandrachud (son of YV Chandrachud) observed –
“The judgements rendered by all the four judges constituting the majority in ADM Jabalpur are seriously flawed. Life and personal liberty are inalienable to human existence”
Therefore, it is explicit that the Constitution and its values have always won and the Constitution will always strive to protect the liberty and rights of the people, till the eternity of time.
यतो धर्मस्ततो जयः॥
(Yato Dharmastato Jayaḥ)
Where there is truth (dharma), there is victory (justice)