- 1 Terminology
- 2 Democratic Constitution in South Africa
- 3 Towards a New Constitution
- 4 Why do We Need a Constitution
- 5 Making of the Indian Constitution
- 6 The Path to Constitution
- 7 The Constituent Assembly
- 8 We Accept the Constitution
- 9 The Guiding Values of the Indian Constitution
- 10 Philosophy of the Constitution
- 11 Institutional Design
There are certain basic rules that the citizens and the government have to follow. All such rules together are called the constitution. As the supreme law of the country, the constitution determines the rights of citizens, the powers of the government and how the government should function.
Democratic Constitution in South Africa
Struggle against Apartheid
- Apartheid was the system of racial discrimination or segregation on grounds of race unique to South Africa. The white Europeans imposed this system on South Africa. The system of apartheid divided the people and labelled them on the basis of their skin colour. The white rulers treated all non-whites as inferiors.
The apartheid system was particularly oppressive for the blacks.
- The non-whites did not have the voting rights.
- Blacks could not form associations or protest against the terrible treatment.
- They could work in white areas only if they had a permit.
- They were forbidden from living in white areas.
- They could not even visit the Churches where the whites worshipped.
- Trains, buses, taxis, hotels, hospitals, schools and colleges, libraries, cinema halls, theatres, beaches, swimming pools, public toilets, were all separate for the whites and blacks. This was called ‘segregation’.
- The African National Congress (ANC) was the umbrella organization that led the struggle against the policies of segregation. This included many workers’ unions and the Communist Party. Many sensitive whites also joined the ANC to oppose apartheid and played a leading role in this struggle.
Towards a New Constitution
Finally, at the midnight of 26 April 1994, the new national flag of the Republic of South Africa was unfurled, marking the newly-born democracy in the world. The apartheid government came to an end, paving way for the formation of a multi- racial government.
After two years of discussion and debate, they came out with one of the finest constitutions the world has ever had. The characteristics of the South African Constitution are :
- This constitution gave to its citizens the most extensive rights available in any country.
- Together, they decided that in the search for a solution to the problems, nobody should be excluded; no one should be treated as a demon.
- They agreed that everybody should become part of the solution.
Struggle Against Apartheid in South Africa
(i) Nelson Mandela and seven other leaders were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 for daring to oppose the apartheid regime in his country.
(ii) Apartheid was the name of a system of racial discrimination unique to South Africa, which was imposed by the white Europeans on the blacks.
(iii) During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the trading companies from Europe occupied South Africa.
(iv) The native people of South Africa are black in colour and make up three-fourth of the population.
(v) Apart from the white Europeans and black natives there were people of mixed races who were called ‘coloured’ and also people who migrated from India.
(vi) The white rulers treated all non-whites as inferiors.
(vii) The non-whites did not have voting rights.
(viii) In the Apartheid system, the blacks were forbidden from living in white areas. They could work in white areas only if they had a permit.
(ix) Trains, buses, taxis, hotels, hospitals, schools, colleges, libraries, cinema halls, theatres, beaches, swimming pools, public toilets, etc. were all separate for the whites and black. This was called segregation.
(x) In 1950, the blacks, coloured and Indians fought against the apartheid system. They launched protest marches and strikes.
(xi) The African National Congress (ANC) was the umbrella organisation that led the struggle against the policies of segregation.
(xii) This included many workers’ unions and the communist party. Many sensitive whites also joined the ANC to oppose apartheid and played a leading role in this struggle.
(xiii) Several countries denounced apartheid as unjust and racist.
(xiv) But the white racist government continued to rule by detaining and killing thousands of black and coloured people.
Towards a New Constitution
(i) The protests and struggles against apartheid increased. The government realised that it could not keep the blacks under their rule through repression.
(ii) The white government changed its policies. Discriminatory laws were repealed. Ban on political parties and restrictions on media were lifted.
(iii) After 28 years of imprisonment Nelson Mandela walked out of jail as a free man.
(iv) On 26th April, 1994, the new national flag of the Republic of South Africa was unfurled, marking the birth of a new democracy in the world.
(v) The apartheid came to an end, paving the way for the formation of a multi-racial government.
(vi) Black leaders appealed to fellow blacks to forgive the whites for the atrocities they had committed while in power.
(vii) After two years of discussion and debate, the whites and the blacks came out with one of the finest Constitutions the world has ever had.
(viii) The Constitutions gave to its citizens the most extensive rights available in any country.
(ix) The South African Constitution inspires democrats all over the world.
(x) The change was possible because of the determination of the people of South Africa to work together to transform bitter experiences into the binding glue of a rainbow nation.
Why do We Need a Constitution
- The constitution of a country is a set of written rules that are accepted by all people living together in a country. The constitution is the supreme law that determines the relationship among people living in a territory and also the relationship between the people and government.
A constitution does many things :
- It generates a degree of trust and coordination that is necessary for different kind of people to live together.
- It specifies how the government will be constituted, who will have power to take which decisions. lIt lays down limits on the powers of the government and tells us the rights of the citizens.
- It expresses the aspirations of the people about creating a good society.
All countries that have constitutions are not necessarily democratic. But, all countries that are democratic will have constitutions.
(i) The South African example is a good way to understand why we need a Constitution and what do Constitutions do.
(ii) The oppressor and the oppressed in this new democracy were planning to live together as equals.
(iii) Both wanted to safeguard their interests.
(iv) The black majority was keen to ensure that the democratic principle of majority rule was not compromised. They wanted socio-economic rights.
(v) The white minority was keen to protect its privileges and property.
(vi) After long negotiations both parties agreed to compromise.
(vii) The whites agreed to the principle of majority rule and that of one person one vote.
(viii) The blacks agreed that the majority rule would not be absolute.
(ix) The blacks agreed that the majority would not take away the property of the white minority.
(x) The only way to maintain trust in such a situation is to write down some rules and regulations that everyone would abide by.
(xi) These rules lay down how the rulers are to be chosen in future.
(xii) These rules also lay down what the elected governments are empowered to do and what they cannot do. Finally, these rules decide the rights of the citizens.
(xiii) They also decided that these rules will be supreme, that no government will be able to ignore these.
(xiv) The set of basic rules is called a constitution.
Significance of a Constitution
(i) The Constitution of a country is a set of written rules that are accepted by all people living together in a country.
(ii) The Constitution is the supreme law that determines the relationship among the people living in a territory (called citizens) and also the relationship between the people and
(iii) A Constitution does Many Things
(a) First, it generates a degree of trust and co-ordination that is necessary for different kind of people to live together.
(b) Second, it specifies how the government will be constituted and who will have power to take which decisions.
(c) Third, it lays down limits on the powers of the government and tells us what the rights of the citizens are.
(d) Fourth, it expresses the aspirations of the people about creating a good society.
(e) All countries that have Constitutions are not necessarily democratic. But all countries that are democratic will have Constitutions.
(f) It has become a practice in all democracies to have a written Constitution.
Making of the Indian Constitution
(i) The making of the Constitution for a huge and diverse country like India was not an easy affair.
(ii) The country was born through a partition on the basis of religious differences. Which was a traumatic experience for the people of India and Pakistan.
(iii) The merger of the princely states was a difficult and uncertain task.
The Path to Constitution
(i) In 1928, Motilal Nehru and eight other Congress leaders drafted a Constitution for India.
(ii) In 1931, the resolution at the Karachi session of the Indian National Congress dwelt on how independent India’s Constitution should look like.
(iii) Both these documents were committed to the inclusion of universal adult franchise, right to freedom and equality and to protecting the rights of minorities in the Constitution of independent India. Thus, some basic values were accepted by all leaders.
(iv) The Indian Constitution adopted many institutional details and procedures from the colonial laws like the Government of India Act 1935.
(v) Many of our leaders were inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, the practice of Parliamentary democracy in Britain and the Bill of Right.o in the US.
(vi) The Socialist Revolution in Russia had inspired many Indians to think of shaping a system based on social and economic equality.
(vii) All these factors contributed to the making of our Constitution.
The Constituent Assembly
(i) The drafting of the Constitution was done by an assembly of elected representatives called the Constituent Assembly.
(ii) Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946. Its first meeting was held in December 1946.
(iii) The Constituent Assembly was divided into the Constituent Assembly of India and that of Pakistan after the partition.
(iv) The Constituent Assembly that wrote the Indian Constitution had 299 members.
(v) The Assembly adopted the constitution on 26th November 1949.
(vi) The Constitution came into effect on 26th January, 1950.To mark this day, we celebrate January 26 as Republic Day every year.
We Accept the Constitution
(i) We accepted the Constitution made by the Constituent Assembly more than 50 years ago.
(a) The Constitution does not reflect the views of its members alone, it expresses a broad consensus of its time.
(b) The second reason for accepting the Constitution is that the Constituent Assembly represented the people of India. There was no universal adult franchise and it could not be chosen directly by all the people of India.The Constituent Assembly was elected by the members of the existing Provincial Legislatures. This ensured a fair geographical share of members from all the regions of the country.
(ii) Finally, the manner in which the Constituent Assembly worked gives sanctity to the Constitution.
(iii) The Constituent Assembly worked in a systematic open and consensual manner.
(iv) First some basic principles were decided and agreed upon.
(v) A Drafting Committee chaired by Dr BR Ambedkar prepared a draft Constitution for discussion. Discussion took place on the Draft Constitution clause by clause.
(vi) More than 2000 amendments were considered.
(vii) The members deliberated for 114 days spread over 3 years.
(viii) Every document presented and every word spoken in the Constituent Assembly has been recorded and preserved. These are called ‘Constituent Assembly Debates’ printed in 12 bulky volumes. These debates provide the rationale behind every provision of the Constitution. These are used to interpret the meaning of the Constitution.
The Guiding Values of the Indian Constitution
(i) Mahatma Gandhi was not a member of the Constituent Assembly, there were many members who followed his vision.
(ii) Writing in his magazine Young India in 1931, Gandhiji had spelt out what he wanted the Constitution to do. He visualised for a country, where all communities should live in perfect harmony. India will be free from the curse of untouchability, intoxicating drinks and drugs. Men and women will enjoy the same rights.
(iii) BR Ambedkar played a key role in the making of the Constitution but he differed with Gandhiji on how inequalities should be removed. He often bitterly criticised Mahatma Gandhi and his vision.
Philosophy of the Constitution
(i) The values that inspired and guided the freedom struggle formed the foundation for India’s democracy.
(ii) These values are embedded in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
(iii) They guide all the articles of the Indian Constitution. The Constitution begins with a short statement of its basic values. This is called the Preamble to the Constitution.
(iv) Most countries in the contemporary world have chosen to begin their Constitutions with a Preamble like American Constitution.
(v) The Preamble of the Constitution contains the philosophy on which the entire Constitution has been built. It is the soul of the Indian Constitution.
(vi) The Preamble of the Constitution of India reads like a poem on democracy.
(vii) It provides a standard to examine and evaluate any law and action of government.
(viii) The Preamble of the Indian Constitution.
The Constitution of India is preceded by a Preamble which outlines its aims and objectives. It reads “We the People of India. having solemnly resoloved to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic and to secure to all its citizens Justice Social, Economic And Political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; Equality of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all; Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation; In Our Constituent Assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949 do Hereby Adopt, Enact and give to Ourselves this Constitution.”
(i) The Constitution is not merely a statement of values and philosophy.
(ii) A Constitution is about embodying these values into institutional arrangements.
(iii) Much of the document called Constitution of India is about these arrangements.
(iv) It is very long and detailed document, therefore it needs to be amended quite regularly to keep it updated.
(v) Those who crafted the Indian Constitution fell that it has to be in accordance with people’s aspirations and changes in society.
(vi) Changes are made in the Constitution from time to time and these changes are called Constitutional Amendments.
(vii) The Constitution describes the institutional arrangements in a very legal language.
(viii) The Constitution lays down the procedure for choosing persons to govern the country.
(ix) It defines who will have how much power to take which decisions.
(x) It puts limits on what the government can do by providing some rights to the citizens that cannot be violated.