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Polity and International Relations (English)

Making of Constitution of India: How did it evolve?

India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic which is governed by Constitution of India adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November, 1949. The Constitution is a set of laws and rules that set sets up the machinery of the Government of a state, and which defines and determines the relations between the different institutions and components of the government, the executives, the legislature, the judiciary, the central and the local government. The Indian constitution came into force on 26th January, 1950. It provides for a Parliamentary form of government with a federal in structure with certain unitary features. When the Indian constitution was made, it had 395 articles which were distributed in 22 parts and 8 schedules. January 2019, there have been 124 Amendment Bills and 103 Amendment acts to the Constitution of India since it was first enacted in 1950.

 At present, there are 448 articles present in the Indian constitution which are distributed in 25 parts, 12 schedules, and 5 appendices.

The Constitutional heads

The constitutional head of the Executive of the Union is the President. As per Article 79 of the Constitution of India, the council of the Parliament of the Union consists of the President and two Houses known as the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha). Article 74(1) of the Constitution provides that there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as its head to aid and advise the President, who shall exercise his/her functions in accordance to the advice. The real executive power is thus vested in the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister as its head.

The makers of Indian constitution

The making of the Indian constitution was a long drawn process in which many illustrious leaders and experts from India participated. Some of most well known participants in the process of constitution making included Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Sanjay Phakey, Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Ganesh Vasudev Mavalankar, Sandipkumar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Nalini Ranjan Ghosh, and Balwantrai Mehta etc. The first draft of the Indian Constitution, which was completed on 26th November 1949 is no less than a masterpiece. While Nandalal Bose and his students designed the borders of every page and adorned it with beautiful art pieces, it was the singlehanded effort of Prem Behari Narain Raizada (Saxena) that brought the primary contents and the preamble to the Constitution, to life. Shri Prem Behari was born on 17 December 1901, in a family of traditional calligraphists.

The Constituent Assembly of India

An idea for a Constituent Assembly was proposed in 1934 by M. N. Roy, a pioneer of the Communist movement in India and an advocate of radical democracy. It became an official demand of the Indian National Congress in 1935, C. Rajagopalachari voiced the demand for a Constituent Assembly on 15 November 1939 based on adult franchise, and was accepted by the British in August 1940. On 8 August 1940, a statement was made by Viceroy Lord Linlithgow about the expansion of the Governor-General’s Executive Council and the establishment of a War Advisory Council. This offer, known as the August Offer, included giving full weight to minority opinions and allowing Indians to draft their own constitution. Under the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946, elections were held for the first time for the Constituent Assembly. The Constitution of India was drafted by the Constituent Assembly, and it was implemented under the Cabinet Mission Plan on 16 May 1946. The members of the Constituent Assembly were elected by the provincial assemblies by a single, transferable-vote system of proportional representation. The total membership of the Constituent Assembly was 389: 292 were representatives of the states, 93 represented the princely states and four were from the chief commissioner provinces of Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara, Coorg (Near Madikeri) and British Baluchistan.

The elections for the 296 seats assigned to the British Indian provinces were completed by August 1946. Congress won 208 seats, and the Muslim League 73. After this election, the Muslim League refused to cooperate with the Congress, and the political situation deteriorated. Hindu-Muslim riots began, and the Muslim League demanded a separate constituent assembly for Muslims in India. On 3 June 1947 Lord Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General of India, announced his intention to scrap the Cabinet Mission Plan; this culminated in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and the separate nations of India and Pakistan. The Indian Independence Act was passed on 18 July 1947 and, although it was earlier declared that India would become independent in June 1948, this event led to independence on 15 August 1947. The Constituent Assembly (elected for an undivided India) met for the first time on 9 December 1946, reassembling on 14 August 1947 as a sovereign body and successor to the British parliament’s authority in India. As a result of the partition, under the Mountbatten plan, a separate Constituent Assembly of Pakistan was established on 3 June 1947. The representatives of the areas incorporated into Pakistan ceased to be members of the Constituent Assembly of India. New elections were held for the West Punjab and East Bengal (which became part of Pakistan, although East Bengal later seceded to become Bangladesh); the membership of the Constituent Assembly was 299 after the reorganization, and it met on 31 December 1947.

Constituent Assembly

The Constituent Assembly of India came into existence as per the provisions of Cabinet Mission Plan of May 1946. Its task was to formulate constitution/s for facilitating appropriate transfer of sovereign power from British authorities to Indian hands.The Assembly was to have proportional representation from existing provincial legislatures and from various princely states. Bulk of these elections was completed by the end of July 1946, under the supervision of Reforms Office under Governor General (Viceroy). The Assembly was to have three sections: Punjab & North-West, Bengal-Assam and Rest of India. The Constitutions were to be formulated for Indian Union, each Section and for each of the Provinces therein. The Muslim League, which had won bulk of the 80 Muslim seats and dominated two smaller Sections, chose not to participate so the Assembly never convened separately in sections. Assembly held 12 sessions, or rounds of sittings.

Chairman of the drafting committee: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar- Upon India’s independence on 15 August 1947, the new Congress-led government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation’s first Law and Justice Minister, which he accepted. On 29 August, he was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, and was appointed by the Constituent Assembly to write India’s new Constitution. Ambedkar was a wise constitutional expert, he had studied the constitutions of about 60 countries. Ambedkar is recognised as the “Father of the Constitution of India”. In 1990, the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred upon Ambedkar.

Chairman of Constituent Assembly of India- Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Indian National Congress- Upon independence in 1947, Prasad was elected as President of the [Constituent Assembly of India], which prepared the [Constitution of India] and served as its provisional parliament. He was elected the President of Constituent Assembly on 11 December 1946. Two and a half years after independence, on 26 January 1950, the Constitution of independent India was ratified and Prasad was elected the nation’s first president. The Mughal Gardens at the Rashtrapati Bhavan were open to public for about a month for the first time during his tenure.  In 1962, after serving twelve years as the president, he announced his decision to retire. After relinquishing the office of the President of India on May 1962, he returned to Patna on 14 May 1962 and preferred to stay in the campus of Bihar Vidyapeeth. He was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Interim Chairman: Sachchidananda Sinha, Indian National Congress-. He was named the Interim President of the Constituent Assembly of India on 9 December 1946. He was replaced by Dr. Rajendra Prasad after indirect election on 11 December 1946. Sinha began his career as an advocate in 1893 practicing in the Calcutta High Court. He subsequently practiced in the Allahabad High Court starting 1896 and Patna High Court starting 1916.In his early years, Sinha was a member of the Indian National Congress, from 1899 till 1920, serving one term as secretary. He participated in the Home Rule League Movement. He was a member of the Imperial Legislative Council from 1910 to 1920 and the Indian Legislative Assembly. He was Deputy President of the Assembly in 1921. He also held the office of the President in the Bihar and Orissa Legislative Council. He was appointed Executive Councillor and Finance Member of the Government of Bihar and Orissa, and, thus, was the first Indian who was ever appointed as a Finance Member of a Province.

Features of the Indian Constitution

  • The bulkiest constitutionof the world
  • Rigidity and flexibility
  • Parliamentary system of government
  • Adult Suffrage
  • Federal system with a unitary bias
  • Fundamental rights and fundamental duties
  • Directive principles of state policy
  • Secularism
  • Independent judiciary

 

Influence on Indian constitution

India became independent on 15th August 1947. The Indian constitution was made keeping in view the noble and great values of freedom struggle on one hand and taking the best features of other constitution  to make India a modern and progressive state in true sense. The Indian constitution enshrines in a way what is called “the idea of India.”Notwithstanding the fact that the Indian Constitution is byproduct of wisdom of Indian leaders, it borrowed good elements from elsewhere. In this sense it is unique in its contents and spirit.

The best features drawn by Indian constitution from other countries are listed below

Name of Countries  Features drawn from other Constitutions
         Britain  1. Parliamentary government

2. Rule of Law

3. Legislative procedure

4. Single citizenship

5. Cabinet system

6. Prerogative writs

7. Parliamentary privileges

8. Bicameralism

         Ireland

 

 1. Directive Principles of State Policy

2. Method of Election of the president

3. Members nomination to the Rajya Sabha by the President

   Unites States of America  1. Impeachment of the president

2. Functions of president and vice-president

3. Removal of Supreme Court and High court judges

4. Fundamental Rights

5. Judicial review

6. Independence of judiciary

7. Preamble of the constitution

  Canada

 

 1. Centrifugal form of federalism where the centre is  stronger than the states.

2. Residuary powers vest with the centre

3. Centre appoints the Governors at the states

4. Advisory jurisdiction of the supreme court

  Australia

 

 1. Concept of Concurrent list

2. Article 108 i.e. Joint sitting of the two houses

3. Freedom of trade and commerce

  USSR (Now Russia)

 

 1. Fundamental duties

2. The ideals of justice (social, economic and political),  expressed in the Preamble.

  France

 

 1. Concept of  “Republic”

2. Ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity(contained in the Preamble)

  Germany

 

 1. Fundamental Rights are suspended during Emergency
  South Africa

 

 1. Election of members of the Rajya Sabha

2. Amendment of the Constitution

  Japan  1. Concept of “procedure established by Law”

Important Amendments to Indian Constitution

First Amendment of the Constitution of India: The Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, enacted in 1951, made several changes to the Fundamental Rights provisions of the constitution. … It was moved by the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, on 10 May 1951 and enacted by Parliament on 18 June 1951.

22nd Amendment- Passed by Congress in 1947, and ratified by the states on February 27, 1951, the Twenty-Second Amendment limits an elected president to two terms in office, a total of eight years. However, it is possible for an individual to serve up to ten years as president.

52nd Amendment Act, 1985- Constitution 52nd Amendment Act, 1985 provided provisions related to anti-defection in India. In this amendment, articles 101, 102, 190 and 191 were changed. It laid down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection and inserted schedule 10.Sep 12, 2016

73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993: The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act was passed by the Parliament in April1993. The Amendmentprovided a Constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions in India through insertion of Article 243 to Part IX of Indian Constitution.Nov

74th Amendment and Municipalities in India. Constitution Act, 1992: has introduced a new Part IXA in the Constitution, which deals with Municipalities in an article 243 P to 243 ZG. This amendment, also known as Nagarpalika Act, came into force on 1st June 1993.

80th Amendment- The Constitution (80th Amendment) Act, 2000. 1. It deals with an alternative scheme for sharing taxes between the Union and the States.

86th Amendment (2002) has a great importance in our Constitution which provide us the main fundamental right that is “Right to education”. … 21-A: The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children between the age of 6 and 14 years in such manner as the State may by law determine”.

Constitution (100th Amendment) Act 2015: Constitution (100th Amendment) Act 2015 ratified the land boundary agreement between India and Bangladesh. The act amended the 1st schedule of the constitution to exchange the disputed territories occupied by both the nations in accordance with the 1974 bilateral LBA.

122nd Amendment to constitution of India

GST or Goods & Service Tax , was introduced by the Constitution Amendment Bill 122, and when successfully passed it was named as 101 Act. GST was implemented after it was introduced in the Lok Sabha and then passed in both the Houses of the Parliament by means of “The Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014”.

123rd Constitutional Amendment Bill: for Granting NCBC constitutional status has been passed both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. With the assent from the President for the same it is deemed to be the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act. The Lok Sabha passed the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill with over two-third majority on August 2, 2018.

The Bill was passed superseding the amendments by the Rajya Sabha which seeks to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). All 406 members present in the House voted in favour of it.

The 124th Amendment to Indian constitution

The 124th Constitutional Amendment received the President’s assent on January 12, 2019.

This amended two fundamental rights: (1) Article 15, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste, sex or place of birth, and (2) Article 16 which prohibits discrimination in employment in government office. The amendment provides for the advancement of the “economically weaker sections” of the society. It also makes a note of the Article 46, which asks the government to promote the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society. It provides reservation for:

  1. People who have an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh, or
  2. People who own less than five acres of farm land, or
  3. People who have a house less than 1,000 sq feet in a town (or 100 sq yard in a notified municipal area).

Some of the important amendments are listed below:

Provisions related to reservation

  • For Scheduled Tribes, 47 seats are reserved in Lok Sabha. … For Scheduled Castes, 84 seats are reserved in Lok Sabha. As per article 80 of the Constitution, the composition of Council of States(Rajya Sabha) 12 members are nominated by the President. There is no provision for reservation of SC/ST in Rajya Sabha.
  • The Constitution of India states in article 15(4): “Nothing in [article 15] or in clause (2) of article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially, educationally and economically backward classes of citizens of or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.”
  • In central-government funded higher education institutions, 22.5% of available seats are reserved for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribe (ST) students (7.5% for STs, 15% for SCs). This reservation percentage has been raised to 49.5% by including an additional 27% reservation for OBCs.
  • In 1995, the 77th amendment to the Constitution was made to amend Article 16 before the five-year period expired to continue with reservations for SC/STs in promotions. It was further modified through the 85th amendment to give the benefit of consequential seniority to SC/ST candidates promoted by reservation.
  • The 81st amendment was made to the Constitution to permit the government to treat the backlog of reserved vacancies as a separate and distinct group, to which the ceiling of 50 per cent did not apply. The 82nd amendment inserted a provision in Article 335 to enable states to give concessions to SC/ST candidates in promotion.
  • 93rd Constitutional Amendment
  • Constitution 93rd Amendment Act, 2006-The act aims to provide greater access to higher education including professional education to a larger number of students belonging to the socially and educationally backward classes of citizens.

Amendment Year Outcome
7 1956 Reorganisation of states on linguistic basis and abolition of Class A, B, C and D states and introduction of Union Territories.
9 1960 Adjustments to Indian territory as a result of agreement with Paksitan.
10 1961 Dadra, Nagar and Haveli included in Indian Union as a Union Territory on acquisition from Portugal.
12 1961 Goa, Daman and Diu included in Indian Union as a Union Territory on acquisition from Portugal.
13 1962 The state of Nagaland formed with special protection under Article 371A on 01 Dec 1963.
14 1962 Pondicherry incorporated into Indian Union after transfer by France.
21 1967 Sindhi added as language in the 8th schedule.
26 1971 Privy purse paid to former rulers of princely states abolished.
36 1975 Sikkim included as an Indian state.
42 1976 Fundamental Duties prescribed, India became Socialist Secular Republic.
44 1978 Right to Property deleted from the list of fundamental rights.
52 1985 Defection to another party after election made illegal.
61 1989 Voting age reduced from 21 to 18.
71 1992 Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali added as languages in the Eighth Schedule.
73 1993 Introduction of Panchayati Raj, addition of Part IX to the Constitution.
74 1993 Introduction of Municipalities.
86 2002 Free and compulsory education to children between 6 and 14 years.
92 2003 Bodo, Dogri, Santhali and Maithli added to the list of recognised languages.
8,23,45,62, 79 and 95 1960, 1970, 1980, 1989, 2000 and 2010 Extension of reservation of seats for SC/ST and nomination of Anglo-Indian members in Parliament and State Assemblies.
96 2011 Substituted Odia for Oriya in the Eighth Schedule to the Constitution
97 2012 Introduction of Part IXB in the Constitution pertaining to Co-operative Societies
101 2016 Introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST)
102 2018 Establishment of National Commission for Backward Classes
103 2019 Reservation for economically weaker sections of the society
The 42nd amendment was the most comprehensive amendment which had 59 clauses and carried out so many changes that it has been described as a “Mini Constitution”.
The 52nd amendment was the only amendment to be unanimously adopted by the Parliament.

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Polity and International Relations (English) Review Articles

Making of the Indian Constitution: a simplified brief

On the occasion of 70 years of the Constituent Assembly of India, Down to Earth explains the incremental stages of formulation of the Constitution

Exactly 70 years ago the Constituent Assembly of India sat for the first time on December 9, 1946. Thus started a historical journey which saw India attainting independence, deciding on its national flag, national insignia, national anthem; and ultimately adoption of the Constitution which made our country a democratic republic. On this occasion, Down to Earth is putting together a special package in collaboration with Jana Vidhi Muhim,which is working on spreading constitutional literacy; especially on countering ignorance and misinformation. It is desirable that Constitution becomes accessible by common citizen and doesn’t just remain preserve of lawyers and scholars. We present this package with a hope that more and more people will realise that the Constitution is not a holy book but a functional manual.

SALIENT FEATURES OF CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY OF INDIA

The Constituent Assembly of India came into existence as per the provisions of Cabinet Mission Plan of May 1946. Its task was to formulate constitution/s for facilitating appropriate transfer of sovereign power from British authorities to Indian hands.

The Assembly was to have proportional representation from existing provincial legislatures and from various princely states. Bulk of these elections was completed by the end of July 1946, under the supervision of Reforms Office under Governor General (Viceroy).

The Assembly was to have three sections: Punjab & North-West, Bengal-Assam and Rest of India. The Constitutions were to be formulated for Indian Union, each Section and for each of the Provinces therein. The Muslim League, which had won bulk of the 80 Muslim seats and dominated two smaller Sections, chose not to participate so the Assembly never convened separately in sections.

Assembly held 12 sessions

Assembly held 12 sessions, or rounds of sittings: 1). December 9-23, 1946, 2).January 20- 25, 1947, 3). April 28- May 2, 1947, 4). July 14- 31, 1947, 5). August 14- 30, 1947, 6). January 27, 1948, 7). November 4, 1948-January, 1949, 8). May 16- June 16, 1949, 9). July 30-September 18, 1949,10). October 6-17, 1949, 11). November 4-26, 1949, and 12). January 24, 1950.

Membership of the Assembly kept varying for different reasons, other than resignation and death. Many public figures showed keenness to enter the Assembly but its membership was also denounced by certain groups like Muslim League, Communists and Socialists. These attitudes changed too. After passage of the Indian Independence Act by British Parliament it was decided that those members who wish to retain their seats in provincial legislature would vacate their seats in the Assembly. But several members of provincial legislature continued to come and partake in the Assembly until the provision against this was made in the Constitution itself. Biggest change in membership was caused by the declaration of Partition of India. Certain members like Dr. Ambedkar, who were elected from territories assigned to Dominion of Pakistan, lost their seats. Muslim League members elected from United Provinces, Bihar and elsewhere came to occupy their seats after partition. Such members were humiliated on many occasions and Patel even told them to go to Pakistan. After initial disinterest, the princely states started negotiating with a committee of the Assembly for their representation. Over a period, hundreds of princely states were grouped into larger associations and provisions were made for them to elect their representatives to the Assembly. Till the last day of the Assembly, new members kept joining in. Hyderabad did not send any representative till the end. The total number of people who sat as members of the Assembly at any time has not been calculated by any official or scholar. Records show that maximum membership towards the end of tenure of Assembly was 307.

The Assembly took help of several non-members in formulation of the Constitution. Eminent public figures outside the Assembly were requested to work as members of committees formed by the Assembly for focused deliberations on specific features or segments.

Much of constitution-making took place in these committees, both from procedural and substantive viewpoint. Till date, no official report has appeared in public domain on the exact number of committees formed by the Constituent Assembly. Resolutions were moved for setting up committees as and when the need arose, and adopted after discussion. Depending on swiftness of nomination or election of members of respective committees, their formal appointment took few hours, days or weeks from the adoption of resolution.

Committees of the Constituent Assembly

Some of the known committees were:

Organisational Committees

1.1- Rules of Procedure Committee (appointed on December 11, 1946. 15 members, Chairperson- Rajendra Prasad, ex-officio. Worked till 20 Dec. 1946)

1.2- Steering Committee (appointed on January 21, 1947. 19 members, Chairperson- Rajendra Prasad, ex-officio. Worked till the end.)

1.3- Staff and Finance Committee (appointed on December 23, 1946. 11 members, Chairperson- Rajendra Prasad, ex-officio. Worked till the end.)

1.4- Credentials Committee (appointed on December 23, 1946. 5 members, Chairperson- A.K. Ayyar. Worked till the end.

1.5- Order of Business Committee (appointed on January 25, 1947. 3 members, Chairperson- K.M. Munshi. Worked till July 14, 1947)

1.6- States (Negotiating) Committee (appointed on December 21, 1946. 6 members, Chairperson- J.L. Nehru. Worked till June 5, 1947)

1.7- Flag Committee (appointed on June 23, 1947. 12 members, Chairperson- Rajendra Prasad, ex-officio. Worked till July 22, 1947)

1.8- Committee on Functions of Constituent Assembly, under the Indian Independence Act (appointed on August 20, 1947. 7 members, Chairperson- G.V. Mavlankar. Worked till August 25, 1947)

Principal Committees and their sub-committees

2.1- Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities, Tribal Areas and Excluded Areas (appointed on 24 Jan. 1947. 57 members, Chairperson- Sardar Patel. Worked till 26 May 1949)

2.2- Union Powers Committee (appointed on 25 Jan, 1947. 12 members, Chairperson- J.L. Nehru. Worked till 26 Aug. 1947)

2.3- Union Constitution Committee (appointed on 4 May. 1947. 12 members, Chairperson- J.L. Nehru. Worked till 31 July, 1947.)

2.4- Provincial Constitution Committee (appointed on 4 May. 1947. 21 members, Chairperson- Sardar Patel. Worked till 21 July, 1947.)

2.5- Drafting Committee (appointed on 29 Aug. 1947. 8 members, Chairperson- Dr. Ambedkar. Worked till 17 Nov. 1949)

Other Sectoral Committees

3.1- Ad-hoc Committee on Citizenship (appointed on 30 April, 1947. 7 members, Chairperson- S. Varadachariar. Worked till 12 July. 1947)

3.2- Committee on Chief Commissioner’s Provinces (appointed on 31 July, 1947. 7 members, Chairperson- N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar. Worked till 21 Oct. 1947)

3.3- Experts Committee on Financial Provisions of Constitution (appointed in Nov. 1947. 3 members, Chairperson- N.R. Sarkar. Worked between 17 Nov.- 5 Dec. 1947)

3.4- Sub-Committee on Minority safeguards for West Bengal and East Punjab (appointed on 24 Feb. 1948. 5 members, Chairperson- Sardar Patel. Worked till 23 Nov., 1948.)

Curiously, the so-called Special Committee was constituted to decide the future course of action after comments had arrived in response to the Draft Constitution of February 1948. Neither a resolution for its constitution existed, nor anybody cared to inform the Assembly later on how and why this committee of great consequence was formed. In all, 32 members attended meetings of Special Committee on April 10-11, 1948, which were chaired by JL Nehru.

Office bearers of the Constituent Assembly

Rajendra Prasad was the elected President of Constituent Assembly while VT Krishnamachari and HC Mookerji served as Vice-Presidents. HVR Iyengar was the secretary general of the Assembly, and SN Mukherji was the Chief Draftsman.

After authentication of copies of the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly got naturally dissolved with its Chairperson having been elected the President of India, and its staff diverted to other avenues. But bulk of the Assembly continued functioning as provisional Parliament of India till first general elections were held. Indeed the first amendment to the Constitution of India was made by this provisional Parliament in the summer of 1951.

Preparation of Memorandum

Making of Constitution has been a controversial issue for a long time. This controversy consumes much public energy that can better be utilised in improving our collective understanding of the Constitution. Many experts have written dedicated books on making of constitution but a simplified brief on incremental stages of its formulation was missing.

  1. Dissemination of Constitutional Advisor’s Brief (pamphlets) & Questionnaire (September 1946-November 1947)

B N Rau was appointed Constitutional Advisor by the-then Viceroy Lord Wavell to head the Constituent Assembly Secretariat sometime in late July 1946. He had retired from civil service in January 1944 but remained active. He offered his honorary services to the Viceroy, which was accepted most probably due to his stint in Reforms Office soon after the enactment of Govt. of India Act, 1935. Rau prepared number of pamphlets on various aspects of impending constitution and also collected text of some important constitutions of the world, to facilitate informed discussion by the members of Assembly. Jawaharlal Nehru, as vice-president of Viceroy’s Executive Council, approved dissemination of these briefs on September 16, 1946. Later on, Rau also circulated focused questionnaire on certain aspects of federal constitution in March 1947, and focused Notes to various committees on occasion.

  1. Preparation of Memorandum by the Advisor based on responses; Submission of notes by certain members (February-November 1947)

Based on responses to his briefs and questionnaire, Rau prepared his Memorandum which included blueprints of probable provisions of impending constitution. Certain members chose to send their own individual notes which were to be placed before committees of the Assembly.

  1. Deliberations in Principal Committees, including joint and sub-committees, and their Reports (February-August 1947)

The second session of constituent Assembly- In the second session of Assembly, its Chairman constituted four principal committees: Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal Areas & Excluded Areas, Provincial Constitution Committee, Union Constitution Committee and Union Powers Committee. Of these committees, first two were chaired by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel while the latter two were chaired by Nehru. Most of these committees appointed their sub-committees for more focused work on particular segment. Two or three of these committees also sat jointly to consider matters lying in overlapping zones of consideration. These committees finished bulk of their work by August 1947, but work of first committee went on for a long time on account of concerns of minorities. Partition is often cited as an excuse for delay but the crucial declaration was made on June 3, 1947 while these principal committees were tasked to finish their work by April-May 1947 itself. Anyway, their reports to Assembly included draft provisions of the constitution and some explanatory notes. Usually, the chairperson of the respective committee submitted the report to the President of Assembly, as also presented it in the Assembly and explained or defended it.

[Working of Constituent Assembly, including nomination of acting President, election of regular President and formation of operational committees was decided by an unofficial Experts’ Committee of Congress in July-August 1946. It was this committee which prepared the draft of Objective Resolution which was moved in the first session by Nehru.]

  1. Discussion on Reports in Constituent Assembly and adoption of principles (April-Aug. 1947)

The Assembly discussed the reports of principal committees in detail and adopted the principles therein. More than two thirds of the final constitution Bill was covered in these discussions.

  1. Preparation of First Draft by Constitutional Advisor (July-October 1947)

Constitutional Advisor started putting together first draft of constitution by aligning the reports already discussed and adopted. He also augmented it by filling obvious gaps himself in the form of suggestions, or indicated certain spaces that would only be filled after reports of sectoral committees came in. This was the stage of first major delay in completion of work since the first draft missed the deadline of August-September and arrived only on October 27, 1947.

Deliberations and recommendations

  1. Deliberations in Sectoral Committees and their Reports (April-December 1947)

Various sectoral committees commenced and finished their deliberations, and this activity went on over a long period. These sectoral committees were assigned very definite tasks either by the Chairman of Assembly or by one of the committees itself. Many of these reports couldn’t be utilised in the first draft of constitutional advisor or in the Draft Constitution, and were incorporated in later stages.

  1. Deliberations in Drafting Committee and resultant Draft Constitution (October 1947- February 1948)

Assembly had resolved in July 1947 to constitute a drafting committee which will attune the constitution Bill from the perspective of legislative language and other such aspects. On August 29, 1947 this drafting committee was elected by the Assembly, while the committee chose its Chairman in its first meeting. Primary contribution of drafting committee was refining and expanding the draft of constitutional advisor (240 Articles, 13 Schedules) in its sitting held almost continuously. It produced the draft constitution by February 21, 1948 which contained 315 Articles and 8 Schedules. It was published on February 26 and circulated widely among official and non-official circles, to elicit comments. This was second major stage of delay in formulation of constitution since it was supposed to finish its work in a month and Dr. Ambedkar even informed midway through this round of sittings that assigned work would be finished within December 1947.

  1. Consideration of Responses by Drafting Committee, and its recommendations (March 23, 24 and 27, 1948)

Responses were invited on draft constitution by March 22, 1948. Soon, thereafter, the drafting committee sat down to consider these responses as presented by the assembly secretariat. Recommendations emanating from these sittings were duly forwarded to the Chairman of Assembly.

  1. Deliberations on Responses in Special Committee, and its decisions (April 10-11, 1948)

Chairman of Assembly decided that responses on draft constitution and recommendations of drafting committee should be considered by a Special Committee, which was to consist of members of Committees on Union Powers, Union Constitution and Provincial Constitution. Nehru chaired the sittings attended by some 30 members. This Committee resolved some matters and held over some of them for later consideration. It recommended that call for amendments from members of Assembly may be issued. This Committee was supposed to reconvene on May 11, 1948 but apparently, it never did. It remains a mystery, unanswered by any participant or scholar, as to what caused the official inactivity on formulation of Constitution for six long months.

  1. Deliberations in Drafting Committee for parallel/official amendments (October 18-20, 1948)

Finally on October 18, 1948 the drafting committee picked the cue and decided in its sittings over three days that a reprint of draft constitution will be issued containing the amendments that the committee was willing to sponsor, parallel to relevant Article or Schedule. Approach taken at these two stages ensured that the Assembly would have to go through discussion and voting again and again on several segments. Lack of clarity and interest shown by Nehru and Patel in this phase expanded the role and authority of the Drafting Committee. Neither of the two de-facto leaders of the Assembly came forward to get a proper second draft prepared and to steer it in the Assembly.

  1. Publication of bound books of proposed amendments, both officially sponsored and private member’s amendments (October 26, 1948)

As per the resolution of the drafting committee, a reprint of draft constitution was issued to all members of the Assembly. Critique of the rationale behind this strange draft has been consistently avoided, and thus, it remains out of print despite the fact that the Assembly considered this version and not the oft-cited Draft Constitution of February 1948. Simultaneously, the President of the Assembly ensured printing and distribution of bound volumes of amendments proposed by individual members. During the course of debates in the Assembly, amendments were referred to by sequential number and book number.

Final voting

  1. Discussions and voting in meetings of Congress Assembly Party, held in Constitution House (October 1948-November 1949)

Since the Assembly was dominated by representatives from the Congress, party whip played a great role. However, certain individual members did express their views in Assembly, even at the risk of challenging the party whip. The Assembly Party meetings were open to non-congressmen who cared to attend. The Party took care not to enforce strict discipline on emotional issues and allowed open discussion in the Assembly, though in the end final decision on almost every segment of constitution was taken herein. The Constitution Bill being such a bulky document, the party whip issued to all members mimeographed lists of Articles and the decisions taken thereon.

  1. Discussion and voting on Draft Constitution and amendments, in the Assembly (November 4, 1948 –October 17, 1949)

Most visible part of constitution-making was the year-long discussions in Assembly. For official purposes, this was called the first-reading. The discussion wasn’t always conducted in sequential order that articles were arranged in the draft constitution but was decided by the Steering Committee. Very few unofficial amendments were accepted by the Assembly at the voting. Even if they are not withdrawn, they were often negated. Some of the unofficial amendments were accepted by the Drafting Committee during discussion and thus, they were not voted upon. KM Munshi played a crucial role of a regular link between the Drafting Committee and the Congress Assembly Party.

  1. Preparation of so-called Final Draft, by Drafting Committee (November 3, 1949)

Discussion in the Assembly was rather haphazard insofar not being in sequential order of the Draft Constitution. Several matters, already decided after discussion and voting, were revisited for deliberations and often, changes of drafting nature were left to the Drafting Committee. It was obvious that a clean draft was required and therefore, the Drafting Committee submitted such a draft. In doing so, certain unapproved changes were introduced by the committee which required deliberation and decision of the Assembly. Individual members received it around November 6, 1949 and were given opportunity to propose amendments to these new changes.

  1. Discussion for three days and final voting for amendment of certain clauses (November 14-16, 1949)

Officially called the second-reading of constitution Bill, this phase witnessed 170 amendments being moved. Only 88 were accepted, 30 withdrawn and 52 negated. With this, the real work of formulation of Constitution got over.

  1. Discussion on ‘settled-by-Assembly’ version of Constitution Bill (November 17-26 1949)

This was a beginning of a largely ceremonial phase, officially called third-reading. In the discussion that ensued, most of the speakers (more than 100) explain their take on merits and shortcomings of the Constitution. Dr Ambedkar and the President of the Assembly gave their views in the end.

  1. Final adoption, enactment through signing by Chairman of Assembly; and partial commencement (November 26, 1949)

With the last voting on the Constitution, it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly. The President of the Assembly signed a copy of the Constitution to officially bring it in force, although partially, because only 16 of the 395 Articles came into force at that point in time.

  1. Signing of calligraphed version of the Constitution by all members of Assembly (January 24, 1950)

Proceedings of the day began by the declaration of the President of the Assembly having been elected as the President of India. Then, all members signed three copies, the English print version and calligraphed version in English and Hindi, of the Constitution. Nehru was the first and Prasad was the last to sign these copies.

  1. Formal Commencement (January 26, 1950)

As per the provisions in the Constitution, it formally commenced on January 1950, bringing it in force in its entirety. This date was most probably chosen to commemorate the declaration of ‘Poorna Swaraj’ (Total Independence) by Nehru at an annual session of the Congress in Lahore in 1929. This day was used to be celebrated as Independence Day by the Congress for many years but circumstances (and the sudden decision of British authorities to grant independence) made it Republic Day.

Categories
Polity and International Relations (English) Readings for Prelims

Constitutional Amendments in India

The Indian Constitution

The constitution of India is the supreme law of India .at present there are, 448 articles in 25 parts, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and 101 amendments in the Indian Constitution. Initially, i.e in 1949, the Constitution had 395 articles. But many new articles came into play and we total have now 469 articles. Since society and its needs are ever-evolving, constitution needs to keep pace, and therefore amendments to the Indian constitution have been taking place from time to time. As of March 2019, there have been 103 amendments to the Constitution of India since it was first enacted in 1950.

The procedure of amendment

The procedure of amendment in the constitution is laid down in Part XX (Article 368) of the Constitution of India. This procedure ensures the sanctity of the Constitution of India and keeps a check on arbitrary power of the Parliament of India. The amendment of the Indian constitution is done through a well laid out procedure and there is ample provision to avoid conflict between judiciary i.e., the Supreme Court and legislature, i.e., the Parliament of India, The use of discretionary power to amend constitution by parliament is subject to certain rules and doctrines as interpreted by the Supreme Court. There are laid down doctrines or rules in this regard for checking the validity/legality of an amendment undertaken by parliament, One such doctrine, the most important one is about the Basic structure doctrine as laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala.

The original constitution provided for three categories of amendments.

Category 1- by simple majority

The first category of amendments are those contemplated in articles 4 (2), 169, 239A (2), 239AA (7b), 243M (4b), 243ZC (3), 244A (4), 356 (1)c, para 7(2) of Schedule V and para 21(2) of Schedule VI. These amendments can be effected by Parliament by a simple majority such as that required for the passing of any ordinary law. The amendments under this category are specifically excluded from the purview of article 368 which is the specific provision in the Constitution dealing with the power and the procedure for the amendment of the Constitution.

Article 4

Article 4 provides that laws made by Parliament under article 2 (relating to admission or establishment of new States) and article 3 (relating to formation of new States and alteration of areas, boundaries or names of existing States) effecting amendments in the First Schedule or the Fourth Schedule and supplemental, incidental and consequential matters, shall not be deemed to be amendments of the Constitution for the purposes of article 368.

For example, the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, which brought about the reorganization of the States in India, was passed by Parliament as an ordinary piece of legislation. In Mangal Singh v. Union of India (A.I.R. 1967 S.C. 944), the Supreme Court held that power to reduce the total number of members of Legislative Assembly below the minimum prescribed under article 170 (1) is implicit in the authority to make laws under article 4. Article 169 empowers Parliament to provide by law for the abolition or creation of the Legislative Councils in States and specifies that though such law shall contain such provisions for the amendment of the Constitution as may be necessary, it shall not be deemed to be an amendment of the Constitution for the purposes of article 368.

The Fifth Schedule

The Fifth Schedule contains provisions as to the administration and control of the Schedule Areas and Scheduled Tribes. Para 7 of the Schedule vests Parliament with plenary powers to enact laws amending the Schedule and lays down that no such law shall be deemed to be an amendment of the Constitution for the purposes of article 368. Under Para 21 of the Sixth Schedule, Parliament has full power to enact laws amending the Sixth Schedule which contains provisions for the administration of Tribal Areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. No such law will be deemed to be an amendment of the Constitution for the purposes of article 368.

Category 2- by special majority

The second category includes amendments that can be effected by Parliament by a prescribed ‘special majority’;

Category 3- by special majority plus ratification by at least one half of state legislatures- The third category of amendments includes those that require, in addition to such “special majority”, ratification by at least one-half of the State Legislatures. The last two categories are governed by article 368.

Amendment under article 368

Part-xx Article 368 (1) of the Constitution of India grants constituent power to make formal amendments and empowers Parliament to amend the Constitution by way of addition, variation or repeal of any provision according to the procedure laid down therein, which is different from the procedure for ordinary legislation.

Article 368. Power of Parliament to amend the Constitution and Procedure therefor:

(1) Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, Parliament may in exercise of its constituent power amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of this Constitution in accordance with the procedure laid down in this article.

(2) An amendment of this Constitution may be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill for the purpose in either House of Parliament, and when the Bill is passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting, it shall be presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill and thereupon the Constitution shall stand amended in accordance with the terms of the Bill:

Provided that if such amendment seeks to make any change in –

(a) article 54, article 55, article 73, article 162, article 241 or article 279A or

(b) Chapter IV of Part V, Chapter V of Part VI, or Chapter I of Part XI, or

(c) any of the Lists in the Seventh Schedule, or

(d) the representation of States in Parliament, or

(e) the provisions of this article,

the amendment shall also require to be ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States by resolutions to that effect passed by those Legislatures before the Bill making provision for such amendment is presented to the President for assent.

(3) Nothing in article 13 shall apply to any amendment made under this article.

(4) No amendment of this Constitution (including the provisions of Part III) made or purporting to have been made under this article whether before or after the commencement of section 55 of the Constitution (Forty Second Amendment) Act, 1976 shall be called in question in any court on any ground.

(5) For the removal of doubts, it is hereby declared that there shall be no limitation whatever on the constituent power of Parliament to amend by way of addition, variation or repeal the provisions of this Constitution under this article.

As per the procedure laid out by article 368 for amendment of the Constitution, an amendment can be initiated only by the introduction of a Bill in either House of Parliament. The Bill must then be passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting. There is no provision for a joint sitting in case of disagreement between the two Houses. Total membership in this context has been defined to mean the total number of members comprising the House irrespective of any vacancies or absentees on any account vide Explanation to Rule 159 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha.

The Bill, passed by the required majority, is then presented to the President who shall give his assent to the Bill. If the amendment seeks to make any change in any of the provisions mentioned in the proviso to article 368, it must be ratified by the Legislatures of not less than one-half of the States. These provisions relate to certain matters concerning the federal structure or of common interest to both the Union and the States viz., the election of the President (articles 54 and 55); the extent of the executive power of the Union and the States (articles 73 and 162); the High Courts for Union territories (article 241); The Union Judiciary and the High Courts in the States (Chapter IV of Part V and Chapter V of Part VI); the distribution of legislative powers between the Union and the States (Chapter I of Part XI and Seventh Schedule); the representation of States in Parliament; and the provision for amendment of the Constitution laid down in article 368. Ratification is done by a resolution passed by the State Legislatures. There is no specific time limit for the ratification of an amending Bill by the State Legislatures. However, the resolutions ratifying the proposed amendment must be passed before the amending Bill is presented to the President for his assent.

Article 368 was amended by the 24th and 42nd Amendments in 1971 and 1976 respectively. New clauses 368 (1) and 368 (3) were added by the 24th Amendment in 1971, which also added a new clause (4) in article 13 which reads, “Nothing in this article shall apply to any amendment of this Constitution made under article 368.”The provisions in italics were inserted by the 42nd Amendment but were later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Minerva Mills v. Union of India in 1980. After the 24th amendment, Article 4(2), etc. of the constitution are superseded/made void by article 368 (1) which is the only procedure for amending the constitution however marginal may be the nature of the amendment. The Supreme court ruled that the constituent power under article 368 must be exercised by the Parliament in the prescribed manner and cannot be exercised under the legislative powers of the Parliament.

Categories
Polity and International Relations (English) Readings for Prelims

Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005

Right to Information (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens. The erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002 was replaced by Right to Information (RTI)   Act passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005. The Right to Information Act, 2005 is one of the highly-acclaimed welfare legislations. It was among a slew of rights-based legislation put in place by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first term.  The Act seeks to secure for citizens access to information, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption and make out democracy work for the people in real sense. To achieve such objectives, it is important that information is being provided in a time bound manner.

Under the provisions of the RTI Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. The first application was given to a Pune police station. Information disclosure in India was restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act relaxes. It codifies a fundamental right of citizens.

The RTI Act covers the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir, where J&K Right to Information Act is in force. It covers all constitutional authorities, including the executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature.The bodies or authorities established or constituted by order or notification of appropriate government including bodies “owned, controlled or substantially financed” by government, or non-Government organizations “substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds” provided by the government are also covered in the Act.

Private bodies are not within the Act’s ambit directly. Private institutions and NGOs receiving over 95% of their infrastructure funds from the government come under the Act.

The Central Information Commission (CIC), consisting of Satyanand Mishra, M.L. Sharma and Annapurna Dixit   in one of its decision dated 03.06.2013 has held that the political parties namely AICC/INC, BJP, CPI (M), CPI, NCP and BSP are public authorities under section 2(h) of the said Act. The Government considers that the CIC has made a liberal interpretation of section 2(h) of the said Act in its decision. The political parties are neither established nor constituted by or under the Constitution or by any other law made by Parliament. Rather, they are registered or recognised under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the rules/orders made or issued thereunder. In August 2013 the government introduced a Right To Information (Amendment) Bill which would remove political parties from the scope of the law. The Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha proposes an amendment to Section 2 of the RTI Act which clarifies that parties would not be treated as public authorities: “Authority or body or

The Finance Bill amendments do three things: one, they Section 182 of the Companies Act to remove all caps on the amount companies can donate to political parties (prior to the amendment, this stood at 7.5% of the average net profits of the company for the last three years, to prevent companies being set up as fronts to channel money into political parties–that protection is also now gone). Two, they free the company from mandatory disclosure of donations made by it to political parties in its profit and loss books–the company no longer needs to say whom it donated to.

Ideally, the Representation of the People Act whose Section 29C requires all political parties to declare the names of all donors above Rs 20,000 should still protect us as citizens. We should also still be able to rely on Section 13A of the Income Tax Act which requires political parties seeking tax exemptions to declare the names of all donors over Rs 20,000. In fact, following Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement in his budget speech that the limit on anonymous cash donations was being lowered to Rs 2,000, we should have been moving towards greater transparency.

Institution of self-government established or constituted by any law made by Parliament shall not include any association or body of individuals registered or recognised as a political party under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”In another proposed amendment in 2016 it was sought to put a time limit of ninety days for disposal of second appeals filed under sub-section (3) of section 19 of the Act. The proposed amendment also ensures that a person is not deprived of his legal right for an unreasonable time period. Moreover, one cannot ignore the plausibility of information losing its relevance over a period of time.

The Right to information in India is governed by two major bodies viz. 1. Central Information Commission (CIC) – Chief Information commissioner who heads all the central departments and ministries- with their own public Information officers (PIO)s. CICs are directly under the President of India. 2. State Public Information Officers or SPIOs – Heading over all the state department and ministries the SPIO office is directly under the State Governor. State and Central Information Commissions are independent bodies and Central Information Commission has no jurisdiction over the State Information Commission.

A citizen who desires to seek some information from a public authority is required to send, along with the application, (a demand draft or a bankers cheque) payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority as fee prescribed for seeking information. If the person is from a disadvantaged community, he/she need not pay.

Categories
Polity and International Relations (English) Readings for Prelims

Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005

Right to Information (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens. The erstwhile Freedom of information Act, 2002 was replaced by Right to Information (RTI)   Act passed by Parliament on 15 June 2005 and came fully into force on 12 October 2005. The Right to Information Act, 2005 is one of the highly-acclaimed welfare legislations. It was among a slew of rights-based legislation put in place by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in its first term.  The Act seeks to secure for citizens access to information, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption and make out democracy work for the people in real sense. To achieve such objectives, it is important that information is being provided in a time bound manner.

Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen of India may request information from a “public authority” (a body of Government or “instrumentality of State”) which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days. The Act also requires every public authority to computerise their records for wide dissemination and to proactively certain categories of information so that the citizens need minimum recourse to request for information formally. The first application was given to a Pune police station. Information disclosure in India was restricted by the Official Secrets Act 1923 and various other special laws, which the new RTI Act relaxes. It codifies a fundamental right of citizens.

The Act covers the whole of India except Jammu and Kashmir, where J&K Right to Information Act is in force. It covers all constitutional authorities, including the executive, legislature and judiciary; any institution or body established or constituted by an act of Parliament or a state legislature.The bodies or authorities established or constituted by order or notification of appropriate government including bodies “owned, controlled or substantially financed” by government, or non-Government organizations “substantially financed, directly or indirectly by funds” provided by the government are also covered in the Act.

Private bodies are not within the Act’s ambit directly. Private institutions and NGOs receiving over 95% of their infrastructure funds from the government come under the Act.

The Central Information Commission (CIC), consisting of Satyanand Mishra, M.L. Sharma and Annapurna Dixit   in one of its decision dated 03.06.2013 has held that the political parties namely AICC/INC, BJP, CPI (M), CPI, NCP and BSP are public authorities under section 2(h) of the said Act. The Government considers that the CIC has made a liberal interpretation of section 2(h) of the said Act in its decision. The political parties are neither established nor constituted by or under the Constitution or by any other law made by Parliament. Rather, they are registered or recognised under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and the rules/orders made or issued thereunder. In August 2013 the government introduced a Right To Information (Amendment) Bill which would remove political parties from the scope of the law. The Bill tabled in the Lok Sabha proposes an amendment to Section 2 of the RTI Act which clarifies that parties would not be treated as public authorities: “Authority or body or

The Finance Bill amendments do three things: one, they Section 182 of the Companies Act to remove all caps on the amount companies can donate to political parties (prior to the amendment, this stood at 7.5% of the average net profits of the company for the last three years, to prevent companies being set up as fronts to channel money into political parties–that protection is also now gone). Two, they free the company from mandatory disclosure of donations made by it to political parties in its profit and loss books–the company no longer needs to say whom it donated to.

Ideally, the Representation of the People Act whose Section 29C requires all political parties to declare the names of all donors above Rs 20,000 should still protect us as citizens. We should also still be able to rely on Section 13A of the Income Tax Act which requires political parties seeking tax exemptions to declare the names of all donors over Rs 20,000. In fact, following Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s announcement in his budget speech that the limit on anonymous cash donations was being lowered to Rs 2,000, we should have been moving towards greater transparency.

Institution of self-government established or constituted by any law made by Parliament shall not include any association or body of individuals registered or recognised as a political party under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.”In another proposed amendment in 2016 it was sought to put a time limit of ninety days for disposal of second appeals filed under sub-section (3) of section 19 of the Act. The proposed amendment also ensures that a person is not deprived of his legal right for an unreasonable time period. Moreover, one cannot ignore the plausibility of information losing its relevance over a period of time.

The Right to information in India is governed by two major bodies viz. 1. Central Information Commission (CIC) – Chief Information commissioner who heads all the central departments and ministries- with their own public Information officers (PIO)s. CICs are directly under the President of India. 2. State Public Information Officers or SPIOs – Heading over all the state department and ministries the SPIO office is directly under the State Governor. State and Central Information Commissions are independent bodies and Central Information Commission has no jurisdiction over the State Information Commission.

A citizen who desires to seek some information from a public authority is required to send, along with the application, (a demand draft or a bankers cheque) payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority as fee prescribed for seeking information. If the person is from a disadvantaged community, he/she need not pay.

 

Categories
Polity and International Relations (English)

Will left ever be an alternative in the Indian Politics?

This is a pertinent debate in the contemporary times in India when we are living in the shadow of fear and hopelessness, lies and propaganda and post truth politics. Has the  politics based on divisive ideologies in the name of caste, religion, region and issues like overzealous nationalism, left any chance for the left movement to revive? Also when the corporate sector, the major driver of all capitalist economies, is not only playing an explicit and overarching role in the lives of people in terms of wealth and job creation as well as financing the electoral campaigns of the political parties in lieu of favouritism and nepotism, is there any place for ideas like opposition to liberalization and privatization or FDI? There are many questions which the left of today is confronting. Will there be now widespread support for militant trade unionism and dictatorship of the proletariat? Will the state ever wither away and the dictum “from each according to his work and to each according to his need” would ever be a reality? Would any system survive without the institution of private property and will people work to the best of their abilities without incentives? Will the notion of profit or labour surplus remain to be a matter of contempt and despise, when people in the world long for wealth and power as the measure of their success?

Left in India, and for that matter throughout the world, is accredited to have led the labour, student and peasant movements for winning better deals for them in terms of wages, social security and living conditions. The left has been in the past a potent pressure on the establishments to take people centric measures for enhancing their participation, welfare and a political platform for protesting against poverty and inequality. Nevertheless despite getting ample opportunities in West Bengal and Kerala for long, the left generally failed to prove its capability to implement an alternative vision of politics and society. It cannot be denied that left arduously pursued the goal of land reforms, making health and education more affordable and accessible to the common man for some time and providing support to populist demands of labour force and even peasants. But why the overall balance sheet of left is not fascinating even to the common man? Left has defended human rights and claimed to have practiced and promoted secularism unfailingly throughout its existence in India. It has also nurtured modern, progressive and liberal thinking. But why it is hated by large number of people in the country? Why left is considered to be a violent or armchair ideology or hypocrisy? Why the younger generation largely feels that it is a dead/ or dying ideology? We can counter all these questions by theoretical elegance and citing lots of problems with capitalism, crony capitalism, injustice, exploitation, inequality and class divides and coalition of dominant interests to exploit the system for their vested interests. But whatever we say, today there is no doubt that left has lost its shine in the public psyche. Electoral setbacks or unpopularity of the ideology in the campuses of the country or even in the rural India provide ample proof that the movement has lost its appeal and ideology is on decline. Left is fast losing its appeal in India. Why?

Left failed to give an alternative model

People in India are fed up with rightist and centrist parties promoting crony capitalism, corruption, criminalization of politics and waste of precious public money for private interest of the business and political class. Even the bureaucrats do not miss the opportunities to siphon off public money. The delivery of development and welfare is also very poor. Unemployment is the greatest problem of the young workforce in India. It is the most suitable condition for growth of left ideology- socialism in the modest form and communism in its purest form. But the states where left got an opportunity for political experiment were no exception to corruption, favouritism and nepotism, political one-upmanship and poor living conditions and basic amenities.

Wrong way of organizing cadres

The left parties favoured even the rogue and criminal elements if they joined their party cadres. The organizational system of the left parties was averse to allow free thinking, genuine criticism and even self examination. The compulsion to join hands with the left parties was so ingrained in the system that for all government jobs and positions in schools, colleges and other establishments, it seemed to be a necessary pre-condition to be a leftist, irrespective of merit and talent. This was brazen, unscrupulous, enrazing!

Economic irrationality

The leftist protest against private enterprise, liberal economic policies, capitalism and its symbols and opposition to globalization and support to militant trade unionism etc. stopped all new investments and also hampered trade and development. The populist economic policies gradually became unsustainable due to declining avenues of state revenues. Over a period of time unemployment also increased. The agricultural sector also stagnated due to lack of incentives.  Gradually a hate sentiment against the left surged.

Lack of knowledge and awareness

Left has failed to publicize and convince people about its salient features, advantages and viability as an alternative system. It is an irony that everybody is a critic of communism and socialism without knowing it mainly for two reasons- lack of awareness and education about the left ideology on one hand and failure of left movement to offer an alternative solution on the other to common man’s problems. Also left has little presence in “breaking news” media and “social websites”. Left is very limited today in reaching out to younger generation through social work, seminars and discussions.

Support to militant movements

Left is considered to be a movement based on the principle of violence. The leftist leaders allegedly support Maoism and Naxalism. Left is ghastly opposed to free market and free enterprise- two main pillars of capitalism? It can go to any extent in opposing the capital owners, land owners and ruling elite as if they are sinners. Rather than democratically negotiating with these competing interests, the left movements take to violence. Many of them even do not participate in the electoral process. Despite being a beautiful ideology, it has failed to convince people that they stand for equality and justice and even they can lead to creation of wealth and employment.

A divided and fractured movement

Left in India is highly divided and fractured. There are small differences among them, but the ideologues have got bigger egos not to be reconciled even in the best interest of the left movement and common people. They are weak because they are divided. Leaders of the left seemingly have the same lust for power and superiority that other mainstream political parties have.

Left still keeps itself confined to land and labour relations

Many new channels of inequality, exploitation and injustice have cropped up in the last six decades, but left still identifies with land and labour relations. It has turned obdurate, impractical and into an obsession, as the ideology is stagnant without any consideration for the change and dynamic factors. Left seems to be tired and fatigued. It is not looking beyond the traditional and classical.         The questions of food security, affordable and accessible education, health and housing, unemployment, overzealous nationalism, unfounded charges of sedition against students differing in opinion from the establishment, bullying of the minority by the majority, agricultural distress, farmers indebtedness, and women brutalization so on and so forth are crying for a movement and political mobilisation. All these new dimensions needed a massive people’s movement, but the armchair leftist leaders in the politbureau are busy discussing Marxist and Maoist theories, whether to follow Chinese or indigenous models etc and reading libraries after libraries without providing leadership on the ground in these difficult times.

Left needs to resolve it inherent contradictions

 It needs to spread the movement by addressing people’s issues whether electoral victory comes or not. It must participate in the political process in all the states and include new issues other than land and labour (not meant to say that remove these from agenda). It needs to reach out to people and particularly the younger generation. Left has a big space in contemporary politics, but it has failed to explore. That is why regional political parties and parties like AAP are gaining ground. Left seems tired if not afraid. Left is facing obsolescence. Left is fast turning an armchair exercise. There are many people who love left, but the political leaders in the left are not able to articulate this love into political movement or mandate. People are looking for alternatives because they are fed up with extreme right bullying and propaganda or the laziness and indifference of the Centrist parties. People want change and development. Left needs to come out of its shell! Left needs to be a creative and meaningful movement. Fighting or supporting militant anti-establishment movements will not go too far. The hands of state are very long and strong and it may use brutal measures causing loss of life and property of the common man. The times in which we are living desperately need the fearless and honest but creative left- a movement that builds progressive and modern opinion, changes attitudes, promotes brotherhood and fraternity and promotes peace. It may or may not get electoral mandate soon, but it will get its deserved place. No other political party would encroach upon the deserved space of left, if it stands up not only as a political party, but as a movement. India needs left today more than ever!