Sunday, December 9, 2007

In defence of the Constitution

In defence of the Constitution

Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar made an eloquent plea to leave the Constitution alone

The criticism that the Constitution as it has emerged is far too detailed and elaborate and does not merit serious consideration. If, as in other constitutions, the Constitution and powers of the high court and of the Supreme Court have been left for normal ordinary parliamentary legislation, if the provisions for electoral machinery are dropped out, if the guarantees provided in the matter of salaries to judges and civil services are omitted, if the existing administrative machinery which has been working is ignored, if no special provision is to be made for scheduled areas and scheduled tribes, there would be absolutely no difficulty in cutting down the provisions of the Constitution and reducing the number of articles. But for the smooth and efficient working of a democratic machinery, it was felt that unless these provisions were contained in the Constitution itself, an infant democracy might find itself in difficulties and the smooth and efficient working of the Constitution might be jeopardised. Therehas been insistence on the part of various interests that sufficient safeguards must be inserted in the Constitution itself and even some of the members of this Assembly who, as a matter of abstract principle, are willing to subscribe to the principle of a few main provisions alone being inserted in the Constitution, not a little contributed to the detailed provisions.

In the course of the discussion during the third reading, there has been some reference to the subject of India's position as a member of the Commonwealth. On this subject I have already stated my views when the matter came up for discussion before this Assembly. It is unnecessary to remind the House that there is no article in the Constitution referring to this matter. The membership of the Commonwealth depends on the willing cooperation and consent of the two countries, independent in every respect of each other.

Mr President, I have omitted one point while I was on the subject of fundamental rights and I should like to refer to it. While religious freedom is guaranteed to every individual and every religious persuasion, the state does not identify or ally itself with any particular religion or religious belief. There is no such thing as a state religion in India.

Altogether it may be claimed that the Constitution gives sufficient scope for the achievement by the Indian Republic of all those great objects which are contained in the preamble to the Constitution. The Constitution contains within itself the necessary elements of growth, flexibility and expansion. While it is not committed to any particular economic reorganisation of society, the people are free to adjust and mould the economic conditions for their betterment in any manner they choose. To a large extent any Constitution depends upon the people who work it. It is the human element that after all is the most important in the working of any institution.

It is common knowledge that when the final Constitution of America was adopted there was very little enthusiasm for it and several communications had to be addressed in the `Federalist' to commend the Constitution to the American people. And yet at the present day the Constitution is looked upon with the same spirit and reverence as the Ark of the Covenant in the Bible.

Similar is the experience in Canada and in Australia. The experience of other countries has shown that Constitutions which have been hailed with u universal acclamation have proved utter failures. Our Constitution is much more flexible than many written and federal Constitutions. An easy and flexible method of amendment has been provided for. But that does not mean that amendments must be undertaken lightheartedly. The people will then have no other work to do but mending and amending the Constitution.

Excerpted from Ayyar's speech on the floor of the Constituent Assembly on November 23, 1949. Courtesy: `100 Best Parliamentary Speeches', compiled by Dr Subhas C. Kashyap

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.

No comments: