1st January 2020 : The Hindu Editorials Notes : Mains Sure Shot
Note – Today there are two important articles – It is everybody’s constitution and the other one is titled ‘Weighing in on the public sector privatisation debate’.
The article titled ‘It is everybody’s constitution’, does not have much content but here are the important highlights:
- The article says that often when their are protests regarding the constitutional validity of an Act, an argument appears that it is the responsibility of the Supreme Court to do a judicial review and protests are all but unnecessary.
- But the author says that upholding the validity of a law is not the sole responsibility of a particular institution (SC) but rather the constitution is the result of the debates and discussions and also suggestions of individuals when the constitution was being formed. The voice of the people is equally important.
- It says that in early 1948, the draft of the Indian Constitution was made publicly available. For many months, feedback, suggestions, and proposals for amendments poured in from across the country: from provincial governments, local bar associations, organised groups, and even individual citizens.
- The Drafting Committee, chaired by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, considered these proposals in detail, recorded its responses, and on more than one occasion, changed the constitutional text. It was this revised draft that was debated by the Constituent Assembly, and eventually became the Constitution of India.
- Thus, the Indian Constitution was born in an act of public participation. This public participation had begun with the mass movements of the freedom struggle, and culminated in a dialogue between the framers of the Constitution, and the Indian public. It is this history that gives life to those famous words of the Constitution’s Preamble: “We the People of India… do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution.”
- And this history tells us something else. The Indian Constitution was never intended to be the sole preserve of lawyers and judges. It is not merely a legal document but a charter of values and principles; a vision of a free, just, and equal society. And it is a vision that is not static in time, but subject to constant renewal as each generation discovers anew, through discussion and debate, the founding principles of our Republic.
- It is this idea of the Indian Constitution that has come to the forefront during the recent protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, or the CAA, 2019, the National Register of Citizens (NRC), and the National Population Register (NPR). These show that discussions about the constitution cannot be limited within courtrooms but has to take note of the voices and arguments of the people who make it.
The importance of the preamble and protests:
- A significant feature of all the protests against the CAA has been that the protestors read out aloud the preamble of the constitution. Why was it so, even when we know that the preamble is non justiciable?
- The Preamble, of course, is not a legally binding document. But the Preamble is something more than that: in its declarations of universal justice, of equality, and of fraternity, it speaks to us of the kind of country that we aspire to be. Invocations of the Preamble, therefore, hold the CAA to a higher standard than that of formal legal validity. They tell us that this conversation is not simply about whether the CAA passes the basic minimum threshold of not being unconstitutional, but whether it is worthy of the Nation that we set out to be in 1947, the ideals of our freedom struggle, and of course, the values and principles that speak to us today.
- It is in this sense that the Constitution belongs to everyone, and that the ongoing protests can be best understood as acts of reclamation.
- For example: in the 1830s, anti-slavery activists in the United States made a remarkable claim. They argued that slavery was prohibited by the American Constitution. But the American Supreme Court proclaimed that slavery was, on the contrary, written into the American Constitution.
- But it is the beauty of the Constitution, with its ringing invocation of universal values, that allowed the American abolitionists the space to make that argument in the first place. And while they would be rebuffed by a judiciary that was, at the time, committed to upholding slavery, it was their humanitarian and egalitarian vision that eventually triumphed after a few decades, and was formally written into the Constitution. A century and a half later, history has given its decisive verdict: the abolitionists were right. The Supreme Court got it wrong. And finally slavery was abolished in America.
- In the same way the inspiring example of the LGBTQ+ community, whose determined protest and activism after the Koushal judgment helped the Indian Supreme Court correct its own error, and finally decriminalise same-sex relations in 2018.
- These stories tell us that while different institutions can take different views about what the Constitution says, no one institution exercises a monopoly over constitutional truth or wisdom. And this is why it is so vital for constitutionalism to exist, live, and thrive, outside the domain of institutions.
- The other article titled ‘Weighing in on the public sector privatisation debate’, deals with BPCL. It has already been covered, refer to the editorial of 12th December, 2019.