Discussion on Constitutional Reforms

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Discussion on Constitutional Reforms

Constitutional Reforms

The Indian Constitution is an amalgamation of borrowings from the West, primarily the UK. The framework was the Government of India Act, 1935, a British handiwork designed to administer its colony better. Around this framework were added refinements from the USA, USSR, Switzerland, et al. Some 86 amendments have been added in the course of 50 years. In contrast, the US Constitution has only been amended 26 times over the past 210 years. The frequency of change is an indication of dissatisfaction with the document. Speaking of plentiful government, our Constitution has 395 Articles, whereas the US document has only seven. The Swiss statute is reputed to be a very long and detailed one, double the size of the US one, and deals with sundry subjects like fishing, hunting, gambling, etc. yet it has 123 articles in contrast to our 395. The Constitution of Japan came into force in 1947 with 103 articles, yet it has not needed a single amendment till date. In contrast, China was given a new constitution by Mao in 1954, but found it essential to draft a fresh one by 1978.

The present Constitution of India was framed by the Constituent Assembly set up under the Cabinet Mission Plan on May 16, 1946. In its progress through the Constituent Assembly, the Constitution grew in size and took final shape with 395 Articles and 8 Schedules. The time taken for accomplishing this task was exactly two years eleven months and seventeen days from 9th December 1946 till 15th November 1949. The Indian Constitution possesses neither the rigidity of the American Constitution nor the flexibility of the British Constitution. Three different methods of amendment have been provided under the Indian Constitution:

1. Certain provisions of the Constitution can be amended by Parliament under ordinary legislation in which the voting of the two-thirds majority of the members present is essential, like the creation of a new state or the amalgamations of one state with another, or altering the name of the states, etc.

2. Certain specified provisions can be amended by a special procedure. These include the election of the President, representation of the states in Parliament, relations between the states and the Union, the Supreme Court and High Courts and the process of constitutional amendments (Act, 368).

3. The rest of the Constitution can be amended by a special majority - that is the Amending Bill to be passed by the two houses of Parliament by a majority of total membership and the two-thirds of the members present and voting in each house. The Bill will then be presented to the President for his assent.

 

The First Amendment came in 1951 and till today we have had 86 amendments, which indicates the growing dissatisfaction. To cite an example, Article 356 has been used about 100 times to dismiss state governments. Undoubtedly, many times the Centre had a clear-cut motive in doing so. At other times, it was arbitrary and controversial. Nevertheless, the frequent use of this Article indicates that the policy is not functioning smoothly. There is also a great deal of confusion between where the responsibility of the Centre ends and that of the State begins. The concurrent list with 47 Articles is a long one, but even when the subject is exclusively in the state list there can be confusion. 



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