January 26, 1950 was the day a new democracy was born, the day India saw its constitution come to being, the day every Indian feels proud of.
India is the largest democracy in the world and the constitution of India is one of the most amazing constitutions in any democracy.
At 70, only constitutions, tortoises, and whales are dubbed “young!” Though young, the Indian Constitution has undergone many changes over these seven decades, but what remains unchangeable is the democratic principles at its core.
September 15 is celebrated as the International Day of Democracy with the purpose of promoting and upholding the principles of democracy. And what better way to celebrate this day than by learning some amazing facts about our constitution that promises democracy in India.
With so much writing, the Indian Constitution is the longest of any sovereign country in the world. In its current form, it has a Preamble, 22 parts with 448 articles, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and 115 amendments.
The original copies of the Indian Constitution were written in Hindi and English. Each member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the Constitution, signed two copies of the constitution, one in Hindi and the other in English
The Constitution of India, which is the longest written constitution of any country in the world, was handwritten in Hindi and English rather than being printed or typed. The document was written by Prem Behari Narain Raizada in a calligraphy font.
In December 1946, as a newly-formed Constituent Assembly began its task of deliberating over the shape the Constitution must take. Meanwhile, in West Bengal’s famous Viswa Bharati school at Santiniketan, a group of artists led by Nandalal Bose was giving shape to another kind of vision.
Within a few years, their artistic vision would find its way into the Indian Constitution, turning the legal document into an artefact of immense historic and artistic value. Under his tutelage, Bose’s students went on to decorate the pages of the Constitution with scenes from the country’s history dating back to the Harappan civilisation.
There’s one question that frequently pops up – where is the original copy of our Constitution? There are three original copies of the Constitution of India. All of these copies are preserved in the Central Library of the Parliament. There is a security enclosure of three rooms, which you have to cross to view them.
The original copy of the Constitution is 22 inches long and 16 inches wide. It is written on sheets of parchment and its manuscript consists of 251 pages. It is obvious that keeping this precious document needs a lot of effort. Utmost care has been taken to ensure that the original copy of the Constitution isn’t spoiled, therefore, it is kept in a box filled with helium gas.
The Constituent Assembly took almost three years (two years, eleven months and seventeen days to be precise) to complete its historic task of drafting the Constitution for Independent India.
It took the Assembly so much time because it worked in a systematic, open and consensual manner. First, some basic principles were decided and agreed upon such as the declaration of Universal Adult Franchise, to guarantee equality, abolish untouchability etc.
Then, a Drafting Committee chaired by Dr B.R. Ambedkar prepared a draft constitution for discussion. Several rounds of thorough discussions took place on the Draft Constitution before the final version was adopted.
It must be seen that the Indian Constitution was not made in a hurry but followed a deep and debated procedure. When the draft was prepared and put up for debate and discussion, over 2000 amendments were made before it was finalised.
Almost all the debates in the Constituent Assembly revolved around the amendments made by the Draft Committee to the Constitution.
The Constituent Assembly sat for a total of 11 sessions. The 11th session was held between 14 – 26 November, 1949. On 26 November 1949, the final draft of the Constitution was ready.
The Indian Constitution which upholds the principles of equality, fraternity, secularism etc. are often considered as a bag of borrowings due to the adoption of provisions of various other countries.
The directive principles have been taken from the Irish Constitution, our Parliamentary type of Government with a cabinet system that is accountable to the lower house is an idea that the makers borrowed from the British Parliamentary system. The Supreme Court, our Fundamental Rights, and the role of the Vice-President were suggested by the Constitution of the United States of America. Emergency provisions were picked from the German Constitution, and the French Constitution influenced the concepts of liberty, fraternity and equality. The Japanese Constitution influenced the principles about the functioning of the Supreme Court.
One principle of government that is reflected in both constitutions is popular sovereignty. A quote from the Constitution of India that depicts popular sovereignty is “We, the people of India… in our constituent assembly… do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution.”
This quote shows that the ultimate power lies with the people and they are the main source of the power of the constitution. This principle is reinforced as elections to the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and the Legislative Assembly of every state are decided on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
Only three years after our Constitution was adopted, its chief architect, BR Ambedkar, publicly disowned it in Parliament. In an astonishing admission in 1953, he condemned it in the Rajya Sabha:
“Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody.”
Ambedkar made this statement as a reaction to some of the issues of the constitution never being addressed, one of which was the fact that the Governor of states has no real power and is for all realistic purposes, just a ‘rubber-stamp head’. Ambedkar was also critical of the parliamentary form of Democracy and believed that it did not fit with the complex social structure of India.
The Preamble to the Constitution declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic republic and a welfare state committed to secure “justice, liberty and equality for the people and for promoting fraternity, dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.”
The word ‘socialist’ was added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by the 42nd amendment act of 1976. It implies social and economic equality.
Social equality in this context means the absence of discrimination on the grounds only of caste, colour, creed, sex, religion, or language.
On 24th January 1950, 616 signatures were made by 308 members of the Assembly on the two hand-written copies (Hindi and English) of the final draft of Constitution of India.
Each member signed both Hindi and English copies of the Constitution. The very last signature is that of Feroze Gandhi. He has signed in two languages, first in Devanagari and then in the Roman script.
Most others have signed in English, the exceptions being Abul Kalam Azad in Urdu and Purushottam Das Tandon in Devanagari.
The first Article of the Constitution of India states that “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States,” implying India and Bharat are equally the two official names for our nation. India has an official name in each of the 22 official languages recognised in the Constitution. The English name is India and the Hindi name is Bharat. Most other languages have a variation of Bharat except Tamil where the official name is Indhiya.
The long-form name adds the word Republic of in English, Ganarajya in Hindi, Jumhuriyat in Kashmiri and Urdu.
The profound ideals of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity illustrated in the Preamble were in reality the French motto used during the French revolution.
The meaning of this phrase is that if one does not grant liberty, equality, or fraternity to others—one does not treat others like they would treat their own brother.
The Indian Constitution is called a living document because it can be amended or changed. Our Constitution accepts the necessity of modifications according to changing needs of society. Thus, both political practices and judicial rulings have shown maturity and flexibility in implementing the Constitution.
Those who crafted the Indian Constitution felt that it must be in accordance with its citizens’ aspirations and the changes in society.
They did not want the Constitution to be a sacred, static, and unalterable law. So, they made provisions to incorporate changes as the world changes and moves ahead.
The changes in the Constitution are called Constitutional amendments. Up to January 2020, 104 amendments have been made to the Indian Constitution.
We hope that you loved these amazing facts about our constitution and how it ensures democratic rights for each one of us.
Check out this video on the making of the Indian constitution:
Here is another video on the features of the Indian constitution:
Let us know in the comment section what you think is the best part about the constitution of India.
Raza has been writing since 2008, be it fiction, poetry, or articles on science, politics, and history. He believes that words can change the world, and he uses them to inspire and empower people through his writing. When he is not working, he is watching nature documentaries or playing with his cats.
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