Over the years our people have come to believe that their Constitution of India, 1950, is their protector and saviour. And Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, known as its father, is venerated by all.
These very people of ours could be rudely shocked when told that if their Prime Minister gives away Arunachal Pradesh to China tomorrow in an agreement signed under the orders of his Indo-Italian boss, there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution to stop that act of treason. The Constituent Assembly simply forgot to lay down that an international agreement which the central executive wished to sign on behalf of the people of India must necessarily be first approved by the Parliament which represents them.
That is why the UPA government is nonchalantly going ahead to take definitive action on its extremely loaded 123 Agreement on the nuclear deal with the USA despite the logically argued demand of the leading Opposition party, the Left and former prime minister V.P.Singh, along with others that the Agreement be put up for Parliament'sdecision on the issue.
The UPA'sdefence is diabolically simple. Article 253 of our Constitution empowers Parliament to make any law for implementing any treaty, agreement or covenant, but there'sno provision anywhere in probably the world'slongest Constitution that compels the central executive to make such a law. That is how, right from the cease-fire agreement over Kashmir in 1948 till the Shimla Pact in 1972, the Congress government of the Nehru family sought an okay only from enemy Pakistan'srulers rather than from their own citizens.
Mind you, our Constitution does not demand even the President of India'ssignature of approval for an international agreement inked by the government in power in Delhi. A domestic legislation passed by Parliament becomes the law of the land only after the Rashtrapati'sapproval and he has the constitutional option of returning that legislation to Parliament for reconsideration before finally putting his seal on it. An international agreement is, sadly and strangely, exempted even from that little restraint of ?reconsideration?. Such, dear readers, is our people'sConstitution of India! And to think that those people have believed that their Constitution is a ?unique?, ?landmark? document.
The fact is that our Constitution makers created an often confusing and contradictory maze of 395 Articles under 22 Parts and nine Schedules through which one has to find a way. They laid down privileges for the ?minorities? without defining the word ?minorities?. They created a republic out of a nation partitioned on the basis of religion without insisting on a common civil law. They created ?Equality before law? under Article 14 but scattered exceptions and discriminations all over the place. One Article here is ?notwithstanding? another Article elsewhere. ?Freedom of speech? is subjected to conditions, with even the Parliament being denied discussion of the conduct of a High Court or Supreme Court judge excepting during a motion of his impeachment. They failed to see the need for a federal police. And, through Article 370, they allowed the central government to create, through the President of India, any number of measures that permitted one part of the country to have a scheme of governance which in several ways violated the soul and contents of the rest of the Constitution.
The fact that over 100 Constitutional Amendment Bills have been introduced till now and that the 94th Amendment Act came into effect from June last year prove that our founding fathers just didn'thave clarity in their mind and a clue about the future.
Such then, readers, was the kind of ?foresight? and ?wisdom? of our founding fathers who fashioned our allegedly ?unique, landmark? Constitution! After nearly three years of what is described as ?hard labour?, they produced a mess. They did that despite their phenomenal advantage of having, before them, the constitutional practices which were operating in different parts of the world and which covered a rich fund of human experience in the area of governmental process.
Contrast the ?foresight? of our Constituent Assembly members with that of those Americans who formulated the Constitution of the U.S.A. When it was written in 1787, there were only 13 states in the U.S.A. Over the last 220 years, that brief and compact instrument of just 4,543 words has been amended only 27 times. The pattern of government planned so long ago in less than a hundred working days for 13 states today meets the needs of a vast country of 50 states, one federal district and 14 territories.
Most importantly for this article, one part of Section 2 of Article II of the U.S.Constitution says ?He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;? That was written in 1787; that was why 212 years later the United Nations? Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) fell in the U.S.A. although its then President, Bill Clinton, was among the first to sign it. That was foresight in play. Q.E.D.
Dr Ambedkar and his colleagues in the Constituent Assembly don'tseem to have read the above portion of the U.S.A. Constitution. What a tragedy we are suffering today for that biggest blunder of our Constitution makers.
Almost as shocking and stunning is that our political leaders never realized this blunder until now although the BJP-led NDA government had created a commission to review the Constitution during its reign in the late nineties. If almost nothing came out of it, it was only because the NDA employed the wrong people to steer the good intention. It engaged too many legal eagles for the purpose and superimposed on them an already overworked and retired judge with a closed mind and blinkers on his eyes. That chairman was allowed by the NDA government to dictate the terms of his Commission and the way it would go about its task. What the nation got therefore was a little mountain of ?Working Papers? and a molehill of solid, meaningful output. Why else would the BJP and the Left have occasion now to ask that our Constitution be amended yet again so as to provide for Parliament'sapproval to preempt such dangerous treaties as the latest 123 Agreement?
There certainly is need for that amendment and for much more that that. Consider the fact that, like ?minorities?, the word ?secular? continues to remain undefined in our Constitution. Why, the Congress actually threw out that word'sdefinition as sarva dharma samabhav included by the Morarji Desai government'sin its 45th Constitution Amendment Bill of 1977. So careless and callous has the nation been with regard to this word that the Hindi version of our Constitution translates it into punthnirpekshak in the Preamble but translates religion as dharma in Articles 15, 16 and 25. When our Constitution writers and the interpreters of the Constitution believe that punth (religion) is the synonym of dharma, even God can'tsave our self-respect and sovereignty mortgaged by the 123 Agreement of Sardar Manmohan Singh.
(The author can be contacted at Email: [email protected])