THE Constitution of India, proclaimed on January 26 in, 1950, was framed by the Constituent Assembly to fulfil the need for increased representation of Indians in the Imperial Legislation and executive bodies. Towards the end of the 19th century, the demand for a round-table conference of Indian political parties and interest to frame a Constitution for India with the British was raised. In 1929, the Indian National Congress demanded ‘dominion status’ for India, as was seen in the white colonies of Britain, like Canada and Australia. In 1930, the demand rose to the level of complete Independence. In 1934, the instrumentality of its achievements was spelt out by the Constituent Assembly. Though every Constitution is based on an expectation of permanence, yet every Constitution lays down procedures for its amendment according to the changing needs of time. A Constitution is after all a political endeavour by or on behalf of a community. That is why the Constitution has in its body provisions for amendment.
It is said that the Constitution of India is the bulkiest Constitution in the world. After Independence, the Constitution of India with its fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy gave a new direction to law reforms geared to the needs of a democratic legal order in a plural society. Though the Constitution stipulated the continuation of pre-Constitution laws (Article 372), till they are amended or repealed, there had been demands in Parliament and outside for establishing a Central Law Commission to recommend revision and update the inherited laws to serve the changing needs of the country. The Government of India reacted favourably and established the first Law Commission of Independent India in 1955 with the then Attorney-General of India, HC Setalvad, as its chairman. Since then, the successive Law Commissions have been renewing the constitutional law and the statutory laws of the country.
The first amendment of the Constitution took place after its working for one year. Most of the amendments are the result of administrative and political needs which are ever changing but the primary reason for the large number of amendments so far (94 till date) is the length of the Constitution and the details laid down with a view to reducing executive and judicial manoeuvrability with mixed results. All amendments are drafted by the Ministry of Law and passed through prescribed procedures.
This is the background of the book and constitutes the basis for the discussion of the antecedents, the spirit of the Constitution, citizenship, rights of the Indians, duties of the State and the citizens, the Indian Union and such related aspects.
This is a handy analytical account of the Constitution and would be highly relevant for students of law and political science.
(National Book Trust, India, Nehru Bhawan, 5 Institutional Area, Phase-II, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi-110070.)