– Om Birla (Lok Sabha Speaker)
After Independence, India adopted its Constitution on 26th November, 1949, which is a historical date. Today is the 71st anniversary of this important historical event that lays the foundation of independent India. The Scholars like Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Sucheta Kriplani, Sarojini Naidu, B.N. Rau, Pt. Govind Vallabh Pant, Sharat Chandra Bose, Raj Gopalachari, N. Gopalaswamy Iyenagar, Dr. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, Gopinath Bardoloi, JB Kriplani contributed in the making of the Constitution.
All the Constitutions of the world over were studied and extensive discussions were held to give shape to the Indian Constitution. The makers of the Constitution deliberated extensively while preparing its draft. This fact can be understood from Drafting Committee of the Constitution, which held as many as 141 meetings and thus after 2 years, 11 months and 17 days emerge with a Preamble, 395 Articles and 8 Schedules of the Constitution of Independent India and completed the task of preparing the basic draft of the Constitution of India.
The original Constitution of the country has come a long way and during this period, several amendments have also been made in the Constitution according to the times. At present, our Constitution has more than four hundred articles and twelve schedules which reflect that the scope of governance has been expanded as per the needs of the time to accommodate the growing aspirations of the citizens of the country.
Today, the Indian democracy not only stands firmly in the face of many challenges time keeps throwing in its way but has also carved a unique identity for itself at the global level and the credit goes to the strong structure and institutional set up provided by our Constitution. The Constitution of India provides for socio-economic and political democracy. It underlines the commitment of the people of India to achieve various national goals from a peaceful and democratic perspective.
As a matter of fact, our Constitution is not just a legal document, but it is an important instrument that protects the freedom of all sections of the society and provides every citizen the right of equality without discriminating on the basis of caste, creed, sex, region, sect or language and ensures that nation remains on the path of progress and prosperity. It shows that the visionary architects of our Constitution had complete faith in Indian nationalism.
During the last seven decades of this Constitution being in force, we have attained many milestones.
We have the honour of being the world’s largest and successful democracy. Even with large number of voters, an ongoing continuous election process, our democracy has never fallen prey to instability, instead the successful conduct of elections proves that our democracy has withstood the test of time. During this democratic journey spread over seven decades, seventeen Lok Sabha and more than three hundred State Assembly elections have taken place in the country, in which the increasing participation of voters is a testimony to the success of our democracy. Indian democracy has demonstrated to the world, how political power can be transferred in a peaceful and democratic manner.
The separation of powers among the State components has been well defined in Indian Constitution. The domains of the three organs of the State namely Legislature, Executive and Judiciary have their own distinct and independent identity and they are sovereign in their respective sphere. In this way, they do not encroach upon each other’s jurisdiction.
The Parliament is supreme in the Indian democratic system, but it also has its own limitations. The Parliamentary system functions in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution. The Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution, but it cannot make any changes in its basic structure. There have been more than a hundred amendments to the Constitution since it has come in force. Even after so many amendments, its original spirit remains intact.
The Constitution of India lays special emphasis on the interests of citizens and the provisions for the Fundamental Rights as enshrined from Article 12 to Article 35 in Part III of the Constitution is major evidence of it.
These provisions ensure that all the citizens of India are treated equally thus works as a unifying force.
The original Constitution contains seven fundamental rights to citizens. However, Right to Property was separated through the 44th Constitution Amendment Act and, thereafter, this Right was placed under the legal rights contained in the Constitution.
Thus, at present, our Constitution guarantees six Fundamental Rights to the citizens. T
here Fundamental Rights include Right to Equality, Right to Freedom, Right against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Culture and Educational Rights and Right to Constitutional Remedies. The Constitution through these rights has tried to bring out the citizen on same platform in spite of having cultural diversity among them. In fact, the rights provided for our citizens are the spirit of our Constitution.
Our Constitution along with the Fundamental Rights also impose a number of fundamental duties on its citizens. The Fundamental Rights were enshrined in the original Constitution itself, however, in the due course of time, it was felt that the citizens of India should also have Fundamental Duties along with some Fundamental Rights as conferred to them. To bring this into effect Fundamental Duties were added in the Constitution through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act. Today, total 11 fundamental duties are mentioned under the Article 51(A) of our Constitution wherein 10 duties were included by 42nd Amendment and 11th Fundamental Duty was included by the 86th Constitution Amendment Act in the year 2002.
The Fundamental Duties as enshrined in our Constitution intends to ensure that the citizens of the country do not get absolute power, rather along with Fundamental Rights as conferred by this Constitution, they should also adhere to certain basic norms of democratic conduct and behavior as rights and duties go hand in hand.
In this context, the challenges faced by our country today and the high goals set by us demands a sense of dedication and duties towards the Nation among our citizens. If we have to dedicate the twenty first century as century of India, it is sine qua non that every citizen of India may contribute with high sense of duty to lead the country ahead.
Whether it is the concept of building new India or the goal of Atmanirbhar Bharat, all these goals could be achieved when the citizens of the country are fully dedicated and conscious about their Constitutional duties. I hope that each citizen of the country, especially our youth remain conscious of their Fundamental Duties as enshrined in the Constitution and the same should be reflected in their actions also.
Today, 71 years have passed since the adoption of our Constitution. On this occasion, saluting our visionary founders of the Constitution, we must take pledge to keep ourselves committed towards the adherence to the constitutional principles and to take the Nation ahead in the direction of building ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ based on peace, harmony and fraternity.
In fact, today as a citizen of India, we have to pay more attention to the duties than the rights conferred by our Constitution. We have our rights and they will always remain with us but we as citizens should also adhere to our duties and act accordingly, then this century will certainly be the Century of India.