“Constitution is not a mere lawyers document, it is a vehicle of Life, and its spirit is always the spirit of Age.” -BR Ambedkar.
Through these deep and insightful words, Dr BR Ambedkar, the pioneer of nation-building, portrays the real value and significance the Constitution carries for our land. It is the structure on which a nation stands and grows. It is the framework which binds together the people and the government. ‘People’ is kept as the core of the Indian Constitution, as the Preamble itself starts with “WE THE PEOPLE OF INDIA.” There are certain values enshrined in our Constitution which make it really unique. Today, after completing 75 years of Independence, India stands as a prominent and potential superpower of the world, ranking among the top economies and is known as the largest democracy in the world. But how far are we successful in actually realizing and respecting those “values” today? So, in this blog, we will discuss and analyze “Constitutional Values” and their significance concerning India.
UNDERSTANDING CONSTITUTIONAL VALUES
The momentous “Objectives Resolution” was introduced to the Constituent Assembly by Jawaharlal Nehru on December 13th, 1946. In his speech that day, he said “We are not going just to copy. The system of government established in India had to fit in with the temper of our people and be acceptable to them.” Such was the vision behind the formation of ‘The supreme body of law.” Our Constitution embodies and enshrines more than merely a simple set of essential laws that serve as the bedrock of our nation’s governance. It encapsulates certain fundamental values, principles, and goals that were very precious to our founding fathers. But what does ‘value’ basically mean? A layman’s definition of value is that which is “very essential and worth having ” for the sustainability of human civilization as a whole.
The preamble is a key to opening and exploring the essence of our Constitution and expresses values such as sovereignty, socialism, secularism, democracy, republican character, justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, human dignity and the unity and integrity of the Nation, some of which are addressed below concerning today’s scenario.
By calling India a “sovereign,” The Preamble enunciates total political freedom. Our country is the sole governor of its internal matters. A country cannot be called free if it is not able to determine and take decisions without any external interference. Sovereignty is an incredibly significant value for the state.
Although perceived as an absolute term, sovereignty is subject to evolvement from the concept of complete freedom to limitations put on states by international laws and concepts developed with time. Factors such as globalism, interdependence and co-operation between nation-states, the United Nations, international criminal jurisdiction, rules of warfare and weaponry, human rights, democracy, and minority groups can be ascribed to this change. Talking about affairs concerning sovereignty in the contemporary world, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war can be mentioned. UN Secretary-General said that Russia is in ‘violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.’ Meanwhile, China, which iterated that ‘sovereignty’ is its dream, appears disrespectful on many occasions. From Hong Kong and Taiwan to the East and South China Seas—and the rugged Himalayan border with India, China has always put instances of its scornful approach towards sovereignty. To ensure that the sovereignty of the nation is upheld in a true sense at all levels of society, every country needs to further strengthen its standards across sectors matching the global practices.
India has been a place inherent to social and economical inequalities. Thus, to consolidate her place as a nation where socialism prevails, the term ‘socialist’ was added to the Preamble by the 42nd amendment in the year 1976 with the purview of abolishing social and economic differences thus taking India forward on the path of social advancement establishing economic equality among people. India has a mixed economy, neither completely socialist nor economical. A political and economic system based on public ownership and production is socialist. It was very much prevalent during the 50s and 60s. Capitalism is an economic system in which private individuals or businesses own capital goods. Here private companies are in the driving seat as they run and control the market by competing with each other. India is a country where most people depend on government programmes, schemes, and jobs for their livelihood. If the private sector takes control of the economy, it would surely result in the deprivation of facilities for the underprivileged ones as they will not be able to afford them. Recent years have witnessed a surge in privatization and capitalization, citing the ford of more efficiency and productivity.
Secularism is one of the most important values that our Constitution enshrines. We proudly say that almost every religion found in the world is practised in India.. Although the word ‘secular’ too was inserted in the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment enacted in 1976, the SC in the 1994 case S.R. Bommai vs. The Union of India established that India was a secular nation since the formation of the republic. Today, ‘secularism’ is a hot topic in India. Political parties are trying to fill up their vote banks by instigating religious sentiments and naming it ‘nationalism.’ hat secularism counts for is to bring India together on a developed and non-religious front, so that we unite and focus on having a brighter and peaceful future together. It will be even more pleasing to hear that India is the most ‘secular and peaceful country.’
Enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution, Liberty lies at the heart of not only the constitution but also the lives of the people. Article 21 quotes that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.” Thereby, Article 21 assures two rights- Right to life and Right to personal liberty. From independence to date, our nation has come a long way in terms of liberty. From unshackling oneself from British rule to actively participating in matters of national importance, the definition of liberty has evolved. Triple Talaq, Farm Laws, CAA, NRC, the revocation of Article 370, and so on, Indians have actively voiced their opinions in favour & against the laws. Some of these rulings have been watershed moments in Indian history because they had a direct say on the identities of the citizens. While sometimes, the minds of the public prevailed, other times the government forsaken the liberty rights of the citizens and went on with what some people called fascist verdicts. A total of 548 persons have been arrested between 2015 and 2020, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). And surprisingly, just 7 could be arrested on sedition charges. People who get arrested are mainly writers, poets, activists, leaders of the opposition, and even comedians. The number keeps on rising, especially when there is a new civil or criminal ruling. The bigger question is not whether it is under threat or not but what liberty means to us, the liberty that we have earned in all these years.
The Constitution of India provides for the provisions of equality from Articles 14-18. It is one of the six fundamental rights cited in Part III of the Constitution. From the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or place of birth to the equality of opportunities in public employment, this right is the lifeline of all the citizens of the country. The right to equality is a principal element in a democratic setup. But equality alone is a hollow vessel. It exists only when it stands on social, economical, political, and educational grounds. Our nation has done a tremendous job in eliminating the social inequalities that existed before independence. But what about economic equality? The nation that our forefathers dreamed of was based on an ideal socialistic model. Today, India seems to be strutting towards capitalism. In India where the per capita income might be one of the highest in the continent, where the economy might be functioning in top gear; yet the stark differences between the rich & the poor. Quality education that is said to be not a privilege but a basic right is turning out to be one of those elements belonging to the hegemony of the privileged. Our country boasts of one of the youngest populations and sadly, it is also one of those countries that churn out the most inefficient graduates.
As per Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Fraternity can be defined as “a sense of common brotherhood and sisterhood among all Indians”. He said that liberty & equality will not hold any value if the element of fraternity is missing. The Constitution of India ensures the spirit of fraternity by providing for single citizenship for the citizens. It is supposed to be the roots of the nation’s dignity & oneness. Even though our nation got partitioned on religious grounds at the culmination of the war of independence, one cannot escape the fact that we for this independence as one. But today, it is so unfortunate to find the country separated on the lines of religion, caste & even language. The diversity that has always been a matter of honour for us, is now becoming a reason for discord. It is crucial to binding the country in the fibres of the fraternity until it is too late.
Author(s) Name: Rtwij Ranjan (Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune)