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THE NEW PARLIAMENT OF INDIA: LANDMARK IN SHEDDING COLONIAL REMNANTS

INTRODUCTION

India is a nation that is recognized globally for being the “The Mother of Democracy” because of its vibrant and diverse electoral system, robust elections, and peaceful transfer of power. A nation that has endured colonial suppression and fought for its independence, is embarking on a transforming journey to clear the colonial remnants from independent India, starting with the construction of a new Parliament building in New Delhi. The Parliament inaugurated[1] by PM Narendra Modi, representing the people of India on 28th May 2023, the birth anniversary of prominent freedom fighter VD Savarkar, marks the historical milestone announcing a sovereign, integral, and progressive nation that upholds the values of democracy, unity, and inclusive development. This article explores the legal implications and significance of the new parliament building, highlighting the steps taken to ensure the transition from a colonial era structure to a symbol of India’s democratic progress, examining its historical context constitutional aspect, and legal considerations involved.

TIMELINE OF NEW PARLIAMENT

  • The proposal for the initiative was presented by former Vice President MV Naidu and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla during the 2019 monsoon session of the parliament.
  • The foundation stone[2] of the new parliament was laid by PM Narendra Modi on 10th December 2020 and was scheduled to be concluded by October 2022 and to host the winter session but was delayed due to various reasons, mainly due to the Covid pandemic and military conflict in Black Sea region.
  • The inauguration ceremony was held on 28th May 2023 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi (coinciding with the anniversary of his being in power for 9 years) in a historical event that also saw the installation of the ‘Sengol[3] in the new Lok Sabha chamber’
  • The marvellous structure representing the sovereignty of independent India is constructed under the central Vista project by Tata Projects Limited and designed by HCP Designs under the able guidance of Bimal Patel.

LEGAL STANDING OF THE NEW PARLIAMENT

The new parliament building in India stands on a strong legal foundation, firmly rooted in the country’s constitutional framework. According to Article 79[4] of the Indian Constitution, it is established as the supreme legislative authority, reflecting the sovereignty of the nation. The construction of the building aligns with the constitutional mandate for legislative powers, as outlined in Article 246[5], empowering the Parliament to enact laws and govern the country. Furthermore, the building ensures the representation of people through the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha, per Articles 80[6] and 81[7] respectively. By providing a modern and technologically advanced space for lawmakers, the new parliament building facilitates the exercise of these legislative powers and upholds the democratic principles at the core of the Indian legal system.

In addition to this, the new Parliament also adheres to the legal requirements and obligations related to environmental sustainability. India’s commitment related to environmental protection is reflected in the construction of the building, which incorporates green building practices and renewable energy sources, aiming for LEED Platinum certification. This commitment aligns with India’s legal obligation[8] under the Environment Protection Act, of 1986. By embracing sustainable development, the new parliament not only serves as a symbol of progress but also demonstrates the country’s dedication to balancing economic growth with environmental preservation. It sets a precedent for future construction projects to prioritize sustainability, reflecting the evolving legal landscape in India.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

The old parliament house, Sansad Bhawan, designed by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens and completed in 1927, reflected in its architecture the influence of the British colonial period and remained a constant reminder of the period[9]. In contrast, the new parliament is a reflection of India’s post-independence identity and its commitment to democratic values engraved along a sovereign path free from colonial shadow.
The construction of the new parliament embodies India’s desire to redefine its political landscape and reshape its colonial narrative. The new structure symbolizing India’s rich cultural heritage and architectural traditions involves enormous planning and adherence to legal procedures to ensure a seamless transition from the old parliament house to the new building. This shift serves as a physical mark of modern India’s journey towards self-governance and sovereignty. The modern parliament serves as an absolute mark of an independent and globally emerging India, shedding its colonial remnants and marching towards a developing legal and administrative system.

CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING PARLIAMENT INAUGURATION

 Recently a PIL was filed in the Supreme Court by advocate CR Jaya Sukin against the ceremonial opening of the new parliament[10] by PM Narendra Modi, backed by several opposition parties boycotting the inaugural ceremony and proclaiming that President Draupadi Murmu should be the designated authority for the inauguration. The petitioner built their argument by citing Article 79[11] of the Indian constitution which says that there shall be a parliament in India consisting of the President and the 2 houses, the Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the House of the People (Lok Sabha) and Article 87[12] of the Indian Constitution that deals with the Special address by the President at the start of first session following each general election to the Lok Sabha. The petitioners argued that since the president possesses the supreme power to summon both houses or dissolve the Lok Sabha, he should have the authority to inaugurate the new building.

However, the Supreme Court bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and PS Narasimha dismissed[13] the plea on 26th May 2023 stating that it is not within the remit of the court under Article 32 to decide who should be inaugurating the new parliament.

CONCLUSION

Although surrounded by various environmental, political, and constitutional concerns, overall the new parliament stands as a representative of the holistic development mindset of the post-independence 21st-century Indian government combined with legal modernization and architectural marvel. The project embodies the country’s commitment towards democratic ideas and determination to embrace modernity while preserving the cultural heritage, hence striking a balance between tradition and modernity.

Author(s) Name: Akshat Chandani (National Law Institute University, Bhopal)

Reference(s):

[1] Press release, ‘Union Home Minister and Minister of Cooperation, Shri Amit Shah congratulates all the countrymen on the inauguration of the new Parliament House by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi’ (Press Information Bureau, 28 May 2023) <Press Information Bureau (pib.gov.in)> accessed 6 June 2023

[2] ‘PM lays foundation stone of New Parliament Building’ (PM India, 16 December, 2020) <PM lays foundation stone of New Parliament Building | Prime Minister of India (pmindia.gov.in) > accessed 6 June 2023

[3] Press release, ‘At the inauguration of the new parliament house, PM Modi will establish the historical and sacred “Sengol” in the Parliament house’ (Press Information Bureau, 24 May 2023) < https://pib.gov.in/PressReleasePage.aspx?PRID=1926883 > accessed 6 June 2023

[4] The Constitution of India, 1950, art 79

[5] The Constitution of India, 1950, art 246

[6] The Constitution of India, 1950, art 80

[7] The Constitution of India, 1950, art 81

[8] Environment Protection Act, 1986, s 3, s 5, s 8, s 9

[9] Government of India, < New Parliament Building | Parliament of India | Central Vista > accessed 7 June 2023

[10] Shruti Kakkar, ‘PIL in SC seeking President Murmu to inaugurate new Parliament building’ (The new Indian Express, 25 May 2023) < https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2023/may/25/pilin-sc-seeking-president-murmu-to-inaugurate-new-parliament-building-2578519.html > accessed 7 June 2023

[11] The Constitution of India, 1950, art 79

[12] The Constitution of India, 1950, art 87

[13] V Venkatesan, ‘In Petition Challenging PM’s Inauguration of New Parliament, SC Needed To Give Reasoned Order’(The Wire, 27 May 2023) < https://thewire.in/law/petition-inauguration-new-parliament-sc-reasoned-order > accessed 7 June 2023