Why did question of new statute arise?

If someone asks you if there is any need to change the Constitution of India, most of you will, no doubt, look with astonishment at the person asking such a question. I was also taken aback when Bibek Debroy, the chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM), mentioned the necessity of […]

If someone asks you if there is any need to change the Constitution of India, most of you will, no doubt, look with astonishment at the person asking such a question. I was also taken aback when Bibek Debroy, the chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM), mentioned the necessity of a new Constitution for India in his article! Our Constitution is the soul of our democracy. Does anyone change his or her soul?
It is a matter of great relief that as soon as the controversy erupted, the Economic Advisory Council immediately distanced itself from Debroy’s views, stating clearly that the views expressed by Debroy are his personal opinions and they do not reflect the views of EAC-PM, or the Government of India. But the pertinent question is, how did Debroy, who is holding a such responsible position, come up with this idea? What is his motive behind coming out with such an idea? He has questioned the significance of words like socialist, secular, democratic, justice, liberty and equality in the Preamble to the Constitution and stressed the need to give us a new Constitution. I was even more surprised to read that some study had come to the conclusion that a written Constitution had a lifespan of only 17 years! A strange study, isn’t it? But Debroy Saheb finds the study pertinent. He writes that we Indians do not have the same Constitution that we got in 1950. Many amendments have been introduced, and every amendment is not necessarily for the betterment of the society! According to Debroy, our Constitution is a colonial legacy.
I completely disagree with this statement of Bibek Debroy. I have been a member of Parliament for 18 years. I have read the Constitution and tried my best to know and understand it. I have been a member of many committees and on the basis of my experience, I believe than there is no need to change our Constitution. Why does Debroy object to the words such as socialist, secular, democratic, justice, liberty and equality used in the Constitution. This spirit is the basic soul of any Constitution! Is Debroy being influenced by someone else? This serious question of being influenced by someone else has arisen in my mind because in 2017 a controversial statement about changing the Constitution was also made by the then Union minister of state Anant Kumar Hegde. Addressing a programme, Hegde had said, “Some people say the constitution says secular and you must accept it. We will respect the Constitution, but the Constitution has changed several times and it will change in the future too. We are here to change the Constitution and we’ll change it.” Ananth Kumar Hegde is no more with us but his words can never be forgotten.
As far as the question of Indian Constitution being a colonial legacy is concerned, the assumption is also wrong. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held in 1946 just before India became independent. As soon as India and Pakistan became independent, the Constituent Assembly was also divided into two parts. There were 299 members in the Constituent Assembly that created the Indian Constitution. Sachchidananda Sinha was the first President of the Constituent Assembly and Dr Rajendra Prasad became the President immediately after him. The important responsibility of chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitution was with Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar. The Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi wanted that every section and stratum of the Indian society should play a role in the making of the Constitution. Renowned scholars of the country including Dr Rajendra Prasad, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad were involved in the making of the Constitution.
I am mentioning all these names so as to remind the present generation that many great personalities had drafted the Constitution together. The Constituent Assembly held crucial discussions for two years, 11 months, and 18 days. There were 12 sessions and after the drafting of the Constitution was completed, 284 members who were present, had signed it. The general public and the Press were also allowed to participate in every discussion of the Constituent Assembly. It is believed that the Government of India Act, 1935 has exercised a lot of influence on our Constitution. It is obvious that our learned members must have included those things which they considered appropriate. The biggest feature of our Constitution is that according to the sentiments of the people, there are ample opportunities for amendments.
You will be surprised to know that so far more than 125 constitutional amendment Bills have been presented in the Parliament, out of which more than 100 have been passed and implemented. The biggest example of how flexible our Constitution regarding amendments is that our Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950 and the very next year on May 10, 1951, the then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the first constitutional amendment Bill. Through this amendment, the common man got freedom of speech and expression. On June 18, 1951, the first Constitution Amendment Bill was passed in the Parliament. What I mean to say is that when there is so much flexibility and acceptability in the Constitution, then why talk of changing it?
Debroy says that many countries have made changes in their respective constitutions from time to time. I would like to give him the example of the United States of America, a strong democratic country in the world, where the Constitution has been in force for the last 234 years. It has made less than 30 amendments so far. It is our Constitution that establishes India as a true democracy. So, we can’t even think of changing it, Mr Debroy!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.