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Mains Answer Writing

21-February-2024

Q1) “The Indian Constitution is not a mere lawyer’s document, it is a vehicle of life, and its spirit is always the spirit of the age.” How has the constitution of India adapted to changing socio-economic and political circumstances over the decades?

(250 Words/ 15 Marks)

ANSWER

The dynamic nature of the Indian Constitution has been highlighted by Dr B R Ambedkar in the given statement on the spirit of the constitution.

The constitution has exhibited an ability to adapt to changing socio-economic and political circumstances in the following ways:

  1. Amendments to the constitution, such as:
    • a) 1st amendment was introduced to implement land reforms. It added schedule 9 to shield land reform laws from judicial review.
    • b) 73rd and 74th amendments gave constitutional status to local bodies.
    • c) 44th amendment changed the words ‘internal disturbance’ to ‘armed rebellion’ to prevent recourse to national emergency after the experience of the 1975 emergency.
    • d) 86th Amendment (2002) made right to education a fundamental right to realize the demographic dividend after a decade of economic liberalization.
  2. Judicial interpretations have ensured progressive realisation of rights by adapting constitutional principles to changing circumstances.

E.g., the Maneka Gandhi judgement opened the arena for judicial activism by interpreting due process of law in article 21.

  1. Commissions: The government has constituted various commissions from time to time to keep a pace with changing needs.

E.g., 1st and 2nd Administrative Reforms Commission (ARC), Mandal Commission, Sarkaria Commission, Punchhi Commission etc.

  1. Constitutional Bodies such as National Commission for Backward Classes and Finance Commission etc., take notice of changing circumstances and contemporary challenges in their recommendations to the government.

E.g., share of states in divisible pool of taxes.

  1. Social movements and public pressure for change influence the reading of the constitution.

E.g., decriminalisation of homosexuality in Navtej Singh Jauhar case; allowing the entry of women in Sabrimala on grounds of constitutional morality.

However, the constitution has also shown inability to adapt to some of the emerging needs as discussed below:

  1. There are some social changes and issues that constitution does not fully address, such as giving legal identity to same-sex marriages. It leads to challenges in ensuring equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community.
  2. Despite various amendments, some political issues have not received comprehensive coverage in the Constitution, revealing a need for clearer constitutional provisions.

E.g., the role of the Speaker’s office and preventing its politicization is a matter of concern. Similarly, the appointment and removal of Governors and role of constitutional conventions have been subject to political controversies.

  1. Judicial Overreach: Critics argue that the judiciary, through expansive interpretations, has at times encroached upon the domain of the executive and legislative. This raises questions about the balance of power and the potential impact on policy-making processes.
  2. The process of amending the Constitution can be time-consuming and complex. This can result in delays in addressing emerging needs and adapting to changing circumstances. In some cases, the amendment process may hinder swift and effective responses to critical issues.

E.g., it took 17 years for implementation of GST since being first proposed in 2000.

  1. Evolving technological realities: The Constitution, being a product of its time, may face struggle to keep pace with advancements which fundamentally affect the governance principles.

E.g., emergence of AI

The spirit of the constitution has shown great adaptability with the spirit of the age and continues to guide the nation in its pursuit of a just, inclusive, and progressive society. However, certain limitations highlight the need for periodic review and reforms for addressing emerging needs and challenges to ensure that the Constitution remains relevant and effective in the face of evolving socio-economic and political circumstances.

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