Constitution of India and Plagiarism debate

The Constitution of India is a salubrious integration of useful and progressive features drawn from different Constitutions of the world. Although most of the Constitution is almost a reproduction of the Government of India Act, 1935, certain features were also included in it during the making of the Constitution.

  • Features like parliamentary government and bicameralism, cabinet system, single citizenship etc. from the British Constitution;
  • Fundamental Rights, Impeachment of President, Removal of Judges, Judicial Review, office of the Vice Presidents etc. from the US Constitution;
  • Federation with a strong centre, Vesting residuary powers with the centre, Appointment of Governor of states by the centre, Advisory jurisdiction of Supreme Court, Single Citizenship from Canadian Constitution;
  • Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP), Methods of election of President, Nomination of members to Rajya Sabha from Irish Constitution;
  • Concurrent list (Seventh Schedule), Joint sitting of Parliament, freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse etc. from Australian Constitution;
  • Suspension of Fundamental during emergency from Weimar Constitution of Germany; Fundamental duties and the ideal of justice (social, economic and political) in the Preamble etc. from Russian Constitution;
  • Republic and the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in the Preamble etc. from French Constitution; Procedure of amendment of the Constitution and election of members of Rajya Sabha from South African Constitution; and
  • Procedure established by law from Japanese Constitution.

The above features were made accommodative and acclimatizing to the socio-political environment of the country by correcting faults and removing incongruences in them.

Questions to Analyze

  • Many call Indian constitution a copy-paste work and a glaring example of plagiarism. What are the arguments against such unfair criticism?
  • Many say that constitution of India is mostly a replica of Government of India Act 1935. Is it true? How?
Many call Indian constitution a copy-paste work and a glaring example of plagiarism. What are the arguments against such unfair criticism?

This is one of the most unfair criticisms. The framers of constitution included the best minds and many of them were eminent lawyers. World’s first written constitution had come up in 1787 and after that many new constitutions evolved in various countries in response to the events that occurred within them or elsewhere in world. Each country inspired from other existing constitutions, and each had included its own flavour as per its social, economical and political needs. As Dr. Ambedkar had responded to this criticism himself and said: “There is nothing to be ashamed of in borrowing. It involves no plagiarism. Nobody holds any patent rights in the fundamental ideas of a Constitution.” Thus, there was no need to reinvent the wheel.

Many say that constitution of India is mostly a replica of Government of India Act 1935. Is it true? How?

The Government of India Act, 1935 is considered a milestone in the constitutional history of India during British Raj. The framers of Indian Constitution chose to replicate most of the provisions of the said Act as the people of India were accustomed to the provision therein in letter and spirit.

The features, enumerated in the present Constitution, like all Indian federation, division of power in the Seventh Schedule, bicameral legislature at the Centre and states; Union Public Service Commission and State Public Service Commission and Joint Public Service Commission for two or more states; setting up of Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit policy of the country; establishment of Supreme Court etc. have been derived from the Government of India Act, 1935. Such a bulk of provisions from the Act present in the Constitution makes one conclude that the Constitution of India is a replica of the said Act.

However, the Constitution is not the exact replica of the Act. The framers brought required modifications and changes in the said Act with a view to avoiding the faults that have been brought to the fore in their working for over a decade and to adapting them to the existing conditions and needs of the country. Unlike the provision of resting residuary power in the Viceroy as the Act stipulated, the framers put the onus of residuary power upon the Parliament of India. The provision of communal representation found in the Act was totally discarded from the original Constitution of India. The framers not only relied upon the Act but also sought best democratic and constitutional features from other successful constitutions of the world while making the Constitution of India. So, the Constitution is not the exact replica of the Government of India Act, 1935; rather the Act was banked on as one of its many sources.

Comments