Why India has a mammoth size constitution?

Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any sovereign state in the world, and has continued to grow till date. Originally, it had 395 articles divided into 22 parts and eight schedules. The numbering still remains the same but with amendments; either old articles or their parts are repealed or additional articles with suffix A, B, C etc. are added. For example, Right to Education added Article 21-A in the constitution. Currently, it has 25 parts, 12 Schedules, around 450 articles including sub-articles. It has been amended for 101 times till date.

Questions to Analyze

  • What were the various reasons that India settled for a mammoth size constitution?
  • United States is thrice in size in area in comparison to India and has 50 states in comparison to 29 states in India. Still, US has a small constitution. How can we justify this by keeping both the countries in focus?
  • To what extent India’s demography and social diversity is responsible for mammoth size Constitution?
What were the various reasons that India settled for a mammoth size constitution?

There are various factors responsible for the long size of the constitution. Firstly, the main input was Government of India Act 1935; and it was reproduced almost in entirety to provide administrative detail. Secondly, it was necessary to make provisions for peculiar problems of India like scheduled castes, Scheduled Tribes and backward regions. Thirdly, provisions were made for elaborate centre-state relations in all aspects of their administrative and other activities. This was very much necessary because these provisions were reverse of what were provided in GOI Act 1935 {GOI Act had provided for a federation with weak centre}. Fourthly, the size of the constitution became bulky, as provisions regarding the state administration were also included. Further, a detail list of individual rights, directive principles of state policy and the details of administration procedure were laid down to make the Constitution clear and unambiguous for the ordinary citizen. Thus, the Constitution of India became an exhaustive and lengthy one.

United States is thrice in size in area in comparison to India and has 50 states in comparison to 29 states in India. Still, US has a small constitution. How can we justify this by keeping both the countries in focus?

There are several reasons for this. Firstly, both constitutions were created in different era. The US constitution dates 1787 and at that time, this was first written constitution of the world. This implies that there was a lack of historical precedents and so the framers kept it bare minimum. Thus, US came up with a short and simple constitution.  Secondly, United States has a different federal structure. They had a Federal Constitution with just 7 articles. However, every state in US has its own constitution and these state constitutions are much elaborative indeed. For example, the Constitution of Alabama is around three times longer than India’s. Thirdly, United States has a largely homogenous population, so large fraction of population could be satisfied with a small constitution on federal level. Any small variance had to be dealt by the federal units.

Now, we focus on India. Firstly, Indian constitution was framed in a time when there were so many sources available from around the world, and our founding fathers did not hesitate to include the best practices from them. Secondly, India has a single constitution for both states and centre and it has tried its best to accommodate the huge diversity, social, economic and geographical inequalities. Thirdly, there was a need to draft a flexible constitution, not a rigid one. It was the flexibility of our constitution which has kept us united for last seven decades and helped India to become a mature democracy. Lastly, the major source document was GOI Act 1935, which itself was very bulky.  In order to avoid conflicts between the Union and States and among the States and to maintain federal equilibrium with a unitary bias, the framers inculcated exhaustive legislative, administrative provisions in the Constitution.

To what extent India’s demography and social diversity is responsible for mammoth size Constitution?

India’s demography and social diversity has a big role for such a lengthy constitution. India is country with second largest population {4 times of US}. More is the population, more difficult is to govern it. Second, extra-ordinary diversity does not allow for similar rules applicable for all sections of society. Due to this, separate provisions had to be made for socially deprived people, regionally undeveloped regions, tribal areas etc. Some historical reasons led to inclusion of temporary, transient provisions such as separate special articles for J&K. To meet the typical regional problems and demands in certain States like Nagaland, Assam, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Sikkim, Mizoram etc. special provisions have been inserted in the Constitution.

The country was left to deal on its own in the war torn world and had to deal with a lots of problems such as caste system, untouchability, sati, dowry, child marriage, bonded labour, Zamindari system etc. Further, there was a need to accommodate various beliefs and rituals. This was the reason that abolition of untouchability, criminalization of bonded/ child labour, potable alcohol, cow slaughter etc. got place in constitution.

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