Friday, February 11, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Reviewing the Constitution

THERE is substantial truth in Mr Hari Jaisingh’s observation (“Reviewing the Constitution: some significant questions”, February 4) that the solution to the distortion of the Indian polity does not lie in revising the Constitution but in reviving people’s faith in the system.

It can be said without fear of exaggeration that our Constitution with more than 80 amendments has, with the exception of the Emergency of 1975-77, operated successfully to promote the cherished goals of the founding fathers of the Republic for more than 50 years. A few facts may be mentioned to substantiate the argument that the Constitution has stood the test of time and that any move to alter the existing constitutional system is unnecessary and can lead to unexpected breakdowns and deadlocks in the political system. First, Indians have actively participated in the electoral process and the political consciousness of ordinary Indians has been simply transformed from political apathy to political activism. Second, the Indian voter has started “punishing” political parties and leaders for their acts of omission and commission.

  It is a fact that democratically elected representatives in India are successful in avoiding transparency and accountability to the voter, but the voter has also become alert and very demanding. The participatory democratic system of India has become fully operative and the hopes of the Constitution-makers have been substantially fulfilled because the democratically elected representatives have started fearing the punishment meted out by the voters.

There are two things in respect of which I am of the view that an amendment is required in the Constitution. One is related to the blatant misuse of Article 356 for the imposition of President’s rule in the states and the other to the devolution of more financial powers to the states.

The Constitution is a living document and legislative amendments and judicial pronouncements have facilitated its adaptive capabilities to respond to the fast changing social needs. Instead of complaining against the provisions of the Constitution, the political class should concentrate on electoral reforms and on cleansing politics of the evil of corruption and criminalisation to which the author draws pointed attention.


UNAVOIDABLE: Our Constitution certainly needs a review. Only those who are malevolent or who envy the ruling party oppose the review idea. The review is inescapable otherwise there will be no end to maladministration and associated evils.

Ambala Cantt

Indefensible: Well, to my mind, the article seems notable not so much for the pertinent suggestions adumbrated therein as for the “sound and fury” it makes over the matter. In fact, a brave attempt on the part of the writer to defend the indefensible — the appointment of a commission for “constitutional review”.

I find it hard to swallow the observation that some of the vital (constitutional) provisions have failed the nation, resulting in functional distortions, corruption, hypocrisy and callous attitudes. The categorical observation virtually bails out the offending party — the powers that be. To my mind, it is the ruling elite — who happen to be “underlings” — who have “failed” the Constitution and thus betrayed the nation.

And, finally, the question of questions: Is the Union Cabinet government competent to appoint a commission for “constitutional review” in the absence of Parliament’s mandate? Indeed, isn’t the government’s action in the matter hasty and ultra vires?

Ambota (Una)

In tune with the times: The present Constitution has provided no solution for arresting the disorderly behaviour of our elected representatives in Parliament and the state legislatures. Mr Hari Jaisingh aptly asserts: “Rowdy scenes, physical assaults and grossly indecent behaviour have eroded the confidence of the educated in the prevailing scheme of things.”

The live telecast of debates and question hours in these august Houses, quite often, seems a drama full of sound and fury — signifying nothing significant.

A huge lot of public money goes waste in the din of representatives. The existing provisions in the Constitution have failed to bridle defections in politics. A good number of alleged “criminal elements” have managed to find place in the legislatures and Parliament. The law of the land needs to be made more stringent to restrain corruption in politics and high places. Thus a thorough review of the Constitution is in tune with the times.

Bijhari (Hamirpur)

COMPLICATED PROCESS: Reviewing the Constitution is a complicated process involving complicated mental gymnastics. It is equally true that only those who have mastered this theory can anticipate and thwart the moves of those who use it as a guide to action.

There have been a lot of amendments previously in our Constitution. But we should never let ourselves believe that the present Constitution is flawless.

Through a national debate sensible and conscientious people will be able to suggest policies which will cause evil methods to fail. There is little doubt that the vital provisions which failed the nation at any stage or put a premium on fraud and dishonesty are now unacceptable to people. But the repugnance they are showing is largely at an emotional stage. It has not yet given birth to concrete policies, with force behind them, capable of so frustrating the evil methods that these will be abandoned was inexpedient.


Subverting the course of law

The burning to death of three students in Chennai on February 2 by insane protesters was too poignant to be expressed in words. What was the fault of these innocent girls if the judge sentenced Ms Jayalalitha to one year’s rigorous imprisonment after finding her guilty of corruption? Is it not an ugly attempt to subvert the course of law?

Will it brighten the image of the leader for whose sake they resorted to such madness? Is it not incumbent on the part of the AIADMK to condemn it in the strongest terms?

Violence is the very negation of the democratic process sustained by the agencies of law. We must generate a powerful climate against such mob frenzy so that democracy may survive in India. Let us gush “water” on the “fire” of these misguided elements.




Significance of calendars

The articles by Mr Kharak Singh and Mr Gurdip Singh Grewal that appeared in The Tribune of 20.1.2000 on the Nanakshahi calendar were quite informative.

I would like to submit that the Bhrigu Sanghita — which is one of the oldest granths of Hindu mythology and which recognises nine “grahas” (Sun, etc), seven days (Sunday, etc), 12 lunar months, (Chaitra, etc) with 15 “tithis” of Shukla/Krishna Paksh each month and 12 solar months based on Sankranti (also classified as “lagans” and “rashis” with the same names) — mentions the birthday of Guru Nanak Devji on Kartika Purnima, and the Mesh Sankranti day is the first day of the Solar Samvatsar, which is also the Baisakhi day.

Mr P.D. Shastri in these columns had earlier mentioned that the Indian year consists of 365.256 days while the western year has 365.242 days, a difference of 0.014 per year. When Baisakhi is to be on the same day of Mesh Sankranti, then there is no escape from its shifting by one day in 70 years or 1.4 days in 100 years. For the past many years Baisakhi has been observed on April 14 every fourth year, and a day will come when it will fall only on April 14 due to the differences of calculation in various calendars based on different theories.

Festivals have their own significance in the life of those who observe them traditionally.

N.R. GOEL, IAS (retd)


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