A cartoon from HT published on 24 January showing Chairman of the Drafting Committee (and later Law Minister) BR Ambedkar holding an infant Republic of India while Mother India lays in bed exhausted from labour. Around him stand Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Nehru, looking anxiously. Image source: Link
A constitution is a political document, framing the aspirations of a people. Far from being a record of the already-achieved, it is effectively a charter of aims and desires, of what a nation strives to be. Jawaharlal Nehru famously said at the dawn of Independence: ‘We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.’ The constitution of India was meant as the blueprint for that house of freedom, as reflected in its Preamble. The men and women who shouldered the responsibility to shape the destiny of this new-born nation strove to shun narrowness of thought and ideas, to vacate extreme positions and to chart a course through discussion, debate, cooperation, compromise and tolerance. At every point, interlocutors were treated in good faith and the effort was to exercise good judgment and to bring everyone on board. These are valuable lessons in themselves for us to learn and to teach our students – future leaders and decision-makers. When they are part of the core cluster of forms of political association that are the inheritance of India’s project of constitution-making, it is even more important for us to understand and engage with them. And to engage with, moreover, the document that these vital political conventions gave rise to — the Indian constitution.
For India to flourish as a democracy, it is essential for constitutional values to extend throughout society. Babasaheb Ambedkar was particularly concerned with the question of translating political freedoms and promises into social ones. Thus, it is necessary for each one of us to continually engage with our constitution and to internalize its values, what jurists have often spoken of as ‘constitutional morality’. In keeping with these objectives, from 2016 to 2018, I had organized a series of talks on the Indian Constitution by some of India’s most eminent jurists, particularly for our students, but also for the whole IITB community. When the Alumni Association came up with the idea of devoting an issue of Fundamatics to the Constitution and putting the issue together with abridged versions of these talks, I was delighted to be invited to guest edit it. Five talks have been chosen for this issue. They reflect both general constitutional questions as well as specific concerns – an overview of constitutional issues, gender justice, constitutionality and the death penalty, critical judgments on fundamental and human rights and challenges posed to constitutional freedoms by new technologies.
I trust you will find the articles both thought-provoking and enjoyable.