India is the largest functioning democracy in the world, not only by virtue of its size, but also because of its pluralistic character and democratic values and spirit which have stood the test of time. Democratic traditions and tenets have remained an integral part of the glorious legacy of Indian civilization. The virtues of equality, tolerance, peaceful coexistence and democratic values have always been a way of life and an intrinsic part of our society for centuries. In fact, democracy is deeply rooted in our socio-political conscience. That is why, even when our country witnessed changes in the governance system in the course of time, democratic ethos that has guided our society continued to remain strong.
Our freedom struggle was a mass movement based on the doctrines of Truth and Non-violence. Countless freedom fighters dreamed of a free and prosperous India and an inclusive society based on social and economic justice. Our freedom owes a lot to their hardships and sacrifices. After a long drawn struggle, we gained independence and that collective spirit guided us during the post-independence era. Several other nations in the world also won their freedom, but our freedom struggle and independence have always been beacons of democratic governance to the world community.
Post-Independence, when our national heroes and leading luminaries framed the Constitution, they incorporated the cardinal values of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice in the Constitution. Given the size and diversity, it was an enormous task for the founding fathers of our Constitution to frame the sacred document which would guide the nation on the path of unity and prosperity while preserving its democratic framework. They had primarily three goals – safeguarding the unity and integrity of the nation; establishing the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity among the people and establishing the rule of law; and laying the groundwork for institutions focussed on paving the way for economic and social equality. With their prudence, wisdom, conviction and deep association with the people, our founding fathers were not only successful in drafting a modern and enlightened contract between the state and its citizens but bequeathed us a Constitution which while retaining an inviolable core, is at the same time flexible to adjust the requirements of changing times.
We, as a nation, have faced numerous challenges of diverse nature, but our Constitution has helped us surmount these challenges successfully. As an embodiment of people’s hopes and aspirations, our Constitution has been the guiding light for the nation over the years. It not only establishes the rule of law in the country, but also serves to distribute powers between the Union and the States, strengthen democratic Institutions and empower the most vulnerable and marginalised. The success of India’s Parliamentary democracy rests on the robust edifice and institutional framework that the Constitution of India has laid down. Twenty Sixth of November holds a special significance for us as a nation, as in 1949, this was the day on which our Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution running into Ninety thousand words.
In 2015, on the occasion of 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting Committee of Constitution, the Union Government declared 26 November to be observed as Samvidhan Divas or the Constitution Day.
The most distinctive feature of the Constitution of India is its timeless ideals teamed with a resilient framework. Our Constitution is not merely an intangible ideal, but a living document. The Indian Constitution has enabled us to establish social and economic democracy along with political democracy. It has been the most powerful instrument of social and economic change. Our Constitution has been responding to the hopes, aspirations and circumstances arising from time to time. In fact, it has been evolving with the course of time.
Our parliamentary democracy has grown from strength to strength in the last 72 years. As we look back at our journey spanning the seven decades, we feel proud for not only having upheld the Constitution, but also revitalized it and strengthened its democratic tenor. People have always been at the centre of our constitutional democratic polity and as such, our nation is seen as a shining example of a vibrant and pluralistic culture flourishing in an ever-evolving parliamentary system. Our governance structure is focused on directing our policies and programmes towards building an inclusive and prosperous State as envisaged in the preamble to the Constitution. It is this approach that has helped empower common people as confident citizens of a proud nation and no longer passive observers or mere ‘beneficiaries’.
It goes to the credit of our constitutional governance structure and the credibility that it enjoys that after each of the seventeen general elections and scores of elections in State Legislatures, transition of power from one party to another has always been smooth and seamless. Thus, each election has only served to further strengthen our democracy and reinforced people’s faith in our Constitution.
Our Constitution lays down the roadmap for the process of nation building, but it is up to us as citizens to decide the quantum and pace of that development. It is up to us to show our true commitment to our Constitutional values by contributing to the huge endeavors of governments to reach the benefits of social, economic and political development to those at the lowest rung of the society. Each of us will have to understand our Charter of Duties laid down in the Constitution. Our Constitution provides for a unique balance between Rights and Duties. After 75 years of Independence, it is time to reaffirm our commitment for our fundamental duties. If we discharge our responsibilities sincerely and diligently with commitment towards the attainment of national goals in consonance with the Constitutional mandate, our nation will be able to take rapid strides on the path of progress and our democratic polity will be further enriched.
As we are celebrating Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, it is time for every citizen to introspect how we can contribute to the process of nation building so that our nation can be a major player in the global economy with an inclusive and egalitarian society, as a responsible member of the comity of nations. I have no doubt that the Constitution of India will be our guide, friend and philosopher in this task.
Our Constitution is the sacred document and everyone should be fully committed to its ideals. The Constitution imposes a sacred duty upon all the organs of State to be sensitive to the hopes and aspirations of the common man as these organs have been envisaged to safeguard the interests of the people. For the smooth functioning of our parliamentary system, it is important for the three organs of the State – Judiciary, Legislature and Executive to work within the ambit of constitutional mandate without infringing on each others’ power and in close coordination with due respect for the independent functioning of each other.
On the sacrosanct occasion of Samvidhan Divas, let us recommit ourselves to the goals of our freedom movement and the ideals, dreams and visions of our Founding fathers and resolve to fulfill them.
The Author is Speaker, Lok Sabha