A Look Into the Legal and Constitutional History in India

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India has a long legal and constitutional history, with a diverse and complex legal system that has evolved. The legal environment in India has changed dramatically, from the ancient Hindu legal system of the Manusmriti to the British colonial system to the present Indian constitution.

The formation of the British colonial legal system was one of the most significant events in Indian legal history. With the advent of English common law and the construction of British Indian courts during British rule, India’s legal system underwent substantial modifications.

After India acquired independence in 1947, the Indian legal system evolved into a blend of Indian and British legal systems. The Indian constitution, which went into force in 1950, significantly cemented India’s legal structure, laying a solid foundation for the preservation of individual rights and liberties.

Early History and Governmental Systems of India

Indian law and administration have a rich and diversified history that dates back thousands of years. The country was divided into provinces in ancient times, each administered by a king or governor and a council of ministers. This hierarchical system was akin to that of modern civilizations like Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Rome.

From the fourth century BCE to the first century CE, kings strove to unite the subcontinent under a single authority. This was India’s first serious attempt at nation-building, with rules enacted to manage trade and commerce between numerous empires and states.

However, it wasn’t until 1947, when India gained independence from British rule, that the country began to move toward actual democracy. After centuries of colonization by various foreign powers, India finally had the opportunity to establish its democratic system free of outside interference.

The Making of the Indian Constitution

The Indian Constitution is a living constitution that represents the progress and aspirations of the country over time. It has lasted and evolved for more than 70 years, proving not just its adaptability but also the people’s devotion to democracy.

The process of establishing the present Constitution of India began over two years earlier, in December 1946, and it was finally accepted on January 26, 1950. The Indian Constitution was ratified by 284 members of the Constituent Assembly in total. The paper was still being worked on when the Assembly officially ended its deliberations on November 26, 1949. Every member of the Assembly received a personally signed copy as a keepsake of that particular day. The Assembly finally adopted the Constitution on January 26, 1950, following months of discussion and deliberation on every article while considering more than 600 existing laws across India.

The Indian Constitution has undergone numerous revisions since then to reflect shifting social and economic conditions. Its amendment procedure is lengthy and complicated; to be approved by two-thirds of the state legislatures or assemblies, an amendment must first be approved by both houses of Parliament with a two-thirds majority. However, in the end, this guarantees that any modifications to India’s fundamental constitution are in keeping with both its historical history and long-term goals of wealth and freedom for all of its residents.

Significant Contributions to the Indian Constitutional Framework

The Indian Constitution draws from historic Indian traditions and influences in addition to serving as the cornerstone of contemporary democracy. The Government of India Act of 1935 and the Indian Independence Act of 1947, as well as the writings of other British constitutionalists, thinkers, and philosophers, had a significant influence on the creation of the Indian constitution.

The following have made significant contributions to the Indian Constitutional framework:

  • A federal structure of government: This guarantees that choices are balanced between the federal government and the states.
  • Judicial review: This ensures that any legislation passed by the legislature is compatible with constitutionally protected rights.
  • The directive principles of state policy: They provide direction in ensuring economic and social fairness in residents’ daily lives.
  • Fundamental duties: These responsibilities reflect our common responsibility to safeguard our rights to life, liberty, equality, and fraternity.

India ended up being one of the most progressive nations in Asia when it comes to advancing democracy and human rights thanks to this blend of tradition and modernity.

Major Amendments in the Indian Constitution

Since it was adopted in 1950, the Indian Constitution has experienced a great deal of change. On October 14th, 2021, India’s Constitution will have undergone 105 changes. Let’s examine some of the most significant changes to date in more detail.

  • Fourth Amendment Act, 1955
    • New Acts that were added to the Indian Constitution’s Ninth Schedule as a result of this modification were also listed. The laws included in this schedule are exempt from judicial scrutiny by Article 13. (2). Additionally, this amendment increased the authority of state governments to enact laws on specific subjects while extending protection to several other Acts that were already listed in the Ninth Schedule.

  • Seventy-second Amendment Act, 1992
    • When the idea of “panchayati raj” was introduced in India, which established local self-governance through democratically elected councils known as Panchayats at various village and district levels, this amendment was passed. With the help of this legislation, local governments now have more authority over resources like taxes and land.

  • Ninety-fourth Amendment Act, 2006
    • This amendment makes it necessary for all states to reserve one-third of their seats for women in local councils and village panchayats to guarantee equal representation for women in governmental bodies. Guaranteeing equal chances for both men and women in politics, was a significant turning point for gender equality in India.

Last but not least, a simple majority of states must approve a constitutional amendment measure for it to become law. (at least 15 states). This makes sure that all of India must agree before any modifications to the fundamental framework of the Indian Constitution are made.

How the Indian Constitution Changed India’s Legal Structure?

The country India’s Constitution, which was adopted on January 26, 1950, is its highest law. It establishes the foundation for defining core political principles, as well as the fundamental rights, guiding principles, and obligations of citizens. It also outlines the structure, operations, and responsibilities of governmental institutions. An important turning point in the nation’s legal history was reached with the passage of the Indian Constitution.

The Indian Constitution altered India’s legal system in the following ways:

  • Independent Judiciary: An independent judiciary with the ability to conduct judicial reviews was established by the Indian Constitution. To uphold citizen rights and interpret the Constitution, the Supreme Court and High Courts were established. To prevent the executive and legislative branches from going beyond their constitutional authority, the judiciary acts as a check on their authority.

  • Fundamental Rights: The right to equality, the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom of religion, and the right to life and liberty are among the fundamental rights that are guaranteed to all Indian citizens under the Constitution. These rights make sure that everyone has access to the same chances and advantages regardless of their background and that people are shielded from the state’s arbitrary actions.

  • Directive Principles of State Policy: The Constitution also establishes Directive Principles of State Policy, which have no legal standing but direct the government’s formulation of public policy. These values include encouraging social welfare, offering healthcare and education, and assuring environmental protection. They offer the government a road plan for establishing a more just society.

India’s legal system has been significantly shaped by the Indian Constitution, which also ensures that the nation follows the ideals of democracy, equality, and justice.

Understanding India’s Constitutional Jurisprudence

The relationship between the state, its citizens, and other legal bodies are governed by an ever-evolving collection of rules and concepts known as Indian constitutional law. Based on a blend of Western principles and a distinctive Hindu ethos, it aims to strike a balance between the interests of society and the individual.

The Supreme Court of India expanded the scope of the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution to encompass several positive rights in the Maneka Gandhi case of 1978 as an illustration of this balancing effort. This ruling had a great influence on subsequent law and represented the creation of new rights as components of fundamental rights.

The Supreme Court has also continued to interpret these rights in various ways to broaden their scope beyond its original intent. For example, in 2018, it proclaimed privacy to be an inherent feature of Article 21, substantially increasing citizens’ legal protections under India’s Constitution.

Recent Changes to the Indian Constitution

Since its promulgation in 1950, the Indian Constitution has grown and expanded. The amendments ranged from changing current provisions to creating new ones. Some of the more prominent changes in recent years have been:

  • Union List Expansion
    • The Union List of authorities has risen since the Seventh Amendment of 1956, making it simpler for the Union Government to implement laws. This has reduced friction between state and federal governments, resulting in a more cohesive approach to governing.
  • Right to Education
    • The 86th Amendment established education as a fundamental right for children aged six to fourteen. It also established a legislative framework to ensure that both the federal and state governments appropriately enforce this right.
  • Right to Information
    • As part of their fundamental rights, citizens were granted access to government-held information in the 93rd Amendment. The Indian Constitution devotes an entire chapter to explaining how citizens can obtain information from public authorities through RTI filing procedures.

By enacting these historic revisions, India is guaranteeing that future generations benefit from its progress through its constitutional text, the Indian Constitution.

The Indian constitution, with its modifications and amendments to amendments, is a witness to the country’s dedication to a peaceful and successful future. With each new amendment, we can reflect on our history and culture while adjusting to the ever-changing needs of our modern society. India’s legal and constitutional history serves as a reminder of our achievements as well as our commitment to continue to serve our nation’s people with fairness and inclusivity.