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E-Mail this column to a friend 'Constitutional review a reality finally -- Christ notwithstanding!'

Arvind Lavakare


It is unbelievable but true. On February 21 an e-mail from one Dave Chupp of "Gospel For Asia" was sent to literally hundreds of international addresses appealing for a daily prayer "for God to intervene" so that "the President of India will not allow the Constitution (of India) to change… will not allow the lifting of the ban from the Hindu RSS group, and also that he will not approve the religious worship bill of UP."

The appeal believing that "He" (the President of India) "has the right to throw out all of these things" wanted each recipient of the e-mail appeal to send a letter of concern to the President (address and fax numbers provided) and get friends and pastors alike too to send that kind of letter. The appeal was issued with the prayer that "the door of/for the gospel will remain open… to share the love of Christ with the wonderful people of India."

With K R Narayanan not being Jesus Christ but merely a titular head of the Union of India, the Constitution Review Commission has finally got down to work. And what he can do with the other two issues of the RSS ban and the UP place of worship Bill will depend on the law of the land that neither he nor He can change with a miracle performed with or without some drops of holy water.

That the believers of the gospel are petrified by a BJP-led review of the Constitution is as understandable as a cat burglar fearing the moonlight. What has been beyond comprehension is the non-application of mind by many, including our westernised media, in fiercely opposing a Constitutional review. Evidence of this lay in the recent spate of editorial comments labelling the proposed review with choice innuendoes and insinuations that cast motives on the BJP and its "hidden agenda."

Forgotten while penning those pejorative turn of phrases was the preliminary exercise to examine whether a Constitutional review was in the past considered essential by men of eminence (including politicians) well after the Swaran Singh Committee's dictatorial machinations, and quite some time before the BJP came anywhere near the seat of power in Delhi.

If that professional homework had been done, our editorial community and gospel guardians would have discovered the following views printed in black and white in 1992 -- all in one book titled Reforming The Constitution (UBS Publishers Distributors Ltd)

'The Constitution has failed to fulfill the aspirations of the founding fathers. Three successive holders of the highest of the President have suggested a review of the Constitution. What is needed is a total review of the Constitution by a new Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise'
-- S P Malavia, former Union Cabinet minister.

'A second look at the Constitution is called for. In the context of the moral climate, fundamental remedies are needed. A new Constituent Assembly elected by the present Parliament and State Legislatures may be convened. The exercise of a re-look at the Constitution may give to the new generation a much needed sense of participation and the thrill of democracy lost in the cynical exercise of power.'
-- K Brahmananda Reddy, former governor and Union Cabinet minister

'What is needed is a wide-ranging re-appraisal of the entire situation in this country, and a study in depth of what changes need to be made in the Constitution to overcome the difficulties that we are facing and thus strengthen the foundations and the future of democracy in India. This could be likened to mid-course corrections in a flight schedule where the destination remains the same but adjustments have to be made in the light of the prevailing weather conditions.'
-- Dr Karan Singh, former prince and Union Cabinet minister

'It is high time that, having regard to the lack of character and calibre in the overwhelming majority of our politicians, we should be thinking of making some badly needed changes in our Constitutional law. …passing a vote of no-confidence in the government should be made dependent on the choosing of the next prime minister by the House… for a minority of ministers, it should not be necessary to be from among members of Parliament… every state should send two representatives to Lok Sabha from the universities and professional bodies.'
-- Nani A Palkhivala, distinguished jurist and Constitutional authority

'We do need Constitutional reforms and the right conduct to improve the present ugly situation. A Constitutional Reforms Commission of 15 members of proven merit and integrity should be appointed. A great deal of obsolete parts of the Constitution can be deleted and it needs to be abridged considerably. Preamble should be restored to its 1950 shape. Directive Principles need implementation. President's discretion and position of governors need defining. The Union and the states both should be strong.'
-- P G Mavalankar, former member of Parliament

'The present Constitution has proved to be inadequate and impractical. Time has come for a serious review. Power to introduce President's Rule in the states needs to be reduced. Governors should be appointed on merit and not on political considerations. Also, they should not be subject to removal at the will of the Centre. Some minimum qualifications and qualities should be prescribed for the legislators. It should not be necessary to select ministers only from among the members of the legislature. Wholesale change of the system may not be necessary, but major amendments are called for.'
-- Dharma Vira, ICS (Retd), former Cabinet secretary and governor

'Experience of the working of the Constitution has revealed many grave shortcomings that call for reforms. One of the much abused provisions which must be removed is Article 356 because, if imaginatively interpreted and wisely exercised, Articles 355 and 365 are more than adequate to safeguard state administration from being derailed or contra-constitutionally run. Similarly, Articles 200 and 110 providing for the governor's, President's assent to Bills are not necessary; the Speaker's certification of the Bill as passed should be enough.'
-- V R Krishna Iyer, distinguished jurist and retired Supreme Court judge

'The Directive Principles of free and compulsory education for all up to the age of 14 has been neglected most shamefully. The directive on public health has been similarly ignored. The result has been phenomenal population growth. Little has been done to bring about real Panchayati Raj as the MLAs and others are afraid of power and patronage slipping from their hands. Decentralisation of power and major structural changes are essential if the term fraternity has to be respected. An optional uniform civil code will win ever-increasing adherents with the spread of education.'
-- B G Verghese, distinguished journalist

To save the nation and revive faith in democratic institutions, a new constitutional deal is called for. Functions of the permanent organs of the government have to be redefined. There should be devolution of power down to the lowest local levels. Development planning must be decentralised. Desirability of the presidential system and of elected governors for fixed terms should be examined. Also there should be provision for recall of legislators. For building a more viable federation and better-administered units, India could be divided into 40-50 states.'
-- Hari Jaisingh, journalist and author

After reading the above views, journalistic commentators, Congressmen, Communists and Christian missionaries should accept the truth, gospel or otherwise, that the Constitution of India does need a review.

If, however, there still exist some doubting Thomases like the nation's President who wonder whether it is the Constitution that has failed the people or vice versa, let them note what one rare columnist wrote the other day. He likened the President's argument to the position adopted by the National Rifle League of the USA, which held that it is not guns that kill people, but people that kill people. And he added, "We do not need a Constitution that will work only when leaders are good and law abiding." Amen.

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