Dr Subhash Kashyap has been a former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha and an avid observer of legislative affairs. Abid Shah spoke to him as deliberations in Parliament, beginning from November 26th, to mark the Constitution Day on the 125th birth anniversary of one of its main architects Dr BR Ambedkar somehow missed the solemnity that the occasion warranted. Excerpts:
How do you view the recent observance of Constitution Day?
There is hardly anything new about observing Constitution Day. For past several years it was being observed as Law Day by lawyers of Supreme Court and High Courts in State Capitals.
Yet, Government went a step forward by not only observing it as Constitution Day but also holding a two-day long debate in Parliament to mark this.
How is this going to help?
One can hope this makes a beginning towards gaining constitutional literacy because there is a general lack of knowledge about Constitution and its provisions. This is so despite the fact that Article 51-A of the Constitution enjoins upon every citizen to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions created and nurtured by it. So the Government deserves to be complimented for observing this. One hopes that it helps in making people aware about Constitution and it does not end up becoming a mere ritual.
How is it that the NDA Government decided to mark November 26 as Constitution Day when in its earlier incarnation under Atal Behari Vajpayee there was a committee to review the Constitution? Isn’t there some contradiction?
It was a commission not the committee. In the year 2000 a National Commission for the Review of the Working of the Constitution was formed. I was a member. The commission submitted its recommendations to the President in 2002. Strangely, some of its recommendations were implemented after the NDA Government was replaced by that of the UPA led by Congress. The recommendations included right to education and employment guarantee which came through separate enactments later. The commission had also recommended things like limiting the size of Council of Ministers both at the Centre and the States since these were tending to be oversized and bloated in some cases.
What about the row both inside Parliament and outside it over use of terms like secularism and socialist in the Constitution from a later stage through an amendment?
This is unnecessary and irrelevant. India was secular even before this word was not included in the Preamble of the Constitution through 42nd amendment. And the term Panth Nirpekshata or State’s neutrality vis-a-vis faiths and their rites is the part of the original Hindi version of the Constitution since it does not have a term like Dharma Nirpekshta or secularism as such. This is so since the time Congress was in power. Political misuse of religion, caste and secularism is behind the row.
Moreover, the term socialist has become almost redundant since 1991 and none of the Government policies made ever since can be called to be socialist. This is despite the fact that the Supreme Court in Keshvanand Bharati case as also in a few other cases has ruled that the Preamble reflects the basic features of the Constitution which cannot be changed.