26th January, India’s Republic Day  

Many Indians remain largely unfamiliar with the anniversary that Indians celebrate on 26th January. For most Indians the day has lost its meaning and value. It has become just another day not to go to work or to school. While paying tribute to one of the most important dates on the Indian calendar I take this opportunity to explain the meaning and importance of 26th January, i.e. Republic Day.

The Indian Independence Act, 1947, provided that as from the 15th August, 1947 in place of ‘INDIA’ there would be set-up two independent Dominions to be known as India and Pakistan. The Constituent Assembly of each Dominion was to have unlimited power to frame and adopt any Constitution and to repeal any Act of British Parliament. The Constituent Assembly of India started the work of drafting a Constitution for India. It appointed various sub-committees. The salient principles of the proposed Constitution were outlined by the various sub-committees of the Assembly. After a general discussion of the reports of these sub-committees, the Constituent Assembly appointed a drafting committee on 29th August 1947. The drafting committee under the chairmanship of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar drafted the ‘Draft Constitution Of India’ which was published in February 1948. The Constituent Assembly met in November 1948 to consider the provisions of the draft, clause by clause. After several sessions the consideration of the clauses or the second reading was completed on 17th October 1949. The Constituent Assembly assembled again on 14th November 1949 for the third reading and finished it on 26th November 1949.On this day the Constitution received the signature of the President of the Constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and was declared passed.

Certain provisions relating to citizenship, elections, provisional Parliament etc. were given immediate effect i.e. from 26th November, 1949. The rest of the Constitution came into force on 26th January,1950 (and this date is referred to in the Constitution as ‘Date of its Commencement’) which day India became a Sovereign Republic with Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its first President.

The Constitution is made by the people of India through their representatives assembled in a Sovereign Constituent Assembly, which was competent to determine the political nature of the country in any manner it liked. The Constituent Assembly held its sessions in open. All its proceedings were published everyday and the press in India expressed its views freely. The draft Constitution was published and openly discussed. The words – ‘We, the people of India…, adopt enact  and give to ourselves this Constitution’ thus declare the ultimate sovereignty of the people  of India and that the Constitution rests on their authority. On and from 26th January 1950, when the Constitution came into force, the Crown of England ceased to have any legal or Constitutional authority over India.

Political freedom and civil liberty are the keystone of the Indian Constitution. Our Constitution is primarily shaped and moulded for the common man. The essential purpose of our Constitution is to ensure freedom of the individual and dignity of man, and to put basic human rights above the reach of the State and of politicians in power.

Our Constitution ensures that India remains a secular State. People belonging to different religious denominations who are all part of our vibrant pluralistic society, are guaranteed the freedom to practice their own religions. These rights under our Constitution are available even to those who are not citizens of India.

Our Constitution is not merely a political document, which provides the framework and institutions for democratic governance - our Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary. It provides a framework for the economic and social emancipation of society and particularly, the poor, the underprivileged and the downtrodden. Our Constitution has given us the framework for a strong nation, a Union of States, a nation of harmony between the Union and States and between the various institutions of our democratic polity. We can claim to have achieved significant success in the diverse and inter-connected spheres of democratic governance, our Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary.

Our Constitutional framework has also resulted in economic progress and the social emancipation of society. Effective representation is provided to the socially depressed groups in legislatures and steps are underway to ensure a strong representation for women. In recent years, we have provided a new impetus to our Panchayati Raj institutions. This has fostered the participation of the people at the grassroots level in our democratic processes in a very tangible and effective manner.

This anniversary provides an opportunity for every citizen of India to renew the pledge to work for the well-being of our people, for peace and harmony in our society  and indeed, the world.