facebook.com/Outlookindia twitter.com/outlookindia digimag.outlookindia.com instagram.com/outlookindia youtube.com/user/OutlookMagazine

Articles Of A Nation’s Faith

Presents the Indian Constitution as not merely a cold legal treatise, but a living, breathing human document.
The Indian Constitution
By Madhav Khosla
Oxford University Press | Pages: 191 | Rs. 195

It’s difficult to imagine a book on constitutional matters being an emotional experience. But that is what Madhav Khosla’s The Indian Constitution is. In fact, reading it somehow brought to mind a conversation with an elderly uncle, who once described to me what it was like to be there on the evening of August 15, 1947, when he had tears of joy streaming down his face, as he joined the multitudes of hopeful, newly freed citizens on the streets. In that sense, the book is a small antidote for our cynical and depressing times.

In 1946, Khosla tells us, three hundred people came together from various parts of India, various sections of society and various ideological positions to form the Constituent Assembly and embark on an extraordinary human endeavour: the drafting of a constitution for our new-born nation. As Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the key players, noted at the time, “I tremble a little and feel overwhelmed by this mighty task”. And well he might. The assembly was perhaps one of the most diverse bodies of its kind in history until then, and its participants often disagreed vehemently on the very basic principles, yet they worked large-heartedly towards accommodation and consensus. Three years later they delivered one of the world’s great political texts: a document both magnificent in its vision and intricate in its detailing, and which seeks to reconcile the conflicting pulls of individual liberty and a strong state. Yet, when Dr Ambedkar presented it, as chairman of the drafting committee, he had the humility to say that the members had merely done the best they could, given their human limitations.

Advertisement

The book is essentially a guided tour of the Constitution for the average informed citizen, explaining its architecture and key themes. This is done over the course of four compact chapters: Separation of Powers, Federalism, Rights and Goals, and Changing the Constitution. Khosla touches thought-provokingly on the key themes, ranging from the doctrine of separation of powers, especially between Parliament and the judiciary, to the asymmetrical nature of the Constitution, urged on by the doctrine of inequality.

It obviously took a masterly grasp of the Constitution to come up with a must-read effort that is not simplistic, nor overly complex.

The book is admirable for two reasons. First, because it is so concise, yet lucid, covering what is probably the world’s longest constitution (approximately 400 articles and over a hundred amendments) in just about 175 pages. And second, because it passes the ‘Goldilocks Test’: it’s not so simplistic that it becomes a mere dummies’ guide, nor is it so complex that you need to be a lawyer to decode it. It is also admirable for the way it manages to present the Indian Constitution as not merely a cold legal treatise, but a living, breathing human document that defines us as a people and a nation.

It obviously took a masterly grasp of the Constitution on Khosla’s part to pull it all off so succinctly. He is a gifted and idealistic PhD scholar of political theory at Harvard, and his book is essential reading for all those who chatter about politics, whether at cocktail parties or on TV channels. But more than that, it should perhaps be compulsory reading for the occupants of a certain circular building on Delhi’s Parliament Street, if nothing else, to remind them politely of the towering idealism and vision of their predecessors.

READ MORE IN:
AUTHORS: Anvar Alikhan
PEOPLE: Madhav Khosla
PLACES: India
SECTION: Books
SUBSECTION: Reviews
OUTLOOK: 17 December, 2012
Download the Outlook ​Magazines App. Six magazines, wherever you go! Play Store and App Store

Post a Comment

You are not logged in, please Log in or Register
  • Daily Mail
THE LATEST ISSUE
CLICK IMAGE FOR CONTENTS
REVIEW
Reviews
A novel about the Emer­gency era, stating its horrors as if in a reportage
MAGAZINE July 28, 2016
Reviews
A feminist economist holds forth on ecology, agriculture, family, state
MAGAZINE July 28, 2016
Excerpts
An exclusive extract from Josy Joseph’s book on Dawood's hold over Indian business and the questionable rise of Jet Airways
MAGAZINE July 21, 2016
The Reviews
A satire on the way the fate wind blows in small towns with no hope.
MAGAZINE July 21, 2016
Review
A novel on the ravages of terrorism fails on account of insipidity
MAGAZINE July 21, 2016
read more>>>
OUTLOOK ON TWITTER
POLLS

The cricket icon is reported to have tried to curry favour with Defence Minister Parrikar for a friend's property adjoining defence land in Mussoorie. Parrikar is said to have declined to help. The recipient of India's top honour is also busy endorsing various products. Is India's legendary batsman insulting the Bharat Ratna, which was given to him after amending rules?

POLL STARTED ON: Jul 19, 2016
Quiz
Kashmir has been the scene for massive protests following the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani on July 8. “Non-lethal” pellet guns used against the protesters have blinded many and 45-odd people have died in the face-off against security forces. The scale of protests have led to frayed tempers in the mainland with many resorting to high-voltage jingoism. But how well do you know Kashmir? Find out, take this quiz.
QUIZ STARTED ON: Jul 25, 2016
Advertisement