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Why does a democratic country need a Constitution?
The basic principle that a democratic country abides by is freedom. However, granting it in absolute terms may lead to unjust misuse of this fundamental right. Hence, a set of rules for the same is necessary. The Constitution of a country is this very set of rules and principles meant to avoid arbitration of rights.
The Constitution of a democratic country follows four basic guidelines: firstly, it upholds the ideals of its representative country; defining the type of society we live in. Secondly, it defines the nature of the country’s political system which runs the nation; for example, Nepal was a monarchy until 2006 when the people’s movement finally bore fruit and a new Constitution established Nepal as a democracy. Thirdly, the Constitution works as a safeguard against tyrannical use of power by dominant groups against minorities. Hence, in India, which is a melting pot of several cultures and religions, the Constitution ensures that the majority i.e., the Hindus do not use their status to overwhelm the minorities predominantly comprising Muslims and Christians. Lastly, the Constitution protects us from ourselves in ascertaining that our whims cannot change its basic structure i.e., provisions that guarantee citizens’ rights cannot be easily overthrown.
Thus, a democratic nation needs a Constitution to uphold its rights of freedom and equality.
Look at the wordings of the two documents given below. The first column is from the 1990 Nepal Constitution. The second column is from the more recent interim Constitution of Nepal.
|1990 Constitution of NepalPart 7: Executive||2007 Interim ConstitutionPart 5: Executive|
|Article 35: Executive Power: The executive power of the Kingdom of Nepal shall be vested in His Majesty and the Council of Ministers.||Article 37: Executive Power: the executive power of Nepal shall be vested in the council of Ministers.|
What is the difference in who exercises ‘Executive Power’ in the above two Constitutions of Nepal? Keeping this in mind, why do you think Nepal needs a new Constitution today?
The difference in who exercises “Executive Power” in the given two Constitutions of Nepal is that in the 1990 Constitution, this power was vested in the King and his Council of Ministers, while in the 2007 Interim Constitution of Nepal, “Executive Power” changed hands to being vested only in the Council of Ministers, thereby making Nepal a democracy from being a monarchy.
Nepal needs a new Constitution today because it is no longer a monarchy. The older Constitution vested power in the King, but when the country is now a democracy, a new Constitution is needed to reflect the “democratic” ideals of Nepal that the peoples’ movement desired and fought for. In order to achieve this, all its constitutive rules must be changed.
What would happen if there were no restrictions on the power of elected representatives?
If there were no restrictions on the power of elected representatives, then the chances of power being used unfairly would be higher. It is commonly said that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. In keeping with this saying, it is justifiable that elected representatives of the people of a country must not be granted absolute power because they will have the option of misusing it. To keep a check, the Indian Constitution has segregated power under “Separation of Powers” into three segments: the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. Each of these organs serves as a check on the other, maintaining a healthy balance of power between the three.
In each of the following situations, identify the minority. Write one reason why you think it is important to respect the views of the minority in each of these situations.
(a) In a school with 30 teachers, 20 of them are male.
(b) In a city, 5 per cent of the population are Buddhists.
(c) In a factory mess for all employees, 80 per cent are vegetarians.
(d) In a class of 50 students, 40 belong to more well-off families.
(a) Minority: 10 female teachers. Our society is pre-dominantly patriarchal, meaning male-dominated. The 10 female teachers must be allowed space to voice their opinion so that their efforts at teaching are not hindered by their minority status.
(b) Minority: Buddhist population. Every culture has its own unique traditions and principles. The Buddhist population in a city must not be forced to follow the dominant religion of that city but must be respected for its exclusiveness.
(c) Minority: 20% non-vegetarians. The factory mess must make provisions for meat for non-vegetarian workers since it is an integral part of their diet and must not be avoided just because they are a minority.
(d) Minority: 10 students not belonging to well-off families. This is one reason why most schools make it compulsory for students to wear uniforms, because of which the class distinctions amongst children are avoided. The well-off students should be warned against harassing their poorer counterparts.
The column on the left lists some of the key features of the Indian Constitution. In the other column write two sentences, in your own words, on why you think this feature is important:
|FederalismSeparation of Powers|
Parliamentary Form of Government
1. Federalism: It ensures national unity and at the same time allows individual progress. A federal government allows the Centre to hold supreme power but its Constituent States have some power as well.
2. Separation of Powers: This serves two purposes: firstly, tyrannical use of power is avoided since it does not vest power in any single authority. Secondly, the 3 organs of power also work as a check on each other, thereby maintaining a good balance.
3. Fundamental Rights: These are important because they conform to a humane society. They also protect citizens against arbitrary and absolute use of power by the State.
4. Parliamentary Form of Government: It upholds universal adult franchise. This entails the fact that the people of a country play a direct role in electing their representatives to run the state as well as the nation.