Social Scientist. v 3, no. 32 (March 1975) p. 54.


Graphics file for this page
WTES

Class Character of the Indian Constitution

A study of the Constitution of India is an eye-opener, allaying any doubt about its class character and helping to identify the ruling class which brought it into being.

Broadly, but only in a formal sense, world constitutions may be classified into two types: the written and the unwritten. It was with the entry of the bourgeoisie into the corridors of power that they began to frame constitutions and put them down in black and white.1 The laws of the land, including constitutional law, pertain to a society's superstructure: the legal system is a pale reflection of society itself. The superstructure derives its traits from the economic base, namely ownership of the means of production and relations of production.

The base and superstructure are always in a process of dialectical interaction: a written constitution mirrors this process. For example, "as one ruling class is displaced by another there is a change of constitutions5''2 which represents a radical transformation in economy and polity. A change of the basic law in itself, however, does not mean the emergence of a new ruling class: between 1783 and 1949 the French Republic had fourteen consitutions but it was one class, the bourgeoisie, which was entrenched in power throughout this period.

Even while the same class continues to hold the reins of power, shifts in the balance of forces find expression in new constitutions or in amendments to the old. There are, however, limitations to the high-fidelity of this kind of transmission. Constitutions are incapable of faithfully representing social realities because of their formalistic and sometimes pious and fictitious professions and legalistic jargon. At best they may reflect a part of the reality at the time of drafting or enactment. With the passage of time changes take place and constitutions fail either to register or keep pace with them. The impediments to constitutional changes are highlighted by the built-in rigidity such as the requirement of a two-thirds or three-fourths majority for making the slightest alteration in the written word. It is when legal relations established by the constitution become outdated and no amendments can be carried out to correct anomalies, that the system is locked in an impasse. This is



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page