Indian Constitution, Socialism and Nehruvian Myths

SHRADHA SINGH –

Dr. Rajagopalan who holds a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University with research interests in economic analysis of legal and political institutions has to her credit numerous articles and research papers published globally on various topics which include the Indian Constitution and the Indian Economy, to name a few.

On Incompatibility of Socialism and the Indian Constitution

Explaining why there is no rule of law in the country:

Initially we did have rule of law, which was strongly linked to the constitution. The Constitution had started out as a really great document.

However, there are two myths have gained currency in the present times.

  • Myth #1 –The prevailing view in literature is that Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister was a great constitutionalist who upheld it and Indira Gandhi was the reason for the constitutional breakdown in India.
  • Myth #2– Socialism and Constitutionalism are so interdependent that they are almost synonymous. There is a lack of political will among the politicians to uphold the great principles.

Challenging the prevalent view on compatibility of Socialism and Constitutionalism:

Socialism and Constitutionalism are incompatible and contradictory to one another –this was Dr. Rajagopalan’s opinion. She explained it further with her understanding of the socialist calculation problem related to planning, where rational economic calculation is not possible and planners require unlimited discretion, compared to which Constitutionalism advocates no discretion. She illustrated her views on the evident incompatibility with several other examples as well.

On the constitution being vigorously amended during the Nehru years:

To give a law constitutional validity, Nehru’s government decided to amend the constitution as within the first five year plan. Using the Planning Commission of India Nehru dismantled the zamindari system. Dismantling the zamindari system was such a pet project for Nehru that extensive amendment was undertaken during the first five year plan itself.

Almost every time the Parliament decided to amend the Constitution rather than abandon the legislations held unconstitutional by the judiciary. The result was that it retroactively or proactively made the legislations constitutional.

The belief that Nehru was a great constitutionalist who upheld it is false, as over the years several such amendments were carried out, with the 1st Amendment in 1950 and the 17th amendment in 1964, the day before Nehru died, making it his last swan- song.

On the Indira Gandhi years of Constitutional Amendments to suit her needs:

Having separated the Indira Gandhi years into the pre-Emergency and post-Emergency years, Dr. Rajagopalan explains that Indira Gandhi decided to take up socialism a few notches up and introduced the 10 point programme which attempted to nationalise and control all the means of production in the country.

Referring to a Golaknath case, in which the Supreme Court stated that Parliament cannot amend the fundamental rights of the constitution, Indira Gandhi, immediately set out “to amend the constitution” (the 24th Amendment), so that she could further make changes in the constitution.

Indira Gandhi recognised that controlling the credit system will allow her control over the means of production. Hence, through an overnight Ordinance, nationalisation of all the banks was announced. And to retroactively validate the ordinance, the 25th Amendment was passed.

On Emergency years:

The 9th schedule, which was the back door to put all kinds of laws related to only land reforms, was put to its most perverse use, immediately after declaring Emergency. Indira Gandhi amended the Representation of People’s Act and the Elections Act and put it in the 9th schedule, so that it cannot be challenged before an independent judiciary. Indira Gandhi was in full support of complete socialism having said earlier.

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