When to amend the constitution?

We are ‘blessed’ with one of the longest constitutions in the world. There is too much by way of detail, stuff that could easily have been part of ordinary statutes. No surprise, then, that we have had over a hundred amendments in its relatively modest life-span (as constitutions go). It will be an interesting study to look into the subject matter of most of these amendments: How many of them changed a genuinely ‘constitutional’ matter? I suspect that with a few exceptions, most amendments dealt with matters that should not have been put in the constitution in the first place.

What triggers these observations is the Prime Minister’s Office’s recent rejection of a HRD Ministry proposal to amend the constitution to set up a new super-regulator for education. The PMO seems to recognise the difference between ‘constitutional’ and ‘mere statutory’ matters:

PMO sources said the Constitution should not be used to regulate. Dismissing the argument that the Constitution was amended to make education a fundamental right, a source said, “Isn’t it self-explanatory? Amendment was done to give something to children. … regulation is different in nature.” PMO has argued that in an evolving polity, there should be flexibility and the decision should be left to Parliament rather than bringing about regulation through the Constitution…. “Asking for a Constitution amendment is an extreme reaction…”

Such constitutional wisdom is refreshing, and certainly welcome.

Written by
Tarunabh Khaitan
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