This day, 68 years ago, on 26th November, 1949, the Constitutent Assembly adopted the Constitution though it came into force, two months later, on 26th January, 1950. It took from 9th December, 1946 to 26th Nov, 1949 with 271 Constitutent Assembly Members meeting for 165 days to prepare the Constitution which was adopted on 26th November.
In 1979 Mr. L.M. Singhvi, the then President of Supreme Court Bar Assocation – an association of practicing lawyers of Supreme Court - proposed that 26th November be celebrated as Law Day. Though there had been no official declaration, the day was observed as ‘Law Day’ since 1979.
Until 2014, 26th November was celebrated as “Law Day” in India. In 2015 the BJP government commemorated the Constituion making process and the Chairman of the Drafting Committee , B.R. Ambedkar by officially declaring 26th November as the “Constitution Day”. The year 2015 also marked the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and government wanted to pay tribute by observing 26th November every year in his remberance.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar played a key role in drafting the Constitution so it would be worthwhile to look at his last speech on the eve of the 26th November, 1949.
He underlines three prescient threats to nascent democracy and it is sad that these remain relevant even after 70 years of independence. The first, was on means of protests in the democracy. He referred to Civil Disobdience, Non-Co-operation and Satyagraha as “bloody methods of revolution” and cautioned that “these methods are nothing but Grammar of Ananrchy, and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us”. Next, while cautioning against idol worship in politics, he said “…Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictarorship”. And his final observation was that although we were entering into the political equality because of Constitution, we were still an unequal society in socio-economic sense. He said “On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. ….In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?”
The nomenclature might have changed from ‘Law Day’ to ‘Constitution Day’, but 26th November still remains an occasion on which Indians celebrate the spirit of the Constitution-makers while pausing to reflect on the unrealised potential of our transformative Indian Constitution.