Over 50 law students, from 1st to 5th year, gathered for Indian constitutional history workshop at KLE Law College, Bangalore on the 13th of November. Our workshop aimed to: introduce the rich constitutional history resources, provide a primer to the CADIndia website, and engage, through a pedagogically developed worksheet, with debates around freedom of speech.

A CADIndia team member initiated the session with an image of Nehru speaking in the Constituent Assembly. Students were quick to identify the intricate details: the picture was taken on 9th December 1946 during Nehru’s speech on the Objectives Resolution. They further identified the role of the Resolution in the constitution-making project.

Students were asked if there was no prior constitutional imagination before 1946. They said yes and cited the Government of India Act, 1935 and the Nehru Report, 1928.

The CADIndia team member added that these documents were of two types: British authored documents (e.g. Minto-Morley Reforms, various Charter acts) and Indian aspirational declarations (e.g. The Swaraj Bill 1895, Karachi Resolution, 1931).

After a short introduction to Indian constitutional history materials and their relevance, the students began solving a worksheet on freedom of speech. It made them locate the specific dates of the debate and identify prominent members who participated in it along with their key arguments.

Students through the chronology filter searched for the earliest articulation of freedom of speech and compared it with the Indian Constitution. They then observed that the Constitution of India Bill (Swaraj Bill) 1895 (“Bill”) did not envisage restrictions for free speech. However, the Indian Constitution had clearly spelt out restrictions. The Bill had delegated the power of listing restrictions to the Parliament.  The Constitution took it upon itself to do so and gave the courts the power to interpret and apply these restrictions.  

The students worked through more questions and closely examined the Assembly’s arguments on free speech while simultaneously making contemporary references.