‘There is an urgent need to know our Constitution’

Successive Governmentshave not taken measures to inform our people of the Constitution, says H.N. Nagamohan Das

Updated - January 27, 2022 01:03 am IST

Published - January 26, 2022 08:37 pm IST

From birth to death, most of the activities of individuals are regulated and governedby one law or the other. Law is part and parcel of our everyday life.However, most are not aware of the laws and particularly their legal rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Though we have achieved78% literacy, we are poor in legal literacy. Most of our countrymen have not read the Constitution. Successive Governmentshave not taken measures to inform our people of the Constitution. We as citizens have failed to show an inclination to know the Constitution and the laws. Because of our poor legal literacy, large sections of our society are subjected to exploitation, injustice, and oppression.

Famous technocrat of the erstwhile Mysore late Sir M. Visvesvaraya had once said that Indians are poor because they do now know that they are poor. If people are made aware of their constitutional rights and duties, they will demand, enjoy, and defend their rights.

This is more urgent at a time when the nation is facing challenges and some are talking about changing the basic features of the Constitution.

Youth and studentsin the countryare misinformed on many vital aspects of the Constitution and it was in this context that I wrote a handbook titled ‘Samvidhana Odu’. Now it is translated intoEnglish, Hindi, and Malayalam. I and the publishers,Sahayana and Samudaya, conducted campaigns in Karnataka to create constitutional awareness. Our experiences indicate that people are eager to know about our Constitution if only there is an effort to reach out to them.

The nature of questions asked during my interactions with people has revealed to me that there is a lack of even basic constitutionalknowledge. According to many, democracy means only elections, secularism means equal treatment of all religions, and social justice means onlyreservations.

We had to tell them, during the campaigns, about the broader scope of these concepts and others enshrined in the Constitution. It is the Constitutionthat has paved the way for values such as democracy, secularism,social justice, federalism, and welfare state. It is the Constitution that has established institutions of Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary. It is the Constitution of India that has ensured equal protection and equal opportunityto all irrespective ofreligion,race, caste,gender, language, or place of birth.

B.R. Ambedkar, while presenting the draft Constitution for approval, said, “…however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot...” This has to be our guiding principle for all times.

(The author is retired judge of the High Court of Karnataka.)

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