My reply to an intemperate Indian who flamed me on the FT for saying so:


This is not a bad thing. But as your own vast reading would have told you – including Guha’s very good book – the Interim Government that took power in 1946 transited into the first Dominion Government on August 1947. Their primary aim was to provide continuity of administration. Given the amount of Nehru baiting that goes on these days in India, this was entirely understandable. The fledgling Indian state faced huge problems. (To summarize, dislocation after the War, Partition and its violence, the aftermath of the Bengal famine, integration of the Princely States, the intransigence of Hyderabad, the accession of Kashmir, etc). All the problems of India which were hitherto the problems of the Viceregal Administration were going to become headaches of the Independent Government. To do so, they borrowed liberally from the GOI Act. Additionally, to incorporate the principles of social development and social justice, they studied existing constitutions – particularly the Constitution of the United States. As your vast reading will tell you, the Preamble to the Indian Constitution reads very much like the opening lines of the US Constitution.

The charge was made even during the debates in the Constituent Assembly that too much of the GOI Act went into the Indian Constitution. Read, if you will, the statement made by Dr B R Ambedkar on November 4 1948: (http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/vol7p4a.htm) ”

“It is said that there is nothing new in the Draft Constitution, that about half of it has been copied from the Govt. of India Act of 1935 and that the rest of it has been borrowed from the Constitutions of other countries. Very little of it can claim originality.

One likes to ask whether there can be anything new in a Constitution framed at this hour in the history of the world. More than hundred years have rolled over when the first written Constitution was drafted. It has been followed by many countries reducing their Constitutions to writing. What the scope of a Constitution should be has long been settled. Similarly what are the fundamentals of a Constitution are recognized all over the world. Given these facts, all Constitutions in their main provisions must look similar. The only new things, if there can be any, in a Constitution framed so late in the day are the variations made to remove the faults and to accommodate it to the needs of the country. The charge of producing a blind copy of the Constitutions of other countries is based, I am sure, on an inadequate study of the Constitution… As to the accusation that the Draft Constitution has produced a good part of the provisions of the Govt. of India Act, 1935, I make no apologies. There is nothing to be ashamed of in borrowing. It involves no plagiarism. Nobody holds any patent rights in the fundamental ideas of a Constitution…provisions taken from the Government of India Act, 1935, relate mostly to the details of administration…”

In India, we have seen the birth of the thin-skinned, ultra nationalist, right-wing Indian. I hope you are not one of them even if, as you say, I am not your friend

—-

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s