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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 31 New Delhi July 21, 2018

On “Constitutional Renaissance” and Subversion of the Constitution

Saturday 21 July 2018, by Arup Kumar Sen

The eminent scholar of jurisprudence, Upendra Baxi, has explored the idea of “constitutional renaissance” in the context of the recent deliberations of a Supreme Court Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, and comprising four other Justices. Professor Baxi has reminded us that the idea of “constitutional renaissance” was first sounded in a judgment authored by Justice Misra in the Manoj Narula (2014) case. Professor Baxi explained the meaning of the idea in the following terms:

It stands severally described now as “a constant awakening as regards the text, context, perspective, purpose, and the rule of law”, an awakening that makes space for a “resurgent constitutionalism” and “allows no room for absolutism” nor any “space for anarchy”.

After explaining the meaning of the “renaissance”, Baxi offered a seminal observation: “That awakening is a constant process; renaissance has a beginning but knows no end because everyday fidelity to the vision, spirit and letter of the Constitution is the supreme obligation of all constitutional beings.” (The Indian Express, July 16, 2018)

On the same day on which Upendra Baxi’s discourse on “constitutional renaissance” was published, Neera Chandhoke, the eminent political theorist, drew our attention to the reverse side of “constitutionalism”, subversion of the Constitution. She informed us that a few days after the Constitution was finalised (November 26, 1949), the mouthpiece of the RSS, Organiser, “lamented that the Constitution does not mention the unique constitutional developments in ancient Bharat...The organisation disdained the national flag and berated the Constitution. It articulated an intense desire to chart a new Constitution when in power.” Chandhoke also mentioned an episode of anti-constitutionalism in contemporary India: “Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde apologised to Parliament for his remark last December that the BJP had come to power to change the Constitution, but he did state as much.” (The Hindu, July 16, 2018)

The paradox lies in the fact that discourse of “constitutional renaissance” co-exists with that of subversion of the Constitution. The recent developments in India suggest that “constitutional renaissance” in the true sense of the term should be the call of popular movements for justice.

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