Indian Constitution: What Your Child Should Know About It

On Ambedkar Jayanti, read on to know what the Constitution of India contains and how best to familiarise your child with it.

By Sushma Sosha Philip and Susan Philip

Indian Constitution: What Your Child Should Know About It

“We the people of India having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic….” This is how the Constitution of India begins. Our Constitution is the most important legal document of the land. It came into being on 26 January 1950 and was drafted by the Constitution Drafting Committee, led by Dr BR Ambedkar. He was a jurist, an economist and a social reformer. He was also known as the Father of the Constitution.

Here are some facts about the Constitution of India

  • The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world.
  • The Indian Constitution was originally written by hand. The hand-written documents have been preserved in helium-filled cases in the library of the Parliament House.
  • The Indian Constitution is a combination of the best features of constitutions of various countries around the world.
  • 101 amendments have been made to the Indian Constitution since it was first drafted.

What your child must know about the Indian Constitution:

The Indian Constitution has 22 parts and 395 articles. The following are the most important ones:

  1. The Preamble: The Preamble is the introduction to the Constitution and defines the main ideals of the country - liberty, equality, fraternity and justice. Our Constitution characterises India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and a republic country. These terms have been given many meanings over the years and they are important for the interpretation of the rest of the Constitution.
  2. Part I– The Union and its Territory: This section contains information on what defines a state and other matters relating to states such as formation and alteration.
  3. Part II – Citizenship: This part defines who a citizen of India is and what his rights are.
  4. Part III – Fundamental Rights: This is the most important part of the Constitution as it lays down certain rights that cannot be violated except under exceptional circumstances. These rights are known as fundamental rights. They are: the right to equality (Art. 14 – 18), the right to various freedoms (Art. 19 – 22), the right against exploitation (Art. 23 – 24), the right to freedom of religion (Art. 25 – 28) and cultural and educational rights (Art. 29 – 30). Most constitutional cases are based on violations of these rights. These rights are very broad and, in some cases, even individuals or organisations who are not directly affected by their violation may bring petitions before the court by a process known as public interest litigation. Over the course of time, the law has developed to make it easy for citizens to raise claims of violation of these rights.
  5. Part IV – Directives of State Policy: This part contains various directions to the government which would ensure an ideal society if followed. Unfortunately, these directives are not binding.
  6. Part IV A – Fundamental Duties: Similar to the Directives of State Policy, this part imposes certain duties on citizens to ensure the proper functioning of society. However, these duties are also not binding.
  7. Part V – The Union: This part lays down rules relating to the functioning of the three wings of the Union – the Executive, Judiciary and Legislature.
  8. Part VI – The States: This part lays down the rules regarding the functioning of the State governments.
  9. Parts VII – X: These parts lay down rules for other units of administration such as special states mentioned in Schedule B, union territories, panchayats, municipalities and scheduled and tribal areas.
  10. Part XI: This part regulates the relationship between the Union and the States.
  11. Part XVIII: This part deals with emergency provisions. Emergency may be declared throughout the nation or in any state on various grounds mentioned in this part.
  12. Various other topics such as financial matters, rules relating to trade, elections and special provisions are dealt with in the other parts of the Constitution of India.

In addition to these articles, the Constitution also consists of 12 schedules. These schedules contain further specifics to supplement the articles. The 7th schedule consists of three lists – the Union, State and Concurrent lists, which lay down subject matter that can be legislated on by each branch.

How to familiarise your children with the Constitution of India:

  1. The Constitution of India is constantly evolving through court decisions and amendments. Educate your children about these developments through news broadcasts, newspapers, social media and so on.
  2. Constitutional principles can be incorporated into almost any debate or moot court competition. Encourage your children to participate in these events so that they can actively learn about the Constitution.
  3. Take your children to observe proceedings at the legislative assemblies, if possible, or watch assembly debates broadcast on television.
  4. Engage you children in discussions about developments in the Constitution and encourage them to voice their views on the subject.
  5. Be an example to your children by actively enforcing your fundamental rights and carrying out your fundamental duties.
  6. Encourage your children to take part in activities such as essay writing and elocution competitions about the Constitution that take place on Independence Day and Republic Day.
  7. Take your children to see the original text of the Constitution in the Parliament House, if possible, to instil in them a sense of pride about this piece of legislation.
  8. During national events such as elections, take the time to explain the process and the constitutional aspects to your children.
  9. Explain to your children the facts of landmark cases that resulted in major changes being made to the Constitution.
  10. Talk to your children about the drafters of the Constitution and the political environment of that time. This will make them relate to it more than reading a long and complicated legal document.

As the Indian Constitution is the highest law of the land, it is imperative that you make your children aware of the various rights and duties it contains. Being aware of their rights will not only help them identify violations but also make them respectful of the fundamental rights of others. Furthermore, making them aware of their civic duties and enforcing such duties at home will mould them into model citizens.

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