Sunday, February 3, 2013

Top 5 Constitution Articles that baffle me (and probably you!)

It is trend. In first semester when I was supposed to be studying Torts, I used to feel like reading Public International Law. Then when I was doing a PIL moot I felt like reading landmark Constitutional Law judgements. When it was the deadline for moot memo submission neared, I spent a great amount of time reading about a by-election in Singapore and other random things. Tonight, when I am supposed to be reading WTO Panel reports and other material for, I am actually flipping through a (borrowed) Constitution Bare Act.
I know, I should totally be looking through Seervai and other treatises on Constitution to find out true intention behind the introduction of the following Articles in the Constitution of India but then blogging about this is easier. Here are the Articles that baffle and hopefully, someone can enlighten.
  • Article 290A
    A sum of forty-six lakhs and fifty thousands rupees shall be charged on, and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the State of Kerala every year to the Travancore Devaswom Fund; and a sum of thirteen lakhs and fifty thousand rupees shall be charged on, and paid out of the Consolidated Fund of the State of Tamil Nadu, every year to the Devaswom Fund established in that State for the maintenance of Hindu temples and shrines in the territories transferred to that State on the 1st day of November, 1956, from the State of Travancore-Cochin.
    Transferring taxpayer funds to temples directly? What happened to being a secular republic? What is it all about? I am guessing it is some concession made to princely ruler of Travancore to get him to accede to the Union but it is still just absurd. Why Indira Gandhi didn’t get rid of this along with the Privy Purses is beyond me.
  • Article 371E
    Parliament may by law provide for the establishment of a University in the State of Andhra Pradesh
    Hello dear MPs! Didn’t it occur to you that you could directly pass an Act to that effect rather than making a provision in the constitution? I suspect they were just being lazy and instead of actually drafting a law (which presumably shall be a very long, detailed act), they just threw in a one liner into the Constitution via the 32nd Amendment.
    If constitution articles have feelings, this one must be feeling pointedly neglected and ignored especially since several volumes of books, endless debates and even agitations have taken place over its nearby neighbour, Article 370, while nobody cares about this one.
  • Article 273
    (1) There shall be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India in each year as grants-in-  aid of the revenues of the States of Assam, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal, in lieu of assignment of any share of the net proceeds in each year of export duty on jute and jute products to those States, such sums as may be prescribed.(2) The sums so prescribed shall continue to be charged on the Consolidated Fund of India so long as any export duty on jute or jute products continues to be levied by the Government of India or until the expiration of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution whichever is earlier.(3) In this article, the expression "prescribed" has the same meaning as in article 270.
Firstly, I don’t really understand the purpose behind having this provision atConstituent Assembly Photograph all. Secondly, what is the status now? Is it now totally redundant since ten years have long passed? Why hasn’t any one of the hundred Constitutional Amendments repealed it?
The Constituent Assembly also used to sit as the unicameral provisional parliament, this is probably a result of one of the days when they were confused about which capacity they were sitting in! This is far from a fundamental issue and could have easily been dealt with without having an Article in the Constitution.
  • Article 366
Being used to finding definition clauses in the first couple of sections of any Act, I was stunned when I first saw that the Constitution has more than one Article having marginal note ‘definitions’. This is the most generic definitions Article in the Constitution and included in the 30+ clauses of the Articles are gems like -
(3) "Article" means an article of this Constitution;(16) "Part" means a Part of this Constitution;(23) "Schedule" means a Schedule to this Constitution;

  • Article 393
This Constitution may be called the Constitution of India.
393! Did you see that? 393! Undoubtedly the most simple Article, why is it not Article #1? Why leave it till much much later?
 Much has been said about our Constitution being the longest in the world. I do largely agree with view that there is nothing wrong with having a long constitution if it helps to make clear the provisions. However, that said, it is ridiculous how amendments have burdened the constitution with redundant and extremely context specific Articles which have no general implication.
The word ‘Constitution’ by itself gives the impression to every person that it is likely to be a document containing the most fundamental principles of governance rather than a collection of random provisions inserted to suit the need of the government and then forgotten.
There is one clause which is so specific that it applies only to one particular1987 proclamation of emergency due to breakdown in constitutional machinery of the state in Punjab.
It is high time that the constitution be rid of the many absurd, redundant provisions! I suggest that the parliament consider a “Constitutional clean up Amendment”!
If nothing else, a smaller constitution shall mean cheaper bare acts and make the law students happy! :P
Image of the Constituent Assembly is from the Wikimedia Commons.
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1 comment:

  1. go ahead with your moots.....i think u r not ram jethmalani or plkhivala......ja apne pathayi shuru kar bachu


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