The Constitution of India, ladies and gentlemen, has been stolen. It was stolen perhaps right from the very moment it was adopted, but being the all-encompassing document that it is, it has been stolen again. It was stolen on the 13th of May 2008 by the Cabinet of the Government of Goa, speaking through the Chief Minister and the Minister for Panchayats when they indicated that “If the rules and procedures are followed, the panchayats have no right to revoke the license” of mega-housing and other development projects.
Ever since the embarrassing statement by these members of the Cabinet displayed their commitment to themselves rather than to the people, much has been written about the response of the Government. I would however, like to suggest that while the position that the Cabinet has taken is appalling, it is certainly not out of character for the elected governments of the Union of India. A primary characteristic that has marked these governments has been that of Constitutional theft.
The term Constitutional theft was introduced to us by the eminent jurist Upendra Baxi at a conference held on the positions taken by the Supreme Court in the course of the 1990s. Briefly put, Constitutional theft is the taking away of the promise of the Constitution by dominant groups and arms of the State. Now envision this situation, we have a Constitution that in its Preamble quite clearly indicates that it is “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA” who “ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION”. The sovereignty of the State of India flows therefore from this grand collective of single individuals who constituted a document of hope. The Constitution also contained a vision for the realization of this sovereignty through the establishment of what that old man who we have all forgotten called ‘Gram Swaraj’. This vision was however aborted in the first act of constitutional theft when it was replaced with something called the
It is because of this history of Constitutional theft that our Cabinet can be so brazen. They can be so brazen because they know they have a point. And yet, as I have sought to point out in an earlier column, the revolution that is on in Goa is not one that is based on legality, for legality has clearly failed us, it is one based on legitimacy. What we are witnessing in
Mr. Azgaokar is concerned that “If projects are closed down forcefully, there would be no development in
If the rest of
(Published in the Gomantak Times 28 May 2008)