“Locating Indian Constitutionalism” in S. Choudhry, M. Khosla & P.B. Mehta, eds., Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2016) 1-14.
Indian constitutional law is of immense historical, practical, and theoretical significance. Almost all the issues that arise in the course of thinking about law in modern constitutional democracies find their most intense expression in the evolution of Indian constitutional law. India’s Constitution was the framework through which the world’s largest and one of its most contentious democracies was brought into being. It was the charter through which an ancient civilization was set on the road to modernity and radical social reform. It is the framework that provides for the management and accommodation of the most complex ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity of any modern nation-State. It has been the site where different ideas of development have been contested and reimagined. It has been the normative and legal framework through which the world’s largest democracy contests its own future. The future of constitutionalism in the world depends a good deal on the future of the Indian experiment. In this chapter, we seek to achieve three outcomes. First, we explicate the historical commitment to the idea of constitutionalism. Second, we examine some of the major substantive tensions that have defined the contours of constitutionalism in India. Third, we consider the character of constitutional development in India, in particular the forces that have shaped its evolution.