The Indian constitution in the twenty-first century: the continuing quest for empowerment, good governance and sustainability

Surya Deva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter offers critical insights into the constitutional developments in India that have taken place in the first decade of the twenty-first century. In order to provide context to this examination, major political developments that had a bearing on these constitutional developments will also be reviewed. Since the roots of these political developments lie in the twentieth century, it will be necessary to revisit that period. This chapter will focus on three examples to illustrate this point. The first example concerns socioeconomic inequalities and the exclusion of certain backward sections of society from the mainstream: the constitution framers inherited this social matrix and tried to remedy this with multiple constitutional measures. A gradual change-over from a socialist to a free-market economy since the early 1990s provides the second example. This change-over also impacted the erstwhile socioeconomic inequalities and exclusions. The third and final example relates to the era of coalition governments, which firmly emerged at the national level after the 1989 elections and has continued since then. These and other transformations of the twentieth century impacted constitutional developments that we have witnessed since the year 2000. India faces numerous social, economic and political challenges, some of which stem from its being the largest democracy and the second-most populous country. It is relatively easier to introduce economic reforms and implement government policies in a largely authoritarian state like China, or to govern a city-state like Singapore. This chapter focuses on the three most critical challenges currently faced by India: socioeconomic inequalities, governance gaps and environmental pollution. The challenge of ‘governance gaps’ should be understood to encompass a range of issues such as corruption, law and order, gender discrimination, lack of accountability, and endemic delays in the administration of justice.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConstitutionalism in Asia in the early twenty-first century
EditorsAlbert H. Y. Chen
Place of PublicationCambridge, UK
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781107338333
ISBN (Print)9781107043411
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2014.

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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