Portal decodes Constituent Assembly debates for a common man

Portal decodes Constituent Assembly debates for a common man

Website aims to make content accessible to people

If you have ever wondered why certain laws were included in the Constitution or what exactly were Nehru’s thoughts on secularism, a website by the nonprofit Centre for Law and Policy Research (CLPR) is your best resource.

As part of its ‘Constitutional and Civic Citizenship’ project, the CLPR is organising debates and discussions of the Constituent Assembly between 1946 and 1950 to make them easily accessible to the public. The project aims to increase the engagement of citizens with the Constitution and inculcate constitutional language and values in public debate.

The Constituent Assembly, which was formed in 1946 with the monumental task of framing the Constitution, had detailed discussions on each aspect, available today in a set of 12 voluminous books. Though there have been attempts to organise these discussions before, the CLPR’s effort makes the content easily accessible even to a layperson.

The website will help citizens understand the reasoning behind laws which have become controversial today. Giving an example, Vineeth Krishna, Associate Editor of the project, said, “Article 48 deals with a Directive Principle of State Policy which prohibits cow slaughter. Today some sections of society are giving it religious connotations, saying that the cow is holy and hence must be protected. However, if you read the discussion which happened before it was included in the Constitution, you will understand that the issue is more complex.”

Cow slaughter
While some leaders did want cow slaughter to be banned on religious grounds, Article 48 was actually included considering that cow provides economic benefits.

Explaining the process, Krishna said, “After removing minor grammatical errors, we make the matter machine-readable by coding. Finally, we go through each paragraph and tag it on the basis of the theme being discussed.” This process of ‘human tagging’ is required as in some cases, the Assembly may have discussed a topic like ‘secularism’ without referring to it directly, instead using terms like ‘religion’.

The project began on July 1 last year and in its first phase, curating, coding and tagging of the debates on the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles were completed. This year, the team of four, with help from interns, aims to complete the process for 80% of the articles in the Constitution.

For the first time, users can look up specific topics like ‘Untouchability’, ‘Uniform Civil Code’ and ‘Child Labour’ and filter the results according to the speaker or even the person being addressed.

One can also look up the discussions on the basis of the article number, country being referred to and the date of the debate. Besides, each search result has the date of the discussion and volume provided next to it, which will be helpful to those writing academic papers.

Though the website is user-friendly, the CLPR will also conduct intensive, hands-on workshops for lawyers and later for professionals in which they will teach them through practical exercises and real-life problems on how to make best use of the resources.
The website can be accessed at http://cadindia.clpr.org.in/

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