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Constituting India


Even though revolutions are central to the history of modern constitutionalism, some revolutions have invited more attention than others. This essay, a response to a symposium on India’s Founding Moment, underlines the significance of India’s constitutional founding and highlights ways in which India’s founders sought to create and develop democracy in a land where its supposed ingredients did not exist. The essay then turns to contemporary politics and considers the possibilities and limitations of the constitutional framework to address the current concerns over democratic backsliding in India.

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  1. On constitution-making, see Ginsburg et al. (2009); Tushnet (2013); Landau and Lerner (2019).

  2. Khosla (2020).

  3. Fowkes (2022). The remarkability of the exercise in administrative and bureaucratic terms has been powerfully demonstrated by Shani (2017).

  4. Jackson is correct to observe that India’s Founding Moment attempts at studying India’s constitutional founding in its best light. I take this to be central to an interpretive endeavor. See generally Dworkin (1986), 45–86; Dworkin (1996).

  5. On voting and agency, see Tuck (2016), 257–263.

  6. For a recent assessment of ongoing controversies and challenges in this regard, see Klarman (2020), 45–66.

  7. Khosla (2020), 6.

  8. On empire and its justifications, see U S Mehta (1999); Pitts (2006); Mantena (2010).

  9. Fowkes (2022), present symposium.

  10. See Guha (2014).

  11. See Tushnet (2008); Khosla (2010).

  12. P Dann (2022), present symposium.

  13. See Tomkins (2003), 7; Young (2007); Gardner (2012), 89–97.

  14. Khosla (2020), 31.

  15. Shklar (1990), 67.

  16. On political pluralism, see Runciman (1997); Mantena (2012).

  17. On the origins of India’s centralized framework, see Tillin (2021).

  18. See Babulal Parate v. State of Bombay, AIR 1960 SC 51; Mangal Singh v. Union of India, AIR 1967 SC 944; Pradeep Chaudhary v. Union of India, (2009) 12 SCC 248.

  19. Khosla (2020), 106. Despite this explicit discussion of the matter, Dann rather oddly regrets the fact that the book “does not discuss a third alternative of constitutional design, namely federalism”. Dann (2022), present symposium.

  20. See Tuck (2004), 125–138.

  21. Remarkably, such arguments continue until today. See Kaviraj (2014).

  22. Saunders (2022), present symposium.

  23. I am grateful to Saunders for pushing me, with her careful comments, to think more carefully about the question of institutional design.

  24. See M Khosla, Vaishnav (2021).

  25. For a recent assessment of India’s electoral integrity, see Citizens’ Commission on Elections (2021).

  26. See Vaishnav (2017); Vaishnav (2019b); Vaishnav (2019a). On political finance in India, see generally D Kapur, Milan Vaishnav (2018).

  27. See Ackerman (2000), 712–718.

  28. Vaishnav (2021). On the Election Commission, see generally Sridharan and Vaishnav (2017), 417–463.

  29. See Aiyar and Kapur (2019); Aiyar and Tillin (2020).

  30. See generally Chandra (2017). On variations across India’s states, see Harbers et al. (2019).

  31. See Michelutti et. al (2018); Harriss-White and Michelutti (2019). The presence of dynastic politics is also worth considering here, encouraging us to think about how the nature of power within political parties extends outside the party. On dynastic politics, see Chandra (2016).

  32. On competitive authoritarianism, see Levitsky and Way (2002).

  33. On the limitations of constitutional design, see Sadurski (2020), 330–331.

  34. See generally Gardner (2012), 89–124.

  35. See Rosenblum, Muirhead (2019).


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Correspondence to Madhav Khosla.

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Khosla, M. Constituting India. Jus Cogens 4, 79–89 (2022).

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  • Constitution
  • India
  • Founding