Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] India’s enduring document of governance

The Constitution’s durability arises from the basic commitment and experience its makers showed even in the 1940s.
By IASToppers
November 30, 2019


  • Introduction
  • How long does constitutions last?
  • Highlights of study
  • What does constitution signify?
  • Why do constitutional changes occur?
  • Stability of Indian Constitution
  • Conclusion

India’s enduring document of governance

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India’s Constitution is one of the world’s oldest and most enduring. However, at the time of its birth, constitutional experts all over the world did not expect Indian Constitution to survive very long. One of Indian Constitution’s most critics was Sir Ivor Jennings, the world’s then leading expert on constitutional law. He said that the Indian Constitution was too long, too rigid, too prolix. However, Sri Lankan’s constitution, known as Ceylon, commissioned by Ivor Jennings, only lasted six years.


How long does constitutions last?

How long does constitutions last

A study conducted by University of Chicago in a report named ‘The Lifespan of Written Constitutions’, compassed the constitutional history of every independent country from 1789 to 2006.

Highlights of study

Overall lifespan of constitutions

  • Mean lifespan of constitution across the world since 1789 is mere 17 years.
  • 50% constitutions are likely to be abandoned after 18 years, and after 50 years only 19% will remain. 7% of constitution dissolves within 2 years.
  • During World War I years (1914-18), the average lifespan of a constitution was 21 years. Since then, it is only 12 years.
  • Constitutions, are most likely to be replaced around after 10 and 35 years.

Regional variations

  • The mean lifespan in Latin America (the source of almost a third of all constitutions) is 4 years in and Africa is 10.2 years .15% of constitutions from these regions perish in their first year of existence.
  • On the other hand, Constitutions in western Europe last for 32 years and in and Asia last for 19
  • The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have constitutions lasting 32 years on an average.

What does constitution signify?

Constitution ring fence and then to limit the power of the authorities created under the constitution. It also defines a nation and its goals. It defines patterns of authority and to set up government institutions.

Why do constitutional changes occur?

It occurs due to,

  • Formal amendments to the text and informal amendments that result from interpretive
  • Occurrence of shock and crisis such as war, civil war or the threat of imminent breakup
  • Structural attributes of the constitution, namely its detail, enforceability and its adaptability
  • Structural attributes of the state

Stability of Indian Constitution

India is example of the fact that fractionalised environments produce constitutional stability precisely because no single group can dominate others. Public ratification produces a more enduring constitution in democracies. The Indian Constituent Assembly worked together to impart durability to Indian constitution.

The peculiar features which constitution maker added to Indian constitution are:

  • Inclusiveness during the formative years of the Constitution-making debates;
  • Specificity of the provisions that produced a balance between redundant verbosity and ambiguity;
  • Fundamental rights and judicial review being made base of constitution;
  • A workable scheme for amending the constitutional provisions to ensure longevity of Constitutions


Constitutions whose provisions are known and accepted will more likely be self-enforcing. Constitutions, that are ratified by public reference enjoy higher levels of legitimacy. Constitutional durability should increase with the level of public inclusion both at the drafting stage and the approval stage. Constitutions work best when they are most like ordinary statutes: relatively detailed and easy to modify.


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