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Vikas Tripathi

By V. Venkatesan
Lexis Nexis, Gurgaon, 2014, pp. xxix 419, Rs. 495.00


Ideas and practices associated with India’s living document, the Constitution of In­dia have remained central to the politi­cal imagination and assessment of democ­racy in contemporary India. Recent writings on ideas, institutions and processes in In­dian politics have attempted to foreground the language of democracy in deliberations involved in the making of India’s Constitu­tion. This has helped to understand both the uniqueness as well as limitations charac­terizing the success of India’s democracy. A revisit to studies in issues and challenges fac­ing the actual working of the Constitution poses a paradox that defines the political moment during the 90s and beyond. On the one hand, crisis facing ideas and prac­tices in the actual working of the Constitu­tion could find a momentary resolution through the assertion of extra-parliamentary institutions like the Judiciary and the Elec­tion Commission. On the other hand, this phenomenon disturbs the constitutional basis of separation of power and further holds the potential to weaken the principles of consti­tutionalism. In part the crisis owes to the nature and magnitude of political change witnessed during the 90s and beyond; how­ever a deeper understanding of politics brings realization about the ambiguity involved in constitutional rules, laws and conventions that lend sufficient space for manoeuvring and predilections to institutions and actors. The book under review despite certain limi­tations broadly seems to be representative of this moment of writings on Indian politics and makes an attempt to explore the con­tested relationship between Parliament and Executive, Executive and Judiciary and most significantly Parliament and Judiciary around conflict over authority and jurisdiction as well as interpretation of the Constitution. The book is an analysis of key constitutional pre­dicaments during the coalition period (2001 onwards) which witnessed weak governments concomitant with a weak parliament and en­hanced the role of the President, Judiciary and Election Commission in Indian politics. Venkatesan critically engages the judi­cial decisions, executive actions, and parlia­mentary legislations and studies the Con­stituent Assembly Debates, pertaining to some of the most significant controversies around contested interpretation of rules, con­ventions and laws. These controversies re­mained quite significant in deciding the di­rection of the shifting power among Parlia­ment, Executive, and the Judiciary during the era of coalition politics in India. Judiciary’s emergence as a moral authority during the period remained quite decisive in establishing ...

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