We think of the Indian Constitution as a founding document, embodying a moment of profound transformation from being ruled to becoming a nation of free and equal citizenship. Yet the working of the Constitution over the last seven decades has often failed to fulfil that transformative promise.
The Transformative Constitution by Gautam Bhatia draws on pre-Independence legal and political history to argue that the Constitution was intended to transform not merely the political status of Indians from subjects to citizens, but also the social relationships on which legal and political structures rested.
Updated with a new Preface to the paperback edition, it advances a novel vision of the Constitution, and of constitutional interpretation, which is faithful to its text, structure and history, and above all to its overarching commitment to political and social transformation.
'A work of serious scholarship; also a social-democratic manifesto ... The Transformative Constitution is a formidable achievement. Right at the start, Bhatia writes that his book doesn't claim to be the definitive reading of India's Constitution. This is mannerly, modest and untrue. This book's reason for being is the author's ambition to define the Constitution as a progressive charter and to choose the landmark cases that should determine its future interpretation. To this end he marshals a knowledge of history, political ideas and jurisprudence that would be demoralizing if it weren't so austerely deployed. Bhatia's commitment to lucidity and systematic argument, where every premise is stated and every argument outlined before being discursively made, is so far removed from the riddling opaqueness of desi academic writing that it feels foreign. If the book has an Indian ancestor it is Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice. In its range, its social democratic moorings and its style of public reasoning, it earns the comparison. For liberal readers, The Transformative Constitution is a purpose-built arsenal. For conservatives, it is a guide to the best legal arguments liberals didn't know they had. For lawyers and lay citizens alike, this is an indispensable book.' - Mukul Kesavan, The Hindu
'Gautam Bhatia is an excellent jurist-the best among the best. A joy to read. There is much to learn from him.' - Rajeev Dhavan, The Indian Express
'Gautam Bhatia's formulation ensures that the Constitution is not "frozen in time", nor does it give judges a blank cheque to rewrite the Constitution ... As a genre, The Transformative Constitution has more in common with Lenin's "What Is to Be Done?" than dry treatises on constitutional interpretation ... Despite throwing out both precedence and protocol, Bhatia is neither a revolutionary nor an apostate, what he offers is a set of interpretive tools and techniques to renew faith in the transformative vision of the Constitution.' - Rohit De, India Today
'This biography of the Indian Constitution is not about the law today but about the ideal equilibrium. There are few practitioners and scholars who are better positioned than Bhatia to provide both insight and perspective. This book will help many in the path toward legal literacy and thus a fuller and more participative citizenship.' - Nikhil Govind, Scroll
'Advances the argument that the Constitution, despite elements of continuity with a colonial administration, is a fundamentally "transformative" document. In pragmatic, calculated ways, it grounds Indian democracy in the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity, insulating it from the vagaries of electoral politics as well as oppressive social hierarchies.' - Rihan Najib, The Hindu BusinessLine
'Makes a unique contribution to the literature on Indian constitutional law. The book's methodology has inspiringly adopted Edward Said's contrapuntal approach to identify the Constitution as a value-laden document beyond its tangible text. Interestingly, by the project's nature, The Transformative Constitution is comparable to Akhil Reed Amar's America's Constitution: A Biography.' - Sandeep Suresh, International Journal of Constitutional Law