Leaders of India's ruling Congress Party met in New Delhi on Saturday (29 May) and approved major changes to the country's constitution.
GV People outside India's Congress Party building
SCU Indian Premier Mrs. Gandhi talking to Congress Party President Barooah
SV Congress Party delegates seated
TV PAN Girls singing patriotic song
SV Delegates seated
SV Mrs. Gandhi speaking
GANDHI: "We are fighting for the rights of the common man in India and the common man all over the world. We are fighting for the removal of fear. When we are told that democracy has been removed form India today, what were the rights of the common man previously. Britain is the mother, has the mother of Parliament. Did anybody regard Britain as undemocratic when it had all these millions of Indians oppressed with no rights at all, when people's lives were not safe? How many voices were raised that there's no democracy in Britain? But there's no question of that. Britain could remain a democracy even when it was crushing millions of people: not only in India, but in different parts of the world. Other European countries can remain democracies regardless of what they're doing. India was a democracy when, when big business can make its voice felt whether through the newspapers, whether through other things, it is democratic. But if the poor man raises his voice and says 'no, stop this man from talking he is harming my interests', the it is not democracy."
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This film is serviced with part of Mrs. Gandhi's speech. A full transcript appears overpage.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Leaders of India's ruling Congress Party met in New Delhi on Saturday (29 May) and approved major changes to the country's constitution. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi said that her government was fighting for the rights of 'the common man'.
The changes were contained in a nine page draft resolution debated by a meeting of the All-India Congress Committee (AICC), the party's highest decision-making body.
In future, any amendments to India's constitution will be beyond challenge in any court of law. In November 1975 the Supreme Court rejected a constitutional amendment passed by Parliament, which placed the validity of the election of the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the House beyond judicial review.
Under another change the High Courts will lose their right of jurisdiction in matters relating to Government services, labour, tax, land reform and the procurement and distribution of food and other essential commodities.
Opposition parties and groups of lawyers have protested against the reforms. They say that India has only the outward facade of a parliamentary democracy and in reality an authoritarian government is functioning in the country.
In her address to the AICC meeting, Mrs. Gandhi attacked those who said India was now undemocratic. She said that other countries had condemned India when their own constitutions were not democratic.
The Congress Party President, Dev Kant Barooah, told delegates that the Party had won the right to change the constitution by winning a two-thirds majority in the 1971 general elections.