May, 2016

Constitutional Change: A Public Choice Analysis

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Amendments to the Constitution, especially to the fundamental rights, have two starkly different patterns in Indian constitutional history. During 1950–80, Parliament was the battleground for seeking formal constitutional amendments; while post-1980, the Supreme Court became the power centre, with interest groups seeking amendments through interpretation. What is the reason for this shift of interest-group activity from the legislature to the judiciary? The existing literature has attributed this shift to the increasing power of the Indian Supreme Court; coalition politics; changes in ideology; greater emphasis on positive rights; etc. In this chapter, I explain the change in constitutional amendments using economic analysis.