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The Transformative Constitution

Nominated | Book Awards 2020 | English Non-fiction

The Transformative Constitution

Full Title: The Transformative Constitution: A Radical Biography in Nine Acts

Author: Gautam Bhatia
Publisher: Harper Collins India

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

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. Not only have successive Parliaments failed to repeal colonial-era laws that are inconsistent with the principles of the Constitution, but constitutional challenges to these laws have also failed before the courts. Indeed, in numerous cases, the Supreme Court has used colonial-era laws to cut down or weaken the fundamental rights. 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. He 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.

About the Author: 

Gautam Bhatia is a constitutional law expert. He practises in New Delhi and is visiting faculty at a number of law schools. He has been involved in important contemporary constitutional cases, such as the challenge to criminal defamation and the right to privacy case. He is an alumnus of the National Law School of India University, the University of Oxford and the Yale Law School.


Gautam Bhatia’s The Transformative Constitution is a historical reading of the progressive potential of India’s Constitution. It is a work of serious scholarship; it is also a social-democratic manifesto… 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

few idioms of language are more vital than the language of law. And, as a member of the teams that worked on key legal cases (criminal defamation, right to privacy, Section 377, the Aadhar judgment) and as a frequent contributor to editorials in the media, 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.
– The

Seventy years after India became a republican state, the courts seem to have failed the Constitution, preventing it from turning into an evolving document, writes author Gautam Bhatia.
New 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.
– India Today

I have always believed that the Constitution, far from being a self-fulfilling prophecy, is the site of struggle in various fora. The judicial forum is one of these and these judgments are promising examples with open, textured futures. Today, the Constitution is in immense danger — even from the judiciary. We need to reclaim the Constitution beyond the play in nine acts presented in this book. Having said that, Gautam Bhatia is an excellent jurist — the best among the best. A joy to read. There is much to learn from him.
– Advocate Rajeev Dhavan, The Indian Express


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