Saturday, January 23, 2010

India is Republic

On 26th January 2010, India celebrates 60 years of Republic.

What is a Republic?

Few months ago, I was sitting with a group of five to six young engineers who have graduated from colleges located in urban areas of India. I asked them what makes India Republic, and none of them could answer it. So, I went ahead and started asking the same question to many other people. Most of them didn’t know what made India republic. Some thought that republic meant the same as being independent; some said that we got a new constitution that day. Some said that we have our own army. And so on. Most of them couldn’t actually answer it right.

India is a republic because India elects its supreme head. They elect the President of India who is the supreme head of India. Though the President is indirectly elected through people’s representatives, it is still considered a republic.

England is not a republic because the supreme head of that country is a Queen who is not elected by the people. In the same way, many European countries are not republic – Denmark, Sweden, Spain, etc, continue to have a king or queen. Though these supreme heads are purely ceremonial and do not have the same power as elected leaders, still they are not considered republics. In India also, the elected President is mostly ceremonial and does not have the same power as elected leaders.


  1. I believe the idea of republic has to do with the constitution itself. It says that we are a nation of laws and not men. Most important of these laws being the fundamental rights. Even if the entire nation says kill someone, you cannot do it if it violates that person's fundamental right to due process, (innocent until proven guilty, public trial etc), before execution. These are the protections one is supposed to have in a republic. Thats what distinguishes us from being just a democracy, where majority is right. I think its Thomas Jefferson who said there is no difference between the tyranny of a monarch vs. the tyranny of the majority (mob). Republic is what saves us (or is supposed to save us) from having the majority (based on whatever, region, caste, religion, ideology, sex, color ....) crush the minority.

  2. praveen:

    You can be republic without having a constitution.

    A nation can be republic without protecting fundamental rights.

  3. Sujai,
    The comment about fundamental rights was just an example, but the key idea being a nation of laws, and not men. After all, not every nation has the same fundamental rights. The following link throws more light on this topic, in the American context (first of the modern republics....)

    An important distinction: Democracy vs. Republic.

    It seems using the above descriptions, all representative forms of govt are not republics, even though some may choose to call themselves that(just because you elect a head of state (key being head of state, not head of govt which is prime minister in the Indian context), he cannot be absolute). This idea of a head of state, elected or otherwise, cannot be absolute, seems like the key notion.

    Ofcourse, you can always have a law saying the elected head of state is absolute and then it can be called a nation of laws... but that might defeat the whole purpose ;-)


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