The open data movement, that is, the effort to make public data freely available in machine readable formats under open licenses, has led to more and more information that governments collect to be made open. One type of data increasingly being made available in this way is legislation. In recent years, individuals have taken it upon themselves to put national laws for numerous countries (some portion of them, at least, along with their full history of changes) including the United States, France, and Germany, among others, into GitHub repositories. Now, another country’s federal laws are available on GitHub: India.
A GitHub user who goes by the handle anoopdixith recently created a repository to store the constitution of India, originally written in 1949, including all 99 of the amendments that have been subsequently adopted. The work was inspired by a discussion thread on Reddit. The repository has made every amendment a release, each of which contains a bundle of files including the Articles and Entries in PDF and text formats. The commit authors for each release are set to the politicians who passed the bill.
As anoopdixith describes, the process for doing these of things aren’t trivial. In this case, since a clean copy of the original constitution text wasn’t available, a recent version (which incorporated the first 96 amendments) was pulled from a government website used as a starting point. Each amendment was then backed out, one by one, to get to earlier versions of the text, all the way back to the original constitution. This resulted in two different branches being created; one starting with the version as of the 96th amendment and going backwards, the other going forwards. If that’s too messy for you, another GitHub user, Abhay Rana, has built off of anoopdixith’s work to create a cleaner repo for India’s constitution, starting with the original text and rolling forward through all the amendments.
These sorts of efforts help to make the foundations of governments more open and less mysterious to everyone. They also provide another forum for citizens to comment on laws, suggest changes, and to (hopefully) make their voices heard. Here’s hoping that more people in other countries (or the government themselves) take it upon themselves to make our laws, and the histories behind them, more open.