India was under British rule for about 200 years and after struggle of almost
200 years India become the largest democracy with the lengthiest written
Constitution in world comprising 395 Articles and 8 Schedules in the beginning,
at the present it has 448 Articles, 25 Parts and 12 Schedules.
The background behind formation of Constitution of India has a remarkable
position in history. In 1934, it was MN Roy who sowed the idea for Constituent
Assembly. In 1935, the sowed idea of Constituent Assembly developed and Indian
National Congress demanded for forming Constituent Assembly to shape the
Constitution of India.
The demand was accepted by Britishers in 1940, draft proposal was sent to India
by Sir Stafford Cripps but it did not accept by Muslim League which wanted India
to be divided into two separate nations that is India and Pakistan. Finally,
cabinet mission was sent to India that put forth the idea of Constituent
Assembly which marked the warm beginning of formulating Indian Constitution
thereby creating history.
The Constitution of India which is supreme law of country was drafted between
1946 to 1950. It was adopted on 26 November, 1949 and came into force on 26
January, 1950 which we celebrate as Republic Day. The Constitution of India took
2 years 11 months and 18 days to complete. Here, duty of Constituent Assembly
ends which held 11 sessions during period to solely draft Constitution.
Making Of Constituent Assembly:
The Constituent Assembly constituted under scheme formulated by cabinet mission
plan. The Constituent Assembly was partly elected and partly nominated body. The
total strength of Constituent Assembly was 389. Out of 389 seats, 296 were
allotted to British India and 93 seats to Princely States. Each province and
princely states were allotted seats in proportion to their respective
The representatives of each community were to be elected by the members of that
community in Provincial Legislative Assembly by voting method of proportional
representation by means of single transferable vote. The representatives of
Princely States were to be nominated by heads of Princely States. The election
to assembly for 296 seats allotted to British Province took place in 1946 which
results in Indian National Congress winning total 208 seats, Muslim League 73
seats and 15 seats got by independents.
The Constituent Assembly that came into being was dominated by Congress Party.
Congress swept general seats in provincial elections and Muslim League captured
most of reserved Muslim seats. But the league chose to boycott Constituent
Assembly pressing its demand for Pakistan with separate Constitution. The
Congress however was not a party with one voice. Its members differed in their
opinion on critical issues. Within, Constituent Assembly members did not sit
quiet. The discussion within Constituent Assembly was also influenced by
opinions expressed by public. As deliberations continued arguments were reported
in newspapers and proposals were publicly debated. In order to create a sense of
collective participation, public was also asked to send in their views on what
needed to be done.
Composition Of Constituent Assembly:
The total membership of Constituent Assembly was to be 389.It was Mountbatten
Plan of June 1947 that led to the heart wrenching Partition of India which led
to formation of separate Constituency and Constituent Assembly for India and
Pakistan. This ceased some of the representatives of certain provinces to be
member of Assembly, resulting in reduction of members to 300. Of these 6 members
played important roles, three were representatives of Congress namely Jawaharlal
Nehru, Sardar Patel and Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
It was Nehru who proposed crucial Objectives Resolution and resolution proposing
that National Flag of India have horizontal tricolor of saffron, white and dark
green in equal proportion with a navy blue wheel at center. Sardar Patel worked
mostly behind the scenes playing key role to reconcile opposing point of view.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad's role was as President of Assembly.
Besides the trio of Congress, very important member of assembly was BR Ambedkar
who was Lawyer and Economist served as Chairman of Drafting Committee of
Constitution. Serving with him were KM Munshi and Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, both
of them gave crucial inputs in drafting of constitution. Ambedkar himself took
responsibility of guiding Draft Constitution through Assembly.
The members of Constituent Assembly were expressive in expressing their very
divergent points of view. In their presentation we can determine many
conflicting ideas such as of what language Indians should speak, of what
political and economic systems nation should follow, of what moral values it
should uphold or deny.
Working Of Constituent Assembly;
On December, 1946, the Constituent Assembly met for the first time in
Constitution Hall of Indian Parliament, New Delhi. The oldest member of
Constituent Assembly Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha was appointed as temporary
chairman of assembly. Later, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected for position of
President of Constituent Assembly followed by HC Mukherjee and VT Krishnamachari
elected for position of Vice Presidents.
The working of Constituent Assembly proceeded on the basis of Objective
Resolution that was laid before assembly on 13 December, 1946. It was a
momentous resolution that outlined defining ideals of Constitution of
Independent India and provided framework within which work of Constitution
making was to proceed.
It proclaimed India to be an independent Sovereign Republic, guaranteed citizens
Justice, Equality and Freedom and assured that adequate safeguards shall be
provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas and depressed and other
backward classes. This resolution was unanimously adopted by assembly on Jan 22,
1947. It influenced eventual shaping of Constitution through all its stages. Its
modified version forms Preamble for present Constitution.
Changes by Indian Independence Act:
There were certain changes made in working of Constituent Assembly because of
Indian Independence Act, 1947 which are:
- Assembly was made a fully Sovereign body, which could frame
Constitution. The act gave power to abrogate or alter any law made by
Britishers in relation to India.
- The assembly turns out to be Legislative body. It can be said that two
different functions were assigned to assembly. One is making of Constitution
for free India and was enacting of ordinary laws for country. Thus,
Constituent Assembly became first Parliament of free India (Dominion
Legislature). When assembly met as Legislative body, it was headed by GV
Mavalankar and when it met as Constituent Assembly, it was chaired by Dr.
Rajendra Prasad. These two tasks continued till task of making Constitution
In all assembly 11 sessions over 2 years 11 months and 18 days. The makers of
the Constitution had gone through Constitution of about 60 countries. On 24
January, 1950 assembly held its final session and thereafter it continued as
provisional Parliament of India from 26 January,1950 till formation of new
Parliament after first general elections in 1951-52.
Committees Of Constituent Assembly;
The assembly appointed a various number of committees to deal with various tasks
of Constitution making and to avoid kind of mismanagement. There were 8 major
and several minor committees.
Major Committees are:
- Union Powers Committee-JLNehru
- Union Constitution Committee-JL Nehru
- Committee for negotiating with states-JL Nehru
- Provincial Constitution Committee-Sardar Patel
- Drafting Committee-BR Ambedkar
- Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and
Excluded areas-Sardar Patel
- Rules of Procedure Committee-Dr. Rajendra Prasad
- Steering Committee-Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Vision Of Constitution;
Nehru was locating history of Constitution making in India within a longer
history of struggle for liberty and freedom. He did not define particular form
of Democracy and suggested this had to be decided through deliberations and
stressed that ideals and provisions of Constitution introduced in India could
not be just derived from elsewhere, it shall not be the just copy.
The objective of Indian Constitution would be to fuse liberal ideas of democracy
with socialist idea of economic justice and readapt and rework all these ideas
within Indian context. The plea was for creative thinking about what was
appropriate for India.
Some saw dark hand of British Imperialism as hanging over deliberations of
assembly. They urged members and Indians in general to fully free themselves
from influences of imperial rule. An interim administration headed by Nehru was
in place, but it could only operate under directions of Viceroy and British
Government in London.
Nehru accepted that most of leaders want different kinds of assembly as British
Government had a hand in its birth and it had attached some conditions according
to which assembly had to function. But he mentioned that we should never forget
that source from which assembly had derives its strength.
The earlier Constitution experiments (1909,1919,1935) were enacted by colonial
government. The Legislature elected under 1935 act operated within framework of
colonial rule and were responsible to Governor appointed by British. The vision
that Nehru was trying to outline through Objectives Resolution was Constitution
of an Independent, Sovereign, Republic of India.
This was not an easy task. With anticipation of independence various groups
expressed their will in different ways and made different demands. These would
debate and conflicting ideas would have to be reconcile before consensus could
be forged. Pocker Bahadur from Madras made a strong plea for continuing separate
electorate. Idea of separate electorate was countered by Sardar Patel, he says,
that separate electorate was poison that has entered body politic of our
Govind Ballabh Pant also mention that separate electorate was not only harmful
for nation but also for minorities. Behind all the argument was concern with
making unified nation state. Communities could be recognized as cultural
entities and assured cultural rights. Politically, however, members of all
communities had to act as equal members of one state.
After partition violence, Ambedkar too no longer argued for separate
electorates. The assembly finally recommended that untouchability shall be
abolished and seats in Legislatures and jobs in government offices be reserved
for lowest castes. These measures were warmly welcomed by public.
The Language Of The Nation;
Within the assembly the language issue was debated over many months that how
could nation be forged when people spoke different language and how could they
connect with each other's language. Mahatma Gandhi felt that everyone should
speak in language that common people could easily understand.
Hindustani, a blend of Hindi and Urdu was popular language and was spoken by
large section of people of India. Gandhi thought that this multi-cultural
language would be ideal language of communication. At one session, RV Dhulekar,
made an aggressive plea that Hindi be used as language of Constitution making.
Later, it was decided that but not yet finally declared that Hindi in Devanagari
script would be official language but transition to Hindi would be gradual. By
referring to Hindi as official language the language committee of assembly hoped
to placate ruffled emotion and arrived at solution which was accepted by all.
Enforcement And Enactment Of Constitution;
The Constitution was finally adopted on 26 November, 1949 which contains 395
Articles and 8 Schedules after three sets of reading of draft that was prepared
by Drafting Committee. The motion on Draft Constitution was declared to be
passed on 26 November, 1949 thereby receiving signatures of members along with
President. It is noteworthy that Preamble was enacted after entire Constitution
was already enacted.
Among all provisions some provisions pertaining to Citizenship, Elections,
Provisional Parliament, Temporary and Transitional Provisions and Short Title
came into force on 26 November itself. The rest of the articles of Constitution
came into force on 26 January, 1950 which is referred to as Republic Day.
January 26 was intentionally chosen as date of commencement of Constitution
because on this day in 1930 'Poorna Swaraj' day was celebrated. With the
commencement of Constitution, the Government of India Act 1935 ceased to exist.