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Making Of The Constitution

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 population.

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 was over.
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.

Defining Rights;

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 country.

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.

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