The Constituent Assembly of India framed the Indian Constitution between December 1946 and November 1949. It was framed after a long period of discussions and debates. Before making the Constitution of India, our Constitutional-makers had analyzed about 60 Constitutions of other countries. In this article, we take a detailed look at the formulation of the Constitution of India.
Constituent Assembly of India
The historical journey of Making the Constitution of India began many years before the Independence of India. In 1934, M. N. Roy first time proposed the idea of the Constituent Assembly. In 1935, it became the official demand of the Indian National Congress to set up a Constituent Assembly to frame the Indian Constitution.
In 1938, on behalf of the Indian National Congress, Jawaharlal Nehru declared that the Constitution of Independent India must be framed without outside interference. On 15 November 1939, C. Rajagopalachari voiced the demand for the Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise.
On 8 August 1940, in the famous August Offer, the British Government finally accepted the popular demand of Indians to constitute the Constituent Assembly of India. In 1942, the British Government sent Sir Stafford Cripps with a draft proposal on framing an independent Constitution to be adopted after the Second World War. Both Indian National Congress and the Muslim League rejected the Cripps proposal, as it proposed to divide India into two autonomous states with two separate Constituent Assemblies.
Composition of the Constituent Assembly
To settle up the Constitutional deadlock in India, a Cabinet Mission visited India on 24 March 1946. Cabinet Mission includes Sir Pethick-Lawrence, Stafford Cripps, and A. V. Alexander. On 16 May 1946, it provided its draft known as Cabinet Mission Plan. Under this plan, the Constituent Assembly of India was constituted in November 1946. The main features proposed by the Plan were:
- It proposed to set up the Constituent Assembly with a total strength of 389 members. Out of these, 296 members were to be drawn from British India and 93 members from the Princely States.
- Out of 296 seats of British India, 292 seats go to eleven governor provinces and the other 4 seats to four chief commission provinces.
- The seats to every British province and princely state were allotted in proportion to their respective population.
- The representatives of princely states were to be nominated by heads of princely states.
In July 1946, elections to the Constituent Assembly were held for the 296 seats allotted to British Indian provinces. In these elections, Indian National Congress won 208 seats, Muslim League won 73 seats, and Independents won the remaining 15 seats. However, Princely states decided to stay away from the Constituent Assembly, and their 93 seats remain unfilled.
Working of the Constituent Assembly
On 9 December 1946, the Constituent Assembly held its first meeting, which was attended by only 211 members, as the Muslim League boycotted the meeting. Dr Sachchidananda Sinha was the senior-most member of the Assembly. So, he chaired the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly as a temporary President.
On 11 December 1946, the Constituent Assembly elected Dr Rajendra Prasad as the President of the Assembly. The Assembly had two Vice-Presidents H. C. Mukherjee and V. T. Krishnamachari. Also, Sir B. N. Rau was appointed as the Constitutional advisor to the Constituent Assembly, and H. V. R. Iyengar as the Secretary to the Constituent Assembly.
On 13 December 1946, Constituent Assembly established its Objective Committee led by Jawaharlal Nehru. Pandit Nehru submitted the Objectives Resolution in the Assembly, which laid down the philosophy and fundamentals of the Constitutional Structure. On 22 January 1947, the Assembly unanimously adopted the Objectives Resolution. The modified version of this resolution constitutes the Preamble of the present Constitution of India.
Changes by the Indian Independence Act
After the Mountbatten plan got accepted on 3 June 1947, princely states, who had earlier stayed away from the Assembly, gradually joined it, and their representatives took seats in the Constituent Assembly. Following were the changes made by the Indian Independence Act of 1947 in the position of the Assembly:
- The total Strength of the Constituent Assembly, which was 389 members originally, came down to 299 members. Out of 299 seats, 229 members were drawn from the British Indian provinces and 70 members from the princely states.
- The Act made the Assembly a fully sovereign body to frame the Indian Constitution.
- The Assembly also acts as the legislative body performing two separate functions assigned to it. One is making a Constitution for free India and the other to enact ordinary laws for the country.
Constituent Assembly consists of 8 Major Committees and other minor committees. Among all these committees, Drafting Committee is the most important committee of the Constituent Assembly. On 29 August 1947, the Assembly set up Drafting Committee to prepare a draft for the Constitution. Dr B. R. Ambedkar was appointed as the Chairman of the drafting committee, along with the other 6 members. The other members include:
- N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar.
- Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar.
- Dr K. M. Munshi.
- Syed Mohammad Saadullah.
- N Madhava Rau (replaced B. L. Mitter, who resigned due to ill-health).
- T T Krishnamachari (replaced D. P. Khaitan, who died in 1948).
The Drafting committee sat for 141 days to prepare its draft. After taking into consideration the proposals of other committees, it prepares its first draft of the Constitution. The draft Constitution was put forward to the Constituent Assembly on 21 February 1948. The Assembly spent 114 days debating this draft and proposing amendments. In the light of public suggestions, criticisms, and comments, the drafting committee prepared its second draft Constitution, published in October 1948.
Enactment of Constitution of India
On 4 November 1948, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar introduced the final draft Constitution in the Constituent Assembly. The draft was debated for five days till 9 November 1948. The Second reading of the draft started on 14 November 1948 and ends on 17 October 1949, in which clause by clause was debated. The third debate on the draft started on 14 November 1949, in which Dr. B. R. Ambedkar moved the motion on the draft Constitution.
On 26 November 1949, the motion on the draft Constitution was declared as passed. Out of the 299 members as total strength, only 284 members were actually present at the Assembly on that day, and they signed the Constitution. Signature started by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, followed by Jawaharlal Nehru, and other 282 members.
Enforcement of Constitution of India
As the Constitution of India was adopted on behalf of the Constituent Assembly, only 4 provisions of the Constitution came into force on 26 November 1949. These four provisions are:
- Provisional Parliament.
- Temporary and transitional provisions.
It took 2 years, 11 months, 18 days to enact and adopt the Constitution of India. The remaining provisions of the Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950. Hence, this day is referred to as the date of commencement of the Indian Constitution. The date twenty-six January had specially chosen because of the historic movement on 26 January 1930, when India National Congress celebrated the Purna Swaraj Day.
With the Commencement of the Constitution of India, all enactments and amendments of the Government India Act of 1935 and the Indian Independence Act of 1947 were repealed.