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volume-43, 25-31 January 2020

Making of the Indian Constitution

Raghul Sudheesh

India became an independent nation on 15th of August 1947 but the work on the Constitution of India had began much earlier. The Cabinet Mission of 1946 consisting of three British Cabinet Ministers – Lord Pethic Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Alexander, recommended the setting up of a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of framing a new Constitution. This proposal was accepted and in July 1946, elections to Constituent Assembly took place. Originally the Constituent Assembly had 389 members but it was later reduced to 299, as a separate Constituent Assembly was formed for Pakistan.

Initially, as the Constituent Assembly was brought about by the British Government it could not be called a sovereign body and its powers were limited. However, with the passing of the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the Constituent Assembly became a sovereign body and it was free to frame a Constitution as it pleased. The Indian Independence Act of 1947 also empowered the Constituent Assembly to frame laws for India until the new Constitution came in to force. 

The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on 9th December 1946 in the Constitution Hall, which is presently the Central Hall of the Parliament House. On 11th December1946, Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected as the permanent Chairman of the Constituent Assembly. On 13th December 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru moved the ‘Objective Resolution’, which later became the preamble to the Constitution of India.

Moving the resolution, Nehru said:

“The Resolution that I am placing before you is in the nature of a pledge. It has been drafted after mature deliberation and efforts have been made to avoid controversy. A great country is sure to have a lot of controversial issues; but we have tried to avoid controversy as much as possible. The Resolution deals with fundamentals which are commonly held and have been accepted by the people. I do not think this Resolution contains anything which was outside the limitations laid down by the British Cabinet or anything which may be disagreeable to any Indian, no matter to what party or group he belongs. Unfortunately, our country is full of differences, but no one, except perhaps a few, would dispute the fundamentals which this Resolution lays down. The Resolution states that it is our firm and solemn resolve to have a sovereign Indian republic. We have not mentioned the word ‘Republic’; till this time; but you will well understand that a free India can be nothing but a republic.”

The Objective Resolution read as follows:

  1. This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution;
  2. WHEREIN the territories that now comprise British India, the territories that now form the Indian States, and such other parts of India as are outside British India and the States as well as such other territories as are willing to be constituted into the Independent Sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all; and
  3. WHEREIN the said territories, whether with their present boundaries or with such others as may be determined by the Constituent Assembly and thereafter according to the law of the Constitution, shall possess and retain the status of autonomous Units, together with residuary powers and exercise all powers and functions of government and administration, save and except such powers and functions as are vested in or assigned to the Union, or as are inherent or implied in the Union or resulting there from; and
  4. WHEREIN all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people; and
  5. WHEREIN shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India justice, social economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action, subject to law and public morality; and
  6. WHEREIN adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and
  7. WHEREBY shall be maintained the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea, and air according to justice and the law of civilized nations; and
  8. This ancient land attains its rightful and honoured placed in the world and make its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.

The resolution was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22nd of January, 1947.On 29th August 1947, the Constituent Assembly set up a Drafting Committee under the chairmanship of Dr B.R. Ambedkar to prepare a Draft Constitution of India. The Committee was appointed to scrutinise the draft of the text of the Constitution of India prepared by Constitutional Advisor, giving effect to the decisions already taken in the Assembly and including all matters which are ancillary thereto or which have to be provided in such a Constitution, and to submit to the Assembly for consideration the text of the Draft Constitution as revised by the Committee.It was B.N. Rau who served as the Constitutional Advisor and prepared a rough draft of the Constitution for the consideration of the drafting committee.

The Draft Constitution was published in January 1948 and people of India were given 8 months to discuss the draft and propose amendments. As many as 7,635 amendments were originally tabled by members seeking to modify various provisions of the Draft Constitution. Among these 2,473 amendments were actually moved, discussed and disposed of. This alone testifies the democratic exercise that went behind the making of the Constitution of India.

The Constituent Assembly took two years, eleven months and seventeen days to complete the task of drafting a Constitution for India. It held eleven sessions covering a total of 165 days. 114 days were spent on the consideration of the Draft Constitution alone. The Constitution of India was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949. The Constitution of India came into force on 26th January 1950 and on that day the Assembly ceased to exist, transforming itself into the provisional Parliament of India until a new Parliament was constituted in 1952.

Thirty years after the Constitution of India was adopted, the Supreme Court Bar Association in 1979 under the leadership of Dr L.M. Singhvi decided to celebrate November 26th as Law Day to honour the founding fathers of our Constitution. Senior Advocate and then Supreme Court Bar Association President, M.N. Krishnamani said, ““The real purpose of celebrating Law Day is to rededicate ourselves to the following cardinal principles which form the solid foundation on which this grand constitutional edifice is erected: I. Rule of law. II. Independence of the judiciary. III. Independence of the legal profession. These three principles are intimately interconnected. The main purpose of an independent judiciary and an independent Bar is only to ensure that there is a Rule of Law.”

The Indian Judiciary has been a watchdog of the Constitution of India and has been protecting the Constitution from any kind of attacks over these years. The Constitution of India is turning 70 years old and it still stands tall holding the nation together. It has not only survived these years but also evolved along with the changing times. It continues to be young, energetic and alive.

(Writer is an Advocate practicing at the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam. He can be reached at raghulsudheesh@gmail.com.

Views expressed are personal.

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