In this article, we will discuss Making of Indian Constitution (Part-1). So, let’s get started.
Making of the Constitution
Demand for a Constituent Assembly
It was in 1934 that the idea of a Constituent Assembly for India was put forward for the first time by M.N. Roy, a pioneer of communist movement in India. In 1935, the Indian National Congress (INC), for the first time, officially demanded a Constituent Assembly to frame the Constitution of India. In 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru, on behalf the INC declared that ‘the Constitution of free India
must be framed, without outside interference, by a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise’.
The demand was finally accepted in principle by the British Government in what is known as the ‘August Offer’ of 1940. In 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps, a Member of the Cabinet, came to India with a draft proposal of the British Government on the framing of an independent Constitution to be adopted after the World War II. The Cripps Proposals were rejected by the Muslim League, which wanted India to be divided into two autonomous states with two separate Constituent
Assemblies. Finally, a Cabinet Mission’ was sent to India. While it rejected the idea of two Constituent Assemblies, it put forth a scheme for the Constituent Assembly which more or less satisfied the Muslim League,
Composition of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly was constituted in November 1946 under the scheme formulated by the Cabinet Mission Plan.
The features of the scheme were:
The total strength of the Constituent Assembly was to be 389. Of these, 296 seats were to be allotted to British India and 93 seats to the princely states. Out of 296 seats allotted to the British India, 292 members were to be drawn from the eleven governors’ provinces and four from the four Chief Commissioners’ provinces, one from each.
Each province and princely state (or group of states in case of small states) were to be allotted seats in proportion to their respective population. Roughly, one seat was to be allotted for every million population.
Seats allocated to each British province were to be divided among the three principal communities-Muslims, Sikhs and General (all except Muslims and Sikhs), in proportion to their population.
The representatives of each community were to be elected by members of that community in the provincial legislative assembly and voting was to be by the method of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
The representatives of the princely states were to be nominated by the heads of
the princely states.
It is, thus, clear that the Constituent Assembly was to be a partly elected and partly
nominated body. Moreover, the members were to be indirectly elected by the members
of the provincial assemblies, who themselves were elected on a limited franchise.
The elections to the Constituent Assembly (for 296 seats allotted to the British Indian
Provinces) were held in July-August 1946. The Indian National Congress won 208 seats,
the Muslim League 73 seats and the small groups and independents got the remaining
15 seats. However, the 93 seats allotted to the princely states were not filled as they decided to stay away from the Constituent Assembly. Although the Constituent Assembly was not directly elected by the people of India on the basis of adult franchise, the Assembly comprised representatives of all sections of the Indian society – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Anglo-Indians, Indian Christians, SCs, Sts including women of all these sections. The Assembly included all important personalities of India at that time, with the exception of Mahatma Gandhi.
Working of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on December 9, 1946. The Muslim
League boycotted the meeting and insisted on a separate state of Pakistan. The meeting was, thus, attended by only 211 members. Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, the oldest member, was elected as the temporary President of the Assembly, following the French practice.
Later, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as the President of the Assembly. Similarly, both
H.C. Mukherjee and V.T. Krishnamachari were elected as the Vice-Presidents of the
Assembly. In other words, the Assembly had two Vice-Presidents.
On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru moved the historic ‘Objectives Resolution’ in
the Assembly. It laid down the fundamentals and philosophy of the constitutional structure . It read:
This constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to dtaw up for her future governance a Constitution:
Wherein the territories that now comprise British India, the rerritories that now from the Indian States and such other parts of India as are outside India and the States as well as other territories as are willing to be constituted into the independent sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all; and
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 therefrom; and
wherein all power and authority of the sovereign independent India, its constituent parts and organs of Government are derived from the people; and
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
wherein adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and
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
This ancient land attains its rightful and honoured place in the world and makes its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind”.
This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Assembly on January 22, 1947. It influenced the eventual shaping of the constitution through all its subsequent stages. Its modified version forms the Preamble of the present Constitution.