The idea of a Constituent Assembly of India was put forward for the first time by M. N. Roy in 1934
In 1935, the Indian National Congress, 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 framing of an independent Constitution to be adopted after the World War II.
Finally, a Cabinet Mission was sent to India.
It rejected the idea of two Constituent Assemblies
Composition of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly of India 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.
296 seats to British India
93 seats to Princely States
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, as per population.
The representatives of each community were to be elected by members of that community in the provincial legislative assembly.
Voting was to be by the method of proportional representation by means of single transferable vote.
The representatives of princely states were to be nominated by the heads of the princely states.
Constituent Assembly of India was to be a partly elected and partly nominated body.
Members were to be indirectly elected by the members of the provincial assemblies, who were elected on a limited franchise
The Indian National Congress won 208 seats, the Muslim League 73 seats, and the small groups and independents got the remaining 15 seats.
93 seats allotted to the princely states were not filled as they decided to stay away from the Constituent Assembly of India.
Assembly comprised representatives of all sections of Indian Society – Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Anglo–Indians, Indian Christians, SCs, STs including women of all these sections.
Mahatma Gandhi was not in the Constituent assembly of India.
Working of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly of India held its 1st 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. Sachchidanand 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 Dec 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru moved the historic ‘Objectives Resolution’ in the Assembly.
It laid down the fundamentals and philosophy of the constitutional structure
This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Assembly on Jan 22, 1947.
Its modified version forms the Preambleofthe present Constitution
Changes by the Independence Act
On April 28, 1947, representatives of the six states were part of the Assembly.
After the acceptance of the Mountbatten Plan of June 3, 1947 for a partition of the country
The members of the Muslim League from the Indian Dominion also entered the Assembly.
The Assembly was made a fully sovereign body
The Assembly also became a legislative body
Whenever the Assembly met as the Constituent body it was chaired by Dr. Rajendra Prasad
When it met as the legislative body, it was chaired by G V Mavlankar.
These two functions continued till November 26, 1949
Total strength of the Assembly came down to 299 as against 389 originally fixed in 1946 under the Cabinet Mission Plan.
Other Functions Performed
Constituent Assembly ratified the India’s membership of the Commonwealth in May 1949.
It adopted the national flag on July 22, 1947.
It adopted the national anthem on January 24, 1950.
Constituent Assembly of India adopted the nationalsong on January 24, 1950.
It elected Dr Rajendra Prasad as the 1st President of India on January 24, 1950.
In all, the Constituent Assembly had 11 sessions over 2 years, 11 months and 18 days.
The Constitution-makers had gone through the constitutions of about 60 countries
Draft Constitution was considered for 114 days.
The total expenditure incurred on making the Constitution amounted to 64 lakh.
On January 24, 1950, the Constituent Assembly of India held its final session.
Provisional parliament of India from January 26, 1950 till the formation of new Parliament after the 1st general elections in 1951-52.
Union Powers Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
Union Constitution Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
Provincial Constitution Committee – Sardar Patel
Drafting Committee – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas – Sardar Patel.
Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee – J.B. Kripalani
Minorities Sub-Committee – H.C. Mukherjee
North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Excluded & Partially Excluded Areas Sub-Committee – Gopinath Bardoloi
Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than those in Assam) Sub-Committee – A.V. Thakkar
North-West Frontier Tribal Areas Sub-Committee
Rules of Procedure Committee – Dr. Rajendra Prasad
States Committee (Committee for Negotiating with States) – Jawaharlal Nehru
Steering Committee – Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Drafting Committee set up on August 29, 1947
Dr B R Ambedkar (Chairman)
N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar
Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar
Dr K M Munshi
Syed Mohammad Saadullah
N Madhava Rau (He replaced B L Mitter who resigned due to ill-health)
T T Krishnamachari (He replaced D P Khaitan who died in 1948)
1st draft of the Constitution of India, which was published in February 1948
2nd draft, which was published in October 1948
In all it sat only for 141 day
Dr B R Ambedkar introduced the final draft of the Constitution in the Assembly on November 4, 1948 (1st reading).
The Assembly had a general discussion on it for five days (till Nov 9, 1948).
The 2nd reading started on November 15, 1948 and ended on October 17, 1949
3rd reading of the draft started on November 14, 1949.
Dr B R Ambedkar moved a motion – ‘the Constitution as settled by the Assembly be passed’.
The motion on Draft Constitution was declared as passed on November 26, 1949
The Assembly met once again on 24 January 1950, when the members appended their signatures to the Constitution of India.
The Constitution as adopted on November 26, 1949
It contained a Preamble, 395 Articles and 8 Schedules.
Enforcement of the Constitution
The Constitution of India came into force onJanuary 26, 1950.
Jan 26 was specifically chosen as the ‘date of commencement’ of the Constitution because of its historical importance.