Making of the Constitution – Constituent Assembly

  • 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.
  • Finally, a Cabinet Mission was sent to India. While it rejected the idea of two Constituent Assemblies
  • The Constituent Assembly was constituted in November 1946 under the scheme formulated by the Cabinet Mission Plan. The features of the scheme were:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. The representatives of 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 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.
  • 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.  exception of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • The Constituent Assembly 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.
Objectives Resolution
  • 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
  • This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Assembly on January 22, 1947.
  • Its modified version forms the Preamble of the 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.
  1. The Assembly was made a fully sovereign body
  2. 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
  1. Total strength of the Assembly came down to 299 as against 389 originally fixed in 1946 under the Cabinet Mission Plan.
Other Functions Performed
  • It 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.
  • It adopted the national song on January 24, 1950.
  • It elected Dr Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India on January 24, 1950.
  • In all, the Constituent Assembly had 11 sessions over two years, 11 months and 18 days.
  • The Constitution-makers had gone through the constitutions of about 60 countries, and the 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 held its final session.
  • It, however, did not end, and continued as the provisional parliament of India from January 26, 1950 till the formation of new Parliament after the first general elections in 1951–52.
Major Committees
  1. Union Powers Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
  2. Union Constitution Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
  3. Provincial Constitution Committee – Sardar Patel
  4. Drafting Committee – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
  5. Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas – Sardar Patel. This committee had the following five
  6. Rules of Procedure Committee – Dr. Rajendra Prasad
  7. States Committee (Committee for Negotiating with States) – Jawaharlal Nehru
  8. Steering Committee – Dr. Rajendra Prasad
Drafting Committee
  • Drafting Committee set up on August 29, 1947
  1. Dr B R Ambedkar (Chairman)
  2. N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar
  3. Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar
  4. Dr K M Munshi
  5. Syed Mohammad Saadullah
  6. N Madhava Rau (He replaced B L Mitter who resigned due to ill-health)
  7. 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 (first reading).
  • The Assembly had a general discussion on it for five days (till November 9, 1948).
  • The second reading started on November 15, 1948 and ended on October 17, 1949
  • Third 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, contained a Preamble, 395 Articles and 8 Schedules.
  • the Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950.
  • January 26 was specifically chosen as the ‘date of commencement’ of the Constitution because of its historical importance. 
  • It was on this day in 1930 that Purna Swaraj day was celebrated, following the resolution of the Lahore Session (December 1929) of the INC.
  • With the commencement of the Constitution, the Indian Independence Act of 1947 and the Government of India Act of 1935, with all enactments amending or supplementing the latter Act, were repealed.
  • The Abolition of Privy Council Jurisdiction Act (1949) was however continued.