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Making of Constitution of India

26th November, 1949, is one of the crucial dates in the Indian History, which has laid down the founding stone of the Independent India. No doubt, India had gained its freedom from the British Raj in the year 1947 but it was on this day when India adopted its Constitution and finally stood on its own feet to walk and thereby run. This day is celebrated as Constitution Day or National Law Day in India. This famous quote of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar summaries the reason of all our battle of independence:
Our is a battle; Not for wealth, nor for power, Ours is battle ; for freedom ; For reclamation of human personality.

Historical Background
As we all know India was ruled by the British for almost 200 years and the first outburst for freedom was the Revolt of 1857 also called as the Indian Mutiny or the Sepoy Mutiny which began on 10thMay, 1857 at Meerut and continued until December 1858. After this revolt, it was certain that India will achieve its freedom and after freedom India needed a government. And for the effective functioning of a government certain set of principles and rules & regulations were required to be framed, hence India needed a Constitution[1].

In 1934, an idea for a Constituent Assembly was proposed by Manabendra Nath Roy[2]. It became an official demand of the Indian National Congress in 1935, C. Rajagopalachari voiced the demand for a Constituent Assembly on 15thNovember, 1939 based on adult franchise, and was accepted by the British in August 1940. On 8thAugust, 1940 early in the Battle of Britain, the Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow, made the so-called “August Offer”, a fresh proposal promising the expansion of the Executive Council to include more Indians, the establishment of an advisory war council, giving full weight to minority opinion, and the recognition of Indians’ right to frame their own constitution (after the end of the war). In return, it was hoped that all parties and communities in India would cooperate in Britain's war effort. The Congress did not trust the intentions of the British government. Consequently, Linlithgow recorded that the British government “could not contemplate the transfer of their present responsibilities for the peace and tranquillity of India to any system of Government whose authority is directly denied by large and power elements in the India’s national life.” Therefore, Linlithgow stated that the constitutional future of India could be resolved in the future once the war was over by establishing a constituent assembly that was representative of the principal elements in India’s national life. The Congress Working Committee meeting at Wardha on 21stAugust, 1940 eventually rejected the offer.

TheCripps Mission was a failed attempt in late March 1942 by the British Government to secure full Indian cooperation and support for their efforts in World War II. The mission was headed by a senior minister Sir Stafford Cripps, Lord Privy Seal and leader of the House of Commons. Cripps was sent to negotiate an agreement with the nationalist Congress leaders, who spoke for the majority Indians, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League, who spoke for the minority Muslim population. Cripps worked to keep India loyal to the British war effort in exchange for a promise of elections and full self-government (Dominion Status) once the war was over. Cripps discussed the proposals, which he had drafted himself, with the Indian leaders and published them. Both the major parties rejected his proposals, and they were also unacceptable to Churchill; no middle way was found and the mission failed.

In 1946, the Cabinet Mission Plan came to India with an aim to discuss the transfer of power from the British Government to the Indian leadership, with the aim of preserving India's unity and granting it independence. The Cabinet Mission’s role was to hold preparatory discussions with the elected representatives of British India and the Indian states so as to secure agreement to the method of framing the constitution, to set up a constitution body and to set up an Executive Council with the support of the main Indian parties. Thus, it was under this Plan, India formed its Constituent Assembly.

Drafting of the Constitution
India under the British Raj consisted of two types of territories, that is, British India and Princely States[3].TheConstituent Assembly was formed on the basis of the population, for every 10 lakh people there was one representative. So there were 389 representatives who were called from entire India to form theConstituent Assembly, 296 representatives from the British India and 93representativesfrom Princely States. The Princely States denied participation in the Constituent Assembly as they were in the hopes that they would create their own independent states and rule them after the British left India. Hence the Constituent Assembly was formed with the 296 representatives from the British India. The Constituent Assembly was not elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage, and Muslims and Sikhs received special representation as minorities. These 296 representatives also included women members viz., Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai Deshmukh, Rajkumari Amrit KaurandVijayalakshmi Pandit.Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Sanjay Phakey, Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Purushottam Mavalankar, Sandip kumar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Nalini Ranjan Ghosh, Balwantrai Mehta H. P. Modi, Ari Bahadur Gururng and Frank Anthony were some important figures in the Constituent Assembly. Prominent jurists like Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, Benegal Narsing Rauand K. M. Munshiand Ganesh Mavlankar were also members of the Assembly.

The members of the Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 9thDecember, 1946. The first temporary two day president of the Constituent Assembly wasDr. Sachchidananda Sinha[4]. The second meeting of the Constituent Assembly was on 11thDecember, 1946 whereinDr. Rajendra Prasad[5]was elected as the president,Harendra Coomar Mookerjee[6]as the vice-president andBenegal Narsing Rao[7]as the constitutional advisor of the Constituent Assembly. In the third meeting, that is, on 13thDecember, 1946 Jawaharlal Nehru presented an ‘Objective Resolution’ in the Constituent Assembly, laying down the underlying principles of the constitution. In the next meeting, that is, on 22ndJanuary, 1947 the said Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly[8]and it finally became the Preamble of the Constitution.

The Constituent Assembly appointed a total of 13 committees to deal with different tasks of constitution-making. Out of these, eight were major committees and the others were minor committees.
Major Committees:
1.Drafting Committee – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
2.Union Powers Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
3.Union Constitution Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru
4.Provincial Constitution Committee – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
5.Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
This committee had the following subcommittees :
1.Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee - J.B. Kripalani
2.Minorities Sub-Committee - Harendra Coomar Mookerjee,
3.North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Excluded & Partially Excluded Areas Sub-Committee – Gopinath Bardoloi
4.Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than those in Assam) Sub-Committee – A V Thakkar
6. Rules of Procedure Committee- Dr. Rajendra Prasad
7. States Committee (Committee for Negotiating with States) – Jawaharlal Nehru.
8. Steering Committee - Dr. Rajendra Prasad

The Assembly met in sessions open to the public, for 166 days, spread over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution. In the last meeting of the Assembly, that is, on 24thJanuary, 1950 the members of the Assembly signed two copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) and also“Jana Gana Mana”was adopted as the national anthem and the first two verses of“ Vande Mataram” as the national song. The original Constitution of India is hand-written with beautiful calligraphy, each page beautified and decorated by artists from Shantiniketan including Beohar Rammanohar Sinhaand Nandalal Bose. Two days later, on 26th January, 1950, the Constitution of India became the law of all the States and territories of India[9].Rupees One Crore was official estimate of expenditure on constituent assembly.

Most Indians recognise 26thJanuary as Republic Day, but not many are aware that on 26thJanuary 1930, that is, exactly 20 years before India became a republic. The Indian National Congress in an electrifying resolution declared Purna Swaraj - complete freedom from the British Raj. From then on, it was a question of ‘When’ — not ‘If’ —India would become free.

The Congress appointed its own commission, led by Motilal Nehru, to propose constitutional reforms for the country. In 1928, the ‘Nehru Report’ called for self-government for India under dominion status of the British Empire. However, a younger generation of Congress leaders such as Motilal’s son Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose felt the demand for dominion status was asking for too little. Eventually in its December 1928 session in Calcutta the Congress passed a resolution calling for the British to grant dominion status to India within one year, failure to do so would lead to a Congress call for complete independence. With no concessions forthcoming from the government, the stage was set in December 1929 for the Congress to pass a historic resolution at its Lahore session at the banks of river Ravi.

The “Indian Declaration of Independence” of 26thDecember, 1929 boldly stated:" We believe that it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We believe also that if any government deprives people of these rights and oppresses them; the people have a further right to alter it or to abolish it. The British Government in India has not only deprived the Indian people of their freedom but has based itself on the exploitation of the masses, and has ruined India economically, politically, culturally, and spiritually. We believe, therefore, that India must sever the British connection and attain Purna Swaraj, or complete independence.”

The Congress declared 26thJanuary, 1930 as ‘Independence Day’, when the Declaration of Independence was officially promulgated. India got independence from British rule in 1947, but was not a republic till 1950, until when the constitution of the country was adopted and the country was declared a Republic. The country was separated and was recognized as a separate country but it still followed British constitution and acknowledged British Monarch as its head. It was only when India adopted its newly written constitution on 26thJanuary, 1950 that India became a Republic.The new Indian Constitution took effect on 26thJanuary, 1950 to mark the 1930 declaration. That is why 26thJanuary is a special day in India’s history in more ways than one.

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It is a living document, the permanent instrument which makes the government system work.[10]It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles and the duties of citizens. It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world.[11]At the time of commencement, the constitution had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules and consists of almost 80,000 words.

The unambiguous commitment to a democratic, secular, egali­tarian and civil libertarian society by the framers of the constitution is a clear indication of the foresight of the learned makers of the constitution and their commitment for the welfare of all but not of the few.

Last but not the least, I am again mentioning the quote of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, which he had made in the concluding remarks of his speech in 1948:[12]

I feel that the constitution is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together bothin peacetime and in wartime. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had abad Constitution. What we will have to say is thatMan was vile.

[1] A constitution means a document having special legal sanctity which sets out the frame work and the principal functions of the organs of the Government of the State and declares the principles governing the operation of those organs.
[2]Born as Narendra Nath Bhattacharya, an Indian revolutionary, radical activist, political theorist and a noted philosopher of 20thCentury. Founder of the Mexican Communist Partyand theCommunist Partyof India.
[3] Avassal stateunder a local or regional ruler in a subsidiary alliancewith the British Raj.
[4] An Indian Lawyer, parliamentarian and journalist.
[5] 1stPresident of Independent India. His birth anniversary is celebrated as Advocates’ Day in India.
[6]An educationalist and prominent Christian leader of Bengal. First Governor of Bengal after independence.
[7]An Indian civil servant, jurist, diplomat and statesman. India’s representative to the United Nations Security Council from 1950 to 1952. Judge of the Bengal High Court in 1939.Judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice from February 1952 until his death.
[8]The Constituent Assembly Debates (Proceedings) ; (9th December, 1946 to 24th January 1950).
[9] Original un-amended Constitution of India, January, 1950.
[10]Preface, The Constitution of India.
[11]Pylee, M.V. (1997).India's Constitution, S. Chand & Co., p.3, ISBN 81-219-0403-X.
[12]Dhananjay Keer,Dr. Ambedkar : Life and Mission, Bombay: Popular Prakashan, 1971 [1954], p.410.

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