B. N. Rau

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B. N. Rau
Born 26 February 1887
Mangalore, British India
Died 30 November 1953 (age 66)
Zurich, Switzerland
Occupation Civil servant, constitutional scholar

Sir Benegal Narsing Rau, CIE, (26 February 1887 – 30 November 1953) was an Indian civil servant, jurist, diplomat and statesman known for his key role in drafting the Constitution of India. He was also India's representative to the United Nations Security Council from 1950 to 1952. His brothers were Governor of the Reserve Bank of India Benegal Rama Rau and journalist and politician B. Shiva Rao.

One of the foremost Indian jurists of his time, Rau helped draft the constitutions of Burma in 1947 and India in 1950. As India's representative on the United Nations Security Council (1950–52), he was serving as president of the council when it recommended armed assistance to South Korea (June 1950). Later he was a member of the Korean War post Armistice United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC).

A graduate of the Universities of Madras and Cambridge, Rau entered the Indian civil service in 1910. After revising the entire Indian statutory code (1935–37), he was knighted (1938) and made judge (1939) of the Bengal High Court at Calcutta (Kolkata). His writings on Indian law include a noted study on constitutional precedents as well as articles on human rights in India. He served briefly (1944–45) as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir state. From February 1952 until his death, he was a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice, The Hague. Before his election to the court, he was regarded as a candidate for secretary-general of the United Nations.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Narsing Rau was born in Mangalore on 26 February 1887 in a family of intellectuals. His father Benegal Raghavendra Rau was an eminent doctor. Narsing Rau passed Matriculation in 1901 from the Canara High School, Mangalore, topping the list of students of the entire Madras Presidency. He stood first in the entire University in the F.A. (Intermediate) examination and gained his degree with First Class marks in English, Sanskrit, and Mathematics. On a scholarship, he proceeded to Trinity College, Cambridge, and took his Tripos in 1909, just missing the Senior Wranglership.[2]

Bureaucratic career[edit]

B. N. Rau passed the Indian Civil Service Examination in 1909 and returned to India, posted to Bengal. Doing well on the Executive side, in 1909 he moved to the Judiciary. His distinguished work brought him a Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in the 1934 New Year Honours list[3] and a knighthood in 1938.[4] An example of his outstanding thoroughness untiring industry, and sincerity was the manner in producing the Indus Waters Commission report to settle a dispute between Punjab and Sind. In preparation for the challenging assignments, he mastered Statistics within a short time, and then went on to understand the intricate problems of irrigation. Rau retired from service in 1944.

After retirement from the Indian Civil Services, Rau was appointed as the Prime Minister of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Role in drafting the Constitution of India[edit]

B. N. Rau was appointed as the Constitutional Adviser to the Constituent Assembly in formulating the Indian Constitution. He was responsible for the general structure of its democratic framework of the Constitution and prepared its original draft.[5]

The Constituent Assembly's resolution setting up the Drafting Committee, under the chairmanship of B. R. Ambedkar, declared that it was being set up to "Scrutinise the Draft of the text of the Constitution prepared by the Constitutional Adviser giving effect to the decisions taken already in the Assembly and including all matters 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." There already was a Draft in existence when this Committee was set up.[6]

The President of the Constituent Assembly Rajendra Prasad, before signing the Constitution on 26 November 1949, thanked Rau for having "worked honorarily all the time that he was here, assisting the assembly not only with his knowledge and erudition but also enabled the other members to perform their duties with thoroughness and intelligence by supplying them with the material on which they could work."[7] Rau was not a member of the assembly but was perhaps as important in the framing of the Constitution.

Diplomatic career[edit]

Rau served India as a representing delegate in the United Nations. From 1949 to 1952 he was India's Permanent Representative to the UN, till he was appointed as a Judge of the International Court in The Hague. He also served as the President of the United Nations Security Council in June 1950.[8]


  1. ^ "Sir Benegal Narsing Rau (Indian jurist) – Encyclopedia Britannica". Britannica.com. 30 November 1953. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  2. ^ "The Hindu : dated December 01, 1953: B. N. Rau dead". Hinduonnet.com. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  3. ^ London Gazette, 29 December 1933
  4. ^ London Gazette, 9 June 1938
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "The Manu of Our Times? by Arun Shourie". Arunshourie.voiceofdharma.com. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  7. ^ "The Constitution-framers India forgot". Indiaabroad.com. Retrieved 13 June 2013. 
  8. ^ [2][dead link]