Constituent Assembly of India

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First day (9 December 1946) of the Constituent Assembly. From right: B. G. Kher and Sardar Vallabhai Patel; K. M. Munshi is seated behind Patel

The Constituent Assembly of India was elected to write the Constitution of India. Following India's independence from Great Britain, its members served as the nation's first Parliament.

History[edit]

It was in 1934 that the idea of a Constituent Assembly for India was put forward by Manabendra Nath Roy a pioneer of the communist movement in India and an advocate of radical democratism. However, it became an official demand of the Indian National Congress in 1935.[1] During World War I the Indians were the King Emperor's loyal subjects and that His Majesty's enemies were their enemies. The Indian contingent provided vital backup to the British Expeditionary Forces. In World War I, Indian Army during World War I contributed a number of divisions and independent brigades to the European, Mediterranean and the Middle East theaters of war in World War I. One million Indian troops would serve overseas, of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded. In total 74,187 Indian soldiers died during the war.[2]

On 3 September 1939, Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India declared that India was at war with Nazi Germany without consulting the leaders of Indian political parties.[3] The Indian National Congress strongly reacted against this one sided decision of the Viceroy. The Congress made it clear to the British Government that India was always willing to help England to the best of her might and ability provided the latter made a clear declaration to free India after the war. But the British attitude remained evasive. Consequently, all the Congress ministers resigned on 22 October 1939.[4] On 23 October 1939, the Congress condemned the Viceroy’s attitude and called upon the Congress ministers in the various provinces to resign in protest.[3]

From 7 December to 26 December 1939, Sir Stafford Cripps toured India, visiting Karachi, Delhi, Allahabad, Baroda, Hyderabad, Bombay, Wardha and Calcutta. He conducted numerous interviews with British officers and Indian Political Leaders. Sir Stafford Cripps showed his proposals regarding development of a National Constitution Assembly and Dominion Status to Gandhi and Nehru.[5]

The Muslim League raised the cry of "Islam is in danger" and termed the Indian National Congress as an organization of the Hindus. When the Congress ministries resigned on 22 December the Muslim League celebrated ‘Liberation Day’ all over the country. On the very same day the League passed a resolution blaming the Congress ministries of violating the religious, social and political rights of the Muslims. This policy of the League provided a surge to the poisonous tree of communalism. The League proposed the 'Two-nation theory' and tried its best to assure the Muslim masses and the British rulers that Muslim interests were not common with the Hindus, rather the existence of the minority Muslims was always in danger because of the majority Hindus.[4]

British Government has fully rejected the proposal of Constitution Assembly as members representatives should be elected rather than nominated or selected by which possible moment of India's goal of complete self-government. On 15 March 1940 at the Meeting of the War Cabinet in England, it was felt that British Government was lacking troops and labour in War Zones and it became more important to resolve the dead lock which was created in India.[6] On 22–24 March 1940, Muslim League in a session of its annual conference at Lahore passed the Pakistan Resolution calling for the partition of India and development of separate Muslim state.[5]

Due of non availability of troops British Government stated downfall at various places. On 30 April 1940, British troops evacuated from Namsos and Andalsnes.[7] On 3 May 1940, British withdrew from central Norway [8] On 19 May 1940, British Government ordered to dispatch eight battalions to England for replacements from India.[9] On 10 June 1940, Italy declares war on Britain and France [10] On 6 July 1940, in War Cabinet facts of the political situation in India was discussed. As major portion of troop already moved out of India, it was felt that dead lock created may be changed into Civil War soon if the issue of Dominant Status of India is not decided at earliest possible.[11] As it was established that Congress will consider co-operation only if India is forthwith declared to be entirely independent, and free to determine her own destiny. It was also felt that as some members of congress now rejected Gandhi's doctrine of non-violence inapplicable to external aggression, indicated the possibility of attempts by the Congress to set up defense organizations of its own.[11]

Subhas Chandra Bose had been a leader of the younger, radical, wing of the Indian National Congress in the late 1920s and 1930s, rising to become Congress President in 1938 and 1939. However, he was ousted from Congress leadership positions in 1939 following differences with Mohandas K. Gandhi and the Congress high command.[12] British considered Subhas Chandra Bose a dangerous revolutionary and had arrested him on 2 July 1940. He was kept under surveillance at his home in Calcutta but escaped on 17 January 1941 and made his way to Kabul and Moscow. On 28 March he flew to Berlin and created Indian National Army.[13]

On 12 July 1940, [14]No final decision was taken but It was agreed that the first step would be for the proposed Declaration to be redrafted on the lines proposed, with a view to the Viceroy being consulted as:

  1. Approved the expansion of the Viceroy's Executive Council and the setting up of a War Advisory Committee on the lines sketched.
  2. The Secretary of State for India was invited to prepare a revised draft Statement on the lines indicated in the discussion and to resubmit it to the War Cabinet.
  3. Authorised the Secretary of State for India to inform the Viceroy of the decisions in (1), but not to announce them. The Viceroy should be informed that a revised draft statement was being prepared and would be communicated to him; and that he would then be asked whether he favoured the issue of the revised draft statement, simultaneously with the announcement of the expansion of his Executive Council and the establishment of a War Advisory Committee.

On 25 July 1940,[15] British Government felt that developments of the last few months have led to a position that there are not sufficient troops for our requirements in all parts of the world. The period between now and May 1941 may well be critical, and of opinion they would require all the troops which India can provide for service. In Special Meeting of War Cabinet decided that:[16]

  1. Reaffirmed their decision approving the expansion of the Viceroy's Executive Council, and the setting up of a War Advisory Committee.
  2. Agreed that an announcement of these two measures should be accompanied by a further Declaration.
  3. Invited the Prime Minister to draft, for consideration by the War Cabinet, a Declaration on the lines indicated by him in discussion, which should involve no departure in principle from the Declaration made on 23 May.

On 8 August 1940, British Government responded by Lord Linlithgow in the sort of a proposal which is called August Offer. However, The Congress Working Committee meeting at Wardha on 21 August 1940 rejected this offer, and asserted its demand for complete freedom from the imperial power. On 1-2 September 1940, Muslim League also rejected the Offer and asserted that it would not be satisfied by anything short of partition of India. [17]

On 12 September 1940, Viceroy of India communicate British Government about proposals are rejected by both Congress and Muslim League. The All India Congress Committee to call upon people to refuse every kind of participation in the war and in men and money. The suggestion are made to arrest the Indian Political Leaders.[18]On 27 September 1940, Gandhi meet Lord Linlithgow and told that a mass movement may turn violent and he would not like to see the Great Britain embarrassed by such a situation.[19] To oppose this decision by the foreign government, the Congress party decided to launch individual satyagraha. On 17 October 1940, Mahatma Gandhi had chosen Acharya Vinoba Bhave as the first satyagrahi to start personal satyagraha and Jawaharlal Nehru as the second. Underlying this decision there was a strategy of preparing their supporters and the party organisation for the mass movement which was to follow. By 15 May 1941, 25,000 satyagrahis had courted arrested and demonstrated the commitment of the people towards the freedom movement.[20]

Nature of the Assembly[edit]

The Constituent Assembly, consisting of indirectly elected representatives, was set up for the purpose of drafting a constitution for India (including what are now the separate countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh). In the event, it remained in being for almost three years, acting as the first parliament of India after independence in 1947. The Assembly was not elected on the basis of universal adult franchise; plus only Muslims and Sikhs were given special representation as "minorities". The influential Muslim League initially boycotted the Assembly after having failed to prevent its gathering. While a large number of the Constituent Assembly was drawn from the Congress party in a one-party political ecosphere, it is also important to note that at that point in history, the Congress party included wide diversity within itself, from conservative industrialists and radical Marxists, to Hindu revivalists, all of whom drove the process.

The Assembly met for the first time in New Delhi on 9 December 1946. The last session of the Assembly was held on 24 January 1950.[21] Over the course of this period (two years, eleven months and eighteen days), the Assembly held eleven sessions, sitting on a total of 166 days.[22] The hope behind the Assembly was expressed by Jawaharlal Nehru: "The first task of this Assembly is to free India through a new constitution, to feed the starving people, and to cloth the naked masses, and to give every Indian the fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity."

Background and election[edit]

The Constituent Assembly was set up while India was still under British rule, following negotiations between Indian leaders and members of the 1946 Cabinet Mission to India from the United Kingdom. The provincial assembly elections had been conducted early in 1946. The Constituent Assembly members were elected to it indirectly by the members of these newly elected provincial assemblies, and initially included representatives for those provinces which came to form part of Pakistan, some of which are now within Bangladesh. The Constituent Assembly had 299 representatives, including nine women.

The Interim Government of India was formed on 2 September 1946 from the newly elected Constituent Assembly.

The Congress held a large majority in the Assembly, with 69 percent of all of the seats, while the Muslim League held almost all of the seats reserved in the Assembly for Muslims. There were also some members from smaller parties, such as the Scheduled Caste Federation, the Communist Party of India, and the Unionist Party.

In June 1947, the delegations from the provinces of Sindh, East Bengal, Baluchistan, West Punjab, and the North West Frontier Province withdrew, to form the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, meeting in Karachi.

On 15 August 1947, the Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan became independent nations, and the members of the Constituent Assembly who had not withdrawn to Karachi became India's Parliament. Only 28 members of the Muslim League finally joined the Indian Assembly. Later, 93 members were nominated from the princely states. The Congress thus secured a majority of 82%.

Constitution and elections[edit]

See Also: Constitution of India

At 11AM on 9 December 1946, the Assembly began its first session, with 207 members attending. By early 1947, representatives of the Muslim League and princely states joined. The Assembly formally approved the draft Constitution on 26 November 1949. On 26 January 1950, the Constitution took effect, a day now commemorated in India as Republic Day. At this point, the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional Parliament of India, which continued in existence until after the first elections under the new Constitution took place in 1952.

Organization[edit]

Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha was the first president (temporary chairman) of the Constituent Assembly when it met on 9 December 1946. Dr. Rajendra Prasad then became the President of the Constituent Assembly, and would later become the first President of India. The Vice-President of the Constituent Assembly was Professor Harendra Coomar Mookerjee, a former Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University and a prominent Christian from Bengal, who also served as the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly's Minorities Committee; he was appointed Governor of West Bengal after India became a republic. Eminent bureaucrat & jurist Sir Benegal Narsing Rau was appointed as the Constitutional Adviser to the Constituent Assembly. He prepared the original draft of the constitution and was later appointed a judge in the Permanent Court of International Justice, The Hague.

The Assembly's work was organised into five stages: (1) committees were asked to present reports on basic issues; (2) the constitutional adviser, B.N. Rau, prepared an initial draft on the basis of these committees and his own research into the constitutions of other countries; (3) the drafting committee, chaired by B.R. Ambedkar, presented a detailed draft constitution that was published for public discussion and comments; (4) the draft constitution was discussed and amendments were proposed and enacted; (5) the constitution was adopted. A committee of experts led by the Congress Party, called the Congress Assembly Party, played a critical role.[23]

9 December 1946 : The first meeting of Constituent Assembly was held in the constitution hall(now 'Central Hall of Parliament House'). Demanding a separate state, the Muslim League boycotted the meeting. Dr. Sanchidanand Sinha was elected as temporary President of Assembly following the French practice.

11 December 1946 : Elected Dr.Rajendra Prasad and H.C.Mukherjee as the President and Vice-President of the Assembly respectively. Appointed Sir B. N. Rau as Constitutional advisor to the Assembly.

13 December 1946 : 'Objective Resolution' was introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru. Underlying principles of Constitution were laid by Objective Resolution.

22 January 1947: Unanimously adopted the Objective Resolution.

May 1949: Ratified India's membership of the Commonwealth.

22 July 1947: Adopted the [Flag of India|national flag].

24 January 1950: Adopted [Jana Gana Mana] as the national anthem and [Vande Mataram] as the national song. Elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first president of India.

The Assembly was chaired by Dr. Rajendra Prasad whenever it met as a Constituent body and by G. V. Mavlankar when it met as a legislative body. Constituent Assembly completed the task of drafting Constitution in 2 years, 11 months and 18 days. The total expenditure incurred was Rs. 6.4 million.

Members of the Indian Constituent Assembly[edit]

Indian National Congress

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, 1st Prime Minister

Members of the Indian Constituent Assembly (province/state wise)[edit]

Madras O. V. Alagesan, Mrs. Amma Swaminathan, M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, Moturi Satyanarayana, Mrs. Dakshayani Velayudhan, Mrs. G. Durgabai, Kala Venkatarao, N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, D. Govinda Das, Revd. Jerome D'Souza, P. Kakkan, T.M.Kaliyannan Gounder, K. Kamaraj, V. C. Kesava Rao, T. T. Krishnamachari, Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer L. Krishnaswami Bharathi, P. Kunhiraman, Mosalikanti Thirumala Rao, V. I. Munuswamy Pillai, M. A. Muthiah Chettiar, V. Nadimuthu Pillai, S. Nagappa, P. L. Narasimha Raju, B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, C. Perumalswamy Reddy, T. Prakasam, S. H. Prater, Raja Swetachalapati Ramakrishna Renga Roa of Bobbili, R. K. Shanmukham Chetty, T. A. Ramalingam Chettiar, Ramnath Goenka, O. P. Ramaswamy Reddiar, N. G. Ranga, Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy, Sri Sheik Galib Sahib, K. Santhanam, B. Shiva Rao, Kallur Subba Rao, U. Srinivasa Mallya, P. Subbarayan, C. Subramaniam, V Subramaniam, M. C. Veerabahu Pillai, P. M. Velayudapani, A. K. Menon, T. J. M. Wilson, Mohamed Ismail Sahib, K. T. M. Ahmed Ibrahim, Mahboob Ali Baig Sahib Bahadur, B. Pocker Sahib Bahadur

Bombay Balchandra Maheshwar Gupte, Hansa Mehta, Hari Vinayak Pataskar, B. R. Ambedkar, Joseph Alban D'Souza, Kanayalal Nanabhai Desai, Keshavrao Marutirao Jedhe, Khandubhai Kasanji Desai, Bal Gangadhar Kher, M.R. Masani, K.M. Munshi, Narahar Vishnu Gadgil, S. Nijalingappa, S. K. Patil, Ramchandra Manohar Nalavade, R. R. Diwakar, Shankarrao Deo, G. V. Mavalankar, Vallabhbhai Patel, Abdul Kadar Mohammad Shaikh, A. A. Khan

West Bengal Monomohan Das, Arun Chandra Guha, Lakshmi Kanta Maitra, Mihir Lal Chattopadhyay, Satis Chandra Samanta, Suresh Chandra Majumdar, Upendranath Barman, Prabhudayal Himatsingka, Basanta Kumar Das, Mrs. Renuka Ray, H. C. Mukherjee, Surendra Mohan Ghose, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Ari Bahadur Gurung, R. E. Platel, K. C. Neogy, Raghib Ahsan, Somnath Lahiri, Jasimuddin Ahmad, Naziruddin Ahmad, Abdul Hamid[disambiguation needed], Abdul Halim Ghuznavi

United Provinces Ajit Prasad Jain, Algu Rai Shastri, Balkrishna Sharma, Banshi Dhar Misra, Bhagwan Din, Damodar Swarup Seth, Dayal Das Bhagat, Dharam Prakash, A. Dharam Dass, R. V. Dhulekar, Feroz Gandhi, Gopal Narain, Krishna Chandra Sharma, Govind Ballabh Pant, Govind Malaviya, Har Govind Pant, Harihar Nath Shastri, Hriday Nath Kunzru, Jaspat Roy Kapoor, Jagannath Baksh Singh, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jogendra Singh, Jugal Kishore, Jwala Prasad Srivastava, B. V. Keskar, Mrs. Kamala Chaudhri, Kamalapati Tiwari, J. B. Kripalani, Mahavir Tyagi, Khurshed Lal, Masurya Din, Mohan Lal Saksena, Padampat Singhania, Phool Singh, Paragi Lal, Mrs. Purnima Banerjee, Prurshottam Das Tandon, Hira Vallabha Tripathi, Ram Chandra Gupta, Shibban Lal Saxena, Satish Chandra, John Matthai, Mrs. Sucheta Kripalani, Sunder Lall, Venkatesh Narayan Tivary, Mohanlal Gautam, Vishwambhar Dayal Tripathi, Vishnu Sharan Dublish, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Hyder Hussain, Hasrat Mohani, Abul Kalam Azad, Muhammad Ismail Khan, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai, Mohd. Hifzur Rahman, Z H Lari

East Punjab Bakshi Tek Chand, Jairamdas Daulatram, Thakurdas Bhargava, Bikramlal Sondhi, Yashwant Rai, Ranbir Singh, Lala Achint Ram, Nand Lal, Sardar Baldev Singh, Giani Gurmukh Singh Musafir, Sardar Hukam Singh, Sardar Bhopinder Singh Mann, Sardar Rattan Singh Lohgarh Chaudhry Suraj Mal

Bihar Amiyo Kumar Ghosh, Anugrah Narayan Sinha, Banarsi Prasad Jhunjhunwala, Bhagwat Prasad, Boniface Lakra, Brajeshwar Prasad, Chandika Ram, K. T. Shah, Devendra Nath Samanta, Dip Narain Sinha, Guptanath Singh, Jadubans Sahay, Jagat Narain Lal, Jagjivan Ram, Jaipal Singh, Kameshwar Singh of Darbhanga, Kamaleshwari Prasad Yadav, Mahesh Prasad Sinha, Krishna Ballabh Sahay, Raghunandan Prasad, Rajendra Prasad, Rameshwar Prasad Sinha, Ramnarayan Singh, Sachchidananda Sinha, Sarangdhar Sinha, Satyanarayan Sinha, Binodanand Jha, P. K. Sen, Sri Krishna Sinha, Sri Narayan Mahtha, Syamanandan Sahaya, Hussain Imam, Syed Jafar Imam, Latifur Rahman, Mohammad Tahir, Tajamul Hussain, Choudhry Abid Hussain. Pt Hargovind Mishra.

Central Provinces and Berar Raghu Vira, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, B.A. Mandloi, Brijlal Nandlal Biyani, Thakur Cheedilal, Seth Govind Das, Hari Singh Gour, Hari Vishnu Kamath, Hemchandra Jagobaji Khandekar, Ghanshyam Singh Gupta, Lakshman Shrawan Bhatkar, Panjabrao Shamrao Deshmukh, Ravi Shankar Shukla, R. K. Sidhva, Shankar Trimbak Dharmadhikari, Frank Anthony, Kazi Syed Karimuddin, Ganpatrao Dani

Assam Nibaran Chandra Laskar, Dharanidhar Basu-Matari, Gopinath Bardoloi, J. J. M. Nichols-Roy, Kuladhar Chaliha, Rohini Kumar Chaudhury, Muhammad Saadulla, Abdur Rouf

Orissa Biswanath Das, Krishna Chandra Gajapati Narayana Dev, Harekrushna Mahatab, Laxminarayan Sahu Lokanath Mishra, Nandkishore Das, Rajkrishna Bose, Santanu Kumar Das, Yudhishir Mishra

Delhi Deshbhandhu Gupta

Ajmer-Merwara Mukut Bihari Lal Bhargava

Coorg C. M. Poonacha

Mysore K.C. Reddy, T. Siddalingaiya, H. R. Guruv Reddy, S. V. Krishnamurthy Rao, K. Hanumanthaiya, H. Siddaveerappa, T. Channiah

Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Motiram Baigra, Mirza Mohmmad Afzal Beg, Maulana Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi

Travancore-Cochin Pattom A. Thanu Pillai, R. Sankar, P. T. Chacko, Panampilly Govinda Menon, Annie Mascarene, P.S.Nataraja Pillai, K.A.Mohamed

Madhya Bharat Vinayak Sitaram Sarwate, Brijraj Narain, Gopikrishna Vijayavargiya, Ram Sahai, Kusum Kant Jain, Radhavallabh Vijayavargiya, Sitaram S. Jajoo

Saurashtra Balwant Rai Gopalji Mehta, Jaisukhlal Hathi, Amritlal Vithaldas Thakkar, Chimanlal Chakubhai Shah, Samaldas Laxmidas Gandhi

Rajasthan V. T. Krishnamachari, Hiralal Shastri, Sardar Singhjhi of Khetri, Jaswant Singhji, Raj Bhadur, Manikya Lal Varma, Gokul Lal Asava, Ramchandra Upadhyaya, Balwant Sinha Mehta, Dalel Singh, Jainarain Vyas

Patiala and East Punjab States Union Ranjit Singh, Sochet Singh, Bhagwant Roy

Bombay States Vinayakrao Balshankar Vaidya, B. N. Munavalli, Gokulbhai Daulatram Bhatt, Jivraj Narayan Mehta, Gopaldas A. Desai, Paranlal Thakurlal Munshi, B. H. Khardekar, Ratnappa Bharamappa Kumbhar

Orissa States Lal Mohan Pati, N. Madhava Rau, Raj Kunwar, Sarangadhar Das, Yudhishthir Mishra

Central Provinces States R. L. Malaviya, Kishorimohan Tripathi, Ramprasad Potai

United Provinces States B. H. Zaidi, Krishna Singh

Madras States V. Ramaiah, Ramakrishna Ranga Rao

Vindhya Pradesh Avdesh Pratap Singh, Shambu Nath Shukla, Ram Sahai Tiwari, Mannulalji Dwidedi

Cooch Behar Himmat Singh K. Maheshwari

Tripura and Manipur Girja Shankar Guha

Bhopal Lal Singh

Kutch Bhawani Arjun Khimji

Himachal Pradesh Yashwant Singh Parmar

Sessions[edit]

The Constituent Assembly of India met for 12 sessions on the following dates.[23]

Session Dates
I 9–23 December 1946
II 20–25 January 1947
III 28 April to 2 May 1947
IV 14–31 July 1947
V 14–30 August 1947
VI 27 January 1948
VII 4 November 1948 to 8 January 1949
VIII 16 May to 16 June 1949
IX 30 July to 18 September 1949
X 6–17 October 1949
XI 14–26 November 1949
XII 24 January 1950

Debates[edit]

Constituent Assembly Debates were the discussions, arguments etc. that took place in order to write the Constitution of India. These discussions happened between the elected members of the assembly who later served as the nation's First Parliament.

It is said that only 28% people of the total population were eligible to vote at that time, so only this percentage of people participated in the elections for the assembly.

The English translation of the debates is available for viewing here.

See also[edit]

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Austin, Granville. The Indian Constitution, Cornerstone of a Nation. New Delhi: OUP India, 1999. ISBN 0-19-564959-1
  • Bipan Chandra, Mridula Mukherjee, and Aditya Mukherjee. India Since Independence, Revised Edition. New Delhi: Penguin Books India, 2008.