The Constituent Assembly of India: Features & its Committees
The Constituent Assembly of India was a body assembled with the sole purpose of drafting and formulating the Constitution of India. The body was a sovereign entity partly elected and partly nominated and its efforts paved the path for independent India.
MN Roy was the pioneer behind the idea of a Constituent Assembly. His idea was given reality in 1935 by the Indian National Congress where they officially announced the formation of a Constituent Assembly to frame the Constitution of India. The British government accepted the demand for the formation of a Constituent Assembly through their August Offer of 1940. The idea of the Constituent Assembly was finally established by the provisions of the Cabinet Mission Plan.
Features of the Constituent Assembly:
A. Composition of the Council:
- The total strength of the Constituent Assembly was 389 of which 296 seats were from British India and 93 seats represented the Princely states.
- Out of these 296 seats allotted to British India, 292 seats were filled from the 11 governors’ provinces and four from the Chief commissioners’ provinces.
- Allocation of seats in the Constituent Assembly was based on the proportion of the population. Seats were allocated among the three major communities Muslims, Sikhs, and the general population.
- Every community elected its own representative through the method of proportional representation by a single transferable vote and representatives of the princely states were nominated by the head of the state.
- Before the partition of India when the assembly met on 31st October 1947, the membership of the assembly was reduced to 299, out of these only 284 members were present on 26th November 1949 for appending their signatures to ratify the Constitution of India.
B. Operation of the Assembly:
- The Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 9th December 1946. This meeting, however, was boycotted by the Muslim League to assert their demand for Pakistan, as a result, there were 211 members present at the assembly’s first meeting.
- Dr Sachchidananda Sinha who was the assembly’s eldest member was appointed as the temporary President.
- The assembly later elected its President and Vice President, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was the elected President, and H.C. Mukherjee and V.T. Krishnamachari were the two Vice Presidents.
- B.N. Rao was appointed as the constitutional advisor.
- After the application of the Mountbatten Plan members of the Muslim League who were a part of the Indian territory participated in the meetings of the council. Members of the princely states who initially absconded from the proceedings of the Council participated later.
- A draft Constitution inclusive of all proposals and clauses was published by the Assembly in February 1948, under the guidance of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
- The assembly again met in November 1948 to consider every clause of the Draft Constitution. The Second Reading of the Draft Constitution was completed by the 17th of October 1949 and the Third Reading was completed by the 14th of November 1949, on the 26th of November the Constitution of India received the signature of the members of the assembly.
- The assembly conducted its last session on 24th January 1950.
- The provisions regarding citizenship, elections, provincial Parliament, and temporary and transitional provisional were implemented immediately from 26th November 1949, while the remaining provisions of the Constitution were enforced on 26th January 1950.
- A total of 11 sessions were conducted by the Constituent Assembly over a time period of 2 years 11 months and 18 days.
C. Objective Resolution:
The Objective Resolution laid down the philosophical base and the guiding principles for framing the Constitution. It was initiated by Jawaharlal Nehru on 13th December 1946. It laid down the basis of the Preamble of the Constitution of India. The guiding principles laid down by the Resolution are:
- It aimed at fostering economic and political security in India by a written constitution and declaring India a Sovereign, Democratic Republic.
- It fostered the formulation of a federal government with equitable distribution of powers between the Centre and the states.
- It strives to secure equality, justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, association, and action for every citizen of the country.
- It aimed at providing necessary protection to the minority and backward section of the society.
- It strives to secure the integrity of the territory of the Indian republic and follow the law of any civilized nation to secure rights on land, sea, and air.
- Lastly to attain an honourable place in the world and play an effective role in securing world peace and the welfare of mankind.
Various types of Committees of Constituent Assembly:
The Constituent Assembly had some major Committees and some minor committees to handle diverse subjects.
A. Some of the major Committees of Constituent Assembly:
1. Drafting Committee: This was the most important committee of the Constituent Assembly.
- The committee was formed in August 1947 with the prime responsibility of drafting the Constitution.
- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar led the Drafting Committee, there were 7 other members of this committee they were; K.M. Munshi, Gopalaswami Ayyangar, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, Syed Mohammad Sadullah, N. Madhava Rau (he replaced B.L. Mitter) and T.T. Ramakrishna Chari (replaced D.P. Khaitan)
- The committee published the first, second, and final draft of the Constitution, and finally after subsequent readings the committee ‘adopted, enacted, and gave to themselves the Constitution on November 26th, 1949.
- The Constitution came into force on 26th January 1950, this day is celebrated as Republic Day every year. This day was chosen to commemorate the homage to Purna Swaraj which was stated on 26th January 1930.
2. Union Power Committee: Jawaharlal Nehru supervised and led this committee.
3. Union Constitution Committee: The Chairman of the Committee is Jawaharlal Nehru.
4. States Committee: This Committee was also headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
5. Provincial Constitution Committee: This Committee was headed by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
6. Advisory Committee: This was also chaired by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
- J.B. Kripalini chaired the Sub-committee constituted for Fundamental Rights
- Minorities Sub-Committee: It was headed by H.C. Mukherjee.
- North East- Frontier areas and Assam Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas sub- Committee: This was headed by A.V. Thakkar.
- Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas sub- Committee: This was also led by A.V. Thakkar.
7. Rules and Procedure Committee: This was led by Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
8. Steering Committee: The chairman of this Committee was Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
B. Some of the minor Committees of Constituent Assembly:
- The Finance and Staff Committee was supervised by Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
- Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar supervised the Credentials Committee
- Pattabhi Sitaramayya was in-charge of the House Committee
- The Order of Business Committee was headed by Dr. K.M. Munshi.
- Dr Rajendra Prasad was the chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the national flag.
- G.V. Malvankar was the chairman of the Committee on functions of the Constituent assembly.
- S. Varadachari chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on Supreme Court.
- The Committee on Chief Commissioners Provinces was led by Pattabhi Sitaramayya.
- Nalini Ranjan Sarkar supervised the Expert Committee on Financial Provisions of the Union.
- The Linguistic Provinces Commission was led by S.K. Dhar.
- The Special Committee appointed to examine the draft constitution was chaired by Jawaharlal Nehru.
- Usha Nath Sen led the Press Gallery Committee
- S. Varadachari led the Ad Hoc Committee on citizenship.
The Constituent Assembly led the way for an independent and sovereign India. They drafted the law of the land- the Constitution of India and paved the path for a successful and democratic India. It instilled hope and faith in Indian governance and acted as the beacon of light for an independent India.