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Our Constitution: A brief study about Constituent Assembly of India.
In this article, I will explain about how the Constitution of India was framed and it's importance. The Preamble as a introductory part of constitution which describes the words such as Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic. Also you will come to know about the significance of our Preamble in a written Constitution of India. Formation of Drafting Committee and its working is written in brief in this article.
The Constitution of India came into effect on January 26th 1950, which India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic.
Constitution is a comprehensive document containing the set of rules according to which the government of a country runs. It regulates the position and powers of the three organs of the government-the legislative, the executive and the judiciary; the executive and the judiciary; and states special importance as it moderates relations between the government and the governed. Further, it protects the interests of the citizens by restraining the government from taking arbitrary decisions. The aim of a Constitution of a nation is to ensure smooth governance for the welfare of its citizens. The principles of the Constitution distinguish a constitutional or democratic government from that of a absolute monarchy or a dictatorship.
Framing the Indian Constitution
We have studied in the Freedom Movement of India that the Cabinet Mission of India that the Cabinet Mission arrived in India in 1946 and put forward a set of proposals to meet the demands of the Freedom Fighters. One of these proposals involved setting up of a Constituent Assembly whose members were to be elected indirectly by the Provincial Legislative Assemblies (Lower House only).
Elections to the Provincial Assembly were held in July 1946. The Princely States were represented by the members nominated by the rulers of these States. The Constituent Assembly of undivided India consisted of 385 members (292 elected and 93 nominated by the Princely states). The Constitution of India was framed by the Constituent Assembly.
The first sitting of the Constituent Assembly was held on December 9, 1946. It was held at the present Central Hall of the Parliament and was presided over by Dr. Sachidananda Sinha. The oldest sitting member of the Central Assembly. On December 11, 1946 Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected permanent chairman of the Constituent Assembly.
The Muslim League boycotted the Constituent Assembly to demand the creation of a separate State called Pakistan. Consequently the members representing the territories which went to Pakistan withdrew from the went to Pakistan withdrew from the Constituent Assembly of India. As a result, the membership of the Constituent Assembly of India stood at members. Of these, 284 were actually present on Nov.26, 1949, and appended their signatures to the Constitution as finally passed. Dr. Rajendra Prasad continued to be the permanent chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India. Between December 9, 1946 and August 14, 1947 the Assembly held five sessions.
The Constituent Assembly had members like Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, J.B. Kriplani. Maulana Azad, K.M. Mushi, Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar, H.N. Kunzru, Smt. Sarojini Naidu, Smt. Vijayalaxmi Pundit, Shri C.Rajagopalachari and other leading political, social and academic personalities of the day.
The wide-ranging membership of the Assembly gave representation to all shades of public opinion. The Cabinet Mission plan had ensured representation to only three categories-the General category, Muslims and Sikhs. The Congress leaders had, however, ensured that other communities like Anglo-Indians, Indian Christians, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes got representation.
The Anglo-Indians were represented by Mr. Frank Anthony and Mr. S.H.Prater; the Indian Christians, by Dr. H.C.Mukherjee and Joseph D'souza; and the Parsees by Dr. H.P. Modi. Though the Muslim League had boycotted the Assembly, there were still two members-Zafar Imam and Mohammad Saadullah who represented the Muslim community. The Sikhs were represented by Sardar Hukum Singh and Ujjal Singh. It can be said that the Constituent Assembly was truly national in character.
When the Constituent Assembly started the work of drafting the Constitution, Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru proposed the 'Objectives Resolution' on December 13, 1946. The 'Resolution' highlighted the objectives and laid down the 'national goals'.
The Resolution proposed:
- Free India will be nothing but a 'republic'.
- The ideals of social, political and economic democracy would be guaranteed to all people.
- The republic would grant Fundamental Rights to citizens.
- The state would safeguard the rights of minorities and backward classes.
- The 'Objectives Resolution' was passed by the Constituent Assembly on, January 22. 1947.
The Indian Independence Act, 1947, by which two independent states of India and Pakistan were created, recognized the existence of the Constituent Assembly of India. This legal sanction enabled the Constituent Assembly to function after India's independence. The Assembly became a sovereign body. To carry on its work it appointed eight committees. The Drafting Committee, under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was set up on August 29, 1947 and was entrusted with the task of drafting the Constitution. Important members of the committee included N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, T.T.Krishnamachari, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, Dr. K.M. Munshi and Syed Mohammad Saadullah.
Consultations: Besides these members, the Drafting Committee was assisted by Mr. B.N. Rao, Secretary to the Constituent Assembly. Mr. Rao visited and studied the Constitutions of many countries such as Ireland, Germany, and the countries such as Ireland, Germany, the USA, Canada, and Australia. The Drafting Committee also studied the various Acts and conventions followed by the British Parliament. (Britain does not have a written Constitution). Many of the good points of the Constitutions of these countries were incorporated in the draft.
The draft was ready by February, 1948. In order to seek wide ranging consultations it was published in all the leading newspapers of the country. This also enabled the Drafting Committee to elicit public opinion.
The Draft was discussed by the Constituent Assembly, clause by clause, since November 4, 1948. Thereafter, the draft underwent second Reading which was completed on October 17, 1949. It was followed by the third and the final Reading which were completed on November 26, 1949. It took two the Constituent Assembly to finally pass the Constitution. At the time of its signing, the Constitution consisted of 395 Articles and Eight Schedules.
Commencement of the Constitution
After the signing of the Constitution, only the clauses relating to citizenship and some others came into force immediately. This was to enable persons displaced as a result of the partition, to register themselves as Indian citizens. The Constitution was adopted and passed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. The Constitution as a whole came into force with effect from January 26, 1950.
With the coming into force of the Constitution, C. Rajagopalachari became the Governor-General. He replaced Lord Mountbatten. The Constituent Assembly became the provisional parliament until the new General Elections were held in 1951-52. Dr. Rajendra Prasad., who was the President of the Constituent Assembly, took over as the President of the Indian Union.
Significance of January 26
The date January 26, 1950 for commencement of the Constitution was specially selected because of its historical importance. It was on this date, January 26. In 1929 that the Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress had for the first time given the call of Purna Swaraj or Complete Independence. Since then the day was celebrated as Independence Day up to 1947.
1.Constituent Assembly elected July, 1946
2.First Session Dec. 9, 1946
Proposed Dec. 13, 1946
Passed Jan. 22, 1947
4.Drafting Committee Set up Aug. 29, 1947
5.First Draft completed Feb. 1948
6.First Reading Nov. 1948
7.Second Reading Oct. 17, 1949
8.Third Reading Nov. 14, 1949
9.Constitution passed and adopted Nov. 26, 1949
10.Effective on Jan. 26, 1950
11.Constituent Assembly Members
Undivided India 385
India by itself 299
12.At the time of Commencement
On achieving Independence, 15th August 1947 became the Independence Day. January 26 was designated as the Republic Day.
A Comprehensive Document: The Constitution is a comprehensive legal document containing rules for election, lists of approved languages and other details about the conduct of the government. It contains provisions to govern the Centre and the State Governments. It caters and the State Governments. It caters to the needs of people with diversity of religion, caste, language, race and culture.
Our Constitution in its original form had 395 Articles and eight Schedules. Our Constitution today has, the Preamble, 448 Articles contained in Parts I to XXII; 12 Schedules and an Appendix to Part IX. A number of new articles have been added and several articles or even full parts (e.g. Part VII) of the Constitution have been repealed by constitutional amendments, but following the standard practice in this regard and to facilitate referencing, the existing numbers, Parts or Chapters have not been changed.
The Constitution of India is preceded by the Preamble. The Preamble sets out the main objectives which the Constitution is intended to achieve and promote. It is the introductory part of the Constitution though not an operative part of it. It reveals the intention of the framers of the Constitution and its basic features as well as ideals of the nation.
Though the Preamble is not an operative part of the Constitution. It has a hold on the governments. This is because when there is a dispute regarding the interpretation of the text of the Constitution, explanation given in the Preamble comes in handy. The Objectives Resolution of making India a Sovereign Democratic Republic was introduced in the Constituent Assembly by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru. It was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947. It became the basis of the Preamble. After some minor changes by the Amendment Act (42nd amendment) 1976, the Preamble reads:
We, The PEOPLE OF INDIA,
Having solemnly resolved to
Constitute India into a
SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR
And to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and
LIBERTY of thought, expression.
Belief, faith and worship:
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity
and to promote among them all:
FRATERNITY, assuring the dignity of
The individual and the unity and
Integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
This twenty-sixth day of
Do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND
GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS
Significance of the Preamble
The 1976 Amendment Act had added the terms 'socialist', 'secular' and 'integrity'. The significance of the Preamble as well as the 42nd Constitutional Amendment is further emphasized by the following:
- Real authority: The Preamble makes the people of India the source of the real authority. This is clear in the initial words 'We, THE PEOPLE'. It has perhaps been inspired by a similar expression in the American Constitution. The words 'ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION' makes the people the holde4rs of this authority. Speaking about this purpose and intention of the Constitution. Dr. Ambedkar said in the Constituent Assembly: "This Constituent Assembly: "This Constitution has its roots in the people and it derives its authority from the people."
- Emphasis: The words 'SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC' appears in bold capital letters. This was done in emphasize their importance in the context of the vision of Modern India by the framers of the Constitution.
- Integrated whole: No commas or breaks have been used between the words 'SOVEREIGN SOSCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC'. In the words of Chief Justice Hidyatullah: "It lays down the pattern of our political society."
Based on this significance, the Preamble is considered 'the soul and spirit' of our Constitution.
- Sovereign The Preamble declared India a 'Sovereign State'. It means that India is its own 'supreme' power and not a subject of any other state or country, as was the case before Independence. She is free from foreign interference. She is free from foreign interference. India is a member of the United Nations and also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. These do not infringe on her sovereignty. India is free to frame her own economic, social and foreign policies.
- Socialist The word 'socialist' was added to the Preamble to stress the need to strive for socialism implying equitable distribution of National Income to all sections of the people. This means freedom from all forms of exploitation-social, political and economic. The State is expected to bring about social and economic equality and prevent he concentration of wealth in a few hands.
In consonance with this 'Socialist' ideal the Righty to properly was deleted from the list of Fundamental Rights and made a legal right.
- SECULAR The word 'secular' was inserted in the Preamble to the Constitution to imply that all religions command equal respect and recognition from the State.
People in India are free to profess any religion of their choice, unless it goes against the peace, security and integrity of the country. Everybody is equal before law, and enjoys equal rights, no matter to which faith, caste, colour or creed he or she belongs.
The words 'SOCIALIST SECULAR' were added by the 42nd Amendment to the Constitution.
- Democratic This term implies that India has chosen a form of government in which people have a say as to who should hold power and how it should be used.
Under this ideal of the Constitution all citizens of 18 years of age and above have been given the right known as 'Adult Franchise'. By Adult Franchise citizens have the right to elect representatives for the Union Parliament, the State Legislatures and local bodies like municipalities and village panchayats. Similarly, citizens have been given the right to contest elections for these bodies irrespective of their social, educational or financial background. India is today one of the largest democracies of the world.
The Fundamental Rights guaranteed in the Constitution give the citizens several democratic rights like the freedom of speech and expression and equality before law. Dr. Ambedkar had rightly observed that political democracy could be the basis of social and economic democracy. Within this ideal 'Untouchability' has been made an offence punishable by law.
- Republic The term 'republic' refers to a state in which power is held by the people through their elected representatives. In a republic the head of the State has no hereditary right. However, a republic makes no distinction between directly or indirectly elected head of the State. Thus India and the USA stand on an equal footing in this respect. In the United States, the President is directly elected by the people whereas the Indian President is indirectly elected, by the elected representatives of the people.
Whereas the Preamble states the main objectives-'Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic', the ideals to be achieved are also stated in the second part. These ideals are Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
- JUSTICE, social, economic and political: 'Justice' implies not only administration of less in a fair and reasonable way but also without any privilege or prejudice.
- Social Justice: 'Social Justice' prevents discrimination on the basis of race, religion, caste or language. Each one is given what is due to him without prejudice or privilege.
- Economic Justice: 'Economic Justice' denotes that citizens are given their due without discrimination on the basis of their wealth or economic standards. The Directed towards giving the citizens adequate means of livelihood including right to work. The Government ensures economic justice is carried out by legislations on minimum wages, equal work-equal pay, no pay difference between men and women, etc.
- Political Justice: 'Political Justice' implies that there is freedom for the citizens to have their political views as long as such views do not go against the interest of the country. There is also the freedom to vote for any recognized political party in the country. Every citizen of India except those who are debarred on account of criminal offences can stand for election and hold office if elected. They can canvas and promote the views of any political party.
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship: Inspired by the American and French revolutions this freedom ('Liberty' implies freedom) seek to restore the dignity of human life. The British had placed various restrictions on Indians which have all been done away with under this ideal. Inspite of the fact that these freedoms like that of speech and expression are guaranteed in the Fundamental Rights these have been emphasized to ensure freedom of an individual especially in the matter of 'faith and worship'.
EQUALITY of status and opportunity: The Indian Constitution guarantees to its citizens not only political equality but also social and economic equality. The social equality ensures that there shall be no discrimination on grounds of economic status, caste, colour, or creed. It also implies equal opportunity to all its citizens.
FRATERNITY, assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation: The term 'Fraternity' implies friendship among a group of people (the people of India0 sharing common interests. This common interest has been made more explicit by adding the words 'the unity and integrity of the Nation'. Being an Indian or having Indian citizenship is just not enough without the cementing bond of unity of the Nation. It is quite clear that any antinational activity is against the spirit of the Constitution. The ideal of 'Fraternity' is thus violated if we take into account activities of terrorists, who neither ensure dignity of the individual nor that of the nation.
The adoption and enactment of the Constitution was the first great landmark of Independent India. The incorporation of Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution was the first major act of a modern civilized society. The Constitution permitted the ancient Indian village societies once again harness their strengths. This social order prevails up to this day. The Directive Principles of State Policy ensure constant interaction between the people and the State. Without these provisions the Constitution would have been found lacking in meeting the needs of the people belonging to a variety of cultures, race, linguistic groups and religions.
The Preamble, though not enforceable in a court of law, makes the whole document of the Constitution more cohesive and the operative parts look more meaningful. In such a perspective, the Constitution of India is the real guide of the successive governments and their political ideologies.
Significance of the Preamble in a written Constitution
The Constitution of India is a lengthy document. In fact, it is the most comprehensive and bulky Constitution ever adopted by any country. It originally had 395 Articles and 8 Schedules. Over the years additions have been made be Constitutional Amendments. Two new Schedules were added, resulting in a further increase in its volume.
The Indian Constitution is a detailed written document, containing laws and procedures for governance. An unwritten Constitution like that of England is based on unwritten conventions, traditions and practices. The Constitutions of India and the USA are written Constitutions.
- The Preamble represents the essence, the philosophy, the ideals of the entire Constitutions of India. The other parts and provisions of the Constitution are only an elaboration and an attempt to give concrete shape to the words of the Preamble. Over the years so many amendments have been made to the Constitution but its basic features could not be altered.
- India is a vast country with different languages and cultures. It is not possible to spread the salient points of an unwritten Constitution in this situation. A written Constitution in any language could be made available to people. If not the entire contents, at least the Preamble therefore, the philosophy of the Constitution could be understood.
- Different Governments came and go with a continuous change of elected representatives, it is not possible to orally communicate the spirit of the Preamble to the law makers who have to base their decisions on the scope of the Constitution.
- Disputes, ambiguities are to be resolved in a written Constitution. In order to interpret the articles it is necessary to refer often to the Preamble which should form the basis for interpretation.
- The Preamble contains the five basic features of the Constitution. That is, India is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic. Besides, it reminds people of the Four Ideals of the State. That is, India should secure to all its citizens Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
Combining the ideals of political, social and economic democracy with that of equality and fraternity, the Preamble seeks to establish what Mahatma Gandhi described as "The India of My Dreams."
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