The Indian Constitution


The Constituent Assembly took almost three years (two years, 11 months and 17 days to be exact) to complete the historic task of drafting the Constitution for Independent India. During this period, it held 11 sessions covering a total of 165 days. Of these, 114 days were spent on the consideration of the Draft Constitution and on January 26, 1950 the world's longest constitution, the Constitution of India, came into being!

The Constitution of India was drafted by the elected members of the provincial assemblies. We present the profiles of some of the prominent contributors.

Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru was a great statesman who served as the first prime minister of independent India. He studied at The Independent Boys' School, Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. Before becoming the prime minister, he practised law and was considered a talented barrister. As a prime minister, he was considered as a noted neutralist as far as policies in foreign affairs were concerned.

C Rajagopalachari
C Rajagopalachari was also known as Rajaji or CR. He was a lawyer, independence activist, politician, writer and statesman. Rajagopalachari was the last governor-general of India. He also served as leader of the Indian National Congress, premier of the Madras Presidency, governor of West Bengal, minister for home affairs of the Indian Union and chief minister of the then Madras state.

Dr Rajendra Prasad
Dr Rajendra Prasad was an educator and politician and one of the architects of the constitution. He also served as the first president of independent India. He is the only president to have been elected twice for the post. He also became the first minister of food and agriculture in the year 1946 in the Interim National Government.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was a successful barrister, statesman and one of the founding fathers of independent India. He was known for playing a major role in integrating the country into a united, independent nation. He is also known as the Bismark of India.

Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad
Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad was the first minister of education of independent India. He was a leader who believed in and supported Hindu-Muslim unity and had opposed the partition of India. As a young man, Azad composed poetry in Urdu as well as treatises on religion and philosophy. He rose to prominence as a journalist, publishing works that were critical of the British Raj and promoted Indian nationalism. He went on to become the leader of the Khilafat Movement in 1919. He was posthumously awarded India's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna in 1992. He is commonly remembered as Maulana Azad and had adopted Azad (Free) as his pen name.

The preamble of India's Constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949. The following year on January 26, the constitution became the supreme law. This significant document came into existence due to the hard work, patience and planning of many wise people, a few of whom we have spoken about. Now let's look back at how the constitution came into being. 

The constitution evolved much before India's independence from the British and its origin is closely related to the freedom struggle. In 1895, Annie Besant and Lokmanya Tilak had put forward a document called 'The Constitution of India Bill' or 'The Home Rule Bill'. The bill included the concepts of freedom of expression and equality before the law.

On February 1924, Motilal Nehru introduced a resolution in the Central Legislative Assembly. This resolution explained the procedure for drafting and adopting a constitution for India. This resolution was passed in the assembly. In 1927, Lord Birkenhead, who was the secretary of state, challenged the Indian leaders to produce a constitution which was agreeable to different sections of society. The Indian National Congress accepted the challenge and summoned an All Parties Conference and a committee under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru was formed to determine the principles of the Constitution for India. The Nehru Report was submitted on August 10, 1928. This report was an outline of a draft Constitution of India. It demanded equal rights for men and women irrespective of their caste, religion and region. The report also called for free elementary education and freedom of expression for all. Secularism was listed as a fundamental right in the report. M N Roy and Jawaharlal Nehru were the first ones to propose the idea that the constitution should be framed by elected members of a Constituent Assembly and not by legal experts. This idea was accepted and so it was included in the provincial legislatures election manifesto for 1936-37. 

The British agreed to it only in 1945 after the end of World War II. The Congress agreed to the Cabinet Mission's scheme of elected provincial assembly members electing the members of the Constituent Assembly. When the elections were conducted, the Congress won a huge majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly. The Congress working committee made great efforts to see that members from scheduled castes and tribes, women, Christians, Parsis and Anglo-Indians were among the Congress candidates. There was also an effort to bring in the best available talent, whatever be the political affiliations of individuals. Thus, 30 members who were elected on the Congress ticket were not its members.

The Muslim League opposed the Constituent Assembly, raising the demand for a separate state. Even though it won a big majority of Muslim seats, it never took part in the discussions of the Assembly. The first session of the Constituent Assembly was held on December 9, 1946 and was attended by 207 members. Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected as the chairman of the Assembly. The Assembly formed different subcommittees dealing with different aspects of the constitution. The most important committee was the drafting committee, which was chaired by Dr B R Ambedkar. After long and careful debates and several modifications, the Constituent Assembly approved the Draft Constitution on November 26, 1949. The Constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950. On that day, the Assembly ceased to exist, transforming itself into the Provisional Parliament of India until a new parliament was constituted in 1952.

  • The Indian Constitution has several unique features. It also has borrowed ideas and sections from the constitutions of other nations. These include ideas from the constitutions of USA, Ireland, Australia and Britain and some from the Government of India Act of 1935. The Constitution of India lays down a set of rules, which the ordinary laws of the country must follow. It provides a framework for a democratic and parliamentary form of government.
  • The Constitution also provides a list of fundamental rights and directive principles for common citizens. Fundamental rights are a guarantee in case of violations of the rights of citizens by the state or other citizens. These rights include right to equality, right to freedom, right to practise any religion, cultural and educational rights. If any of these rights are denied, a citizen can approach the court for justice.
  • The Indian Constitution represents the basic principles of the freedom movement, arguably the largest mass movement for freedom in world history.

Also Read