Constitutional development,nature and sources

  • The idea of a Constituent Assembly to frame the Constitution of India was first mooted by the Communist leader MN Roy.
  • The Indian National Congress (INC) demanded a Constituent Assembly for the first time in 1935.
  • The British Government accepted the demand in its “August Offer” in 1940. The Cripps Mission in 1942 came to India with a draft proposal but the Muslim League didn’t accept it as it wanted the division of India. Finally, the Cabinet Mission came out with a compromise  formula which constituted the Constituent Assembly in November, 1946.
  • The Constituent Assembly was set up in November 1946 as per the plan of Cabinet Mission.
  • Total members in the constituent assembly: 389 (292 from British Province, 4 from Chief Commissionary Areas and 93 from Princely States)
  • Seats were allocated in proportion to the population: one seat was to be allotted for every million population.
  • INC won 208 seats, the Muslim League 73 seats, and the small groups and independents got the remaining 15 seats. 93 representatives allotted to the princely states stayed away from the Constituent Assembly.
  • The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was convened on December 9, 1946 with Sachchidanand Sinha as the Interim President. He was the oldest member of the assembly.On December 11 , 1946, Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected as Permanent President of the Constitution Assembly.
  • The Muslim League boycotted the meeting and insistedon a separate state of Pakistan. On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru moved the historic ‘Objectives Resolution’ in the Assembly. It pledged to make India an independent sovereign union of states.
  • Sir B.N. Rao was appointed as the Constitutional Advisor to the Assembly.
  • The Constitution Assembly formed different types of committees for framing the Constitution. Some important committees and their chiarman were as follows:
    Name of the Committee            Chairman
    Committee on the Rules of ProcedureRajendra Prasad
    Steering Committee                         Rajendra Prasad
    Finance and Staff Committee            Rajendra Prasad
    Credential Committee                      Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar
    House Committee                      B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya
    Order of Business Committee           K.M. Munsi
    Ad hoc Committee on the National FlagRajendra Prasad
    Committee on the Functions of the Constituent AssemblyG.V. Mavalankar
    States Committee                            Jawaharlal Nehru
    Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minoritiesand Tribal and Excluded AreasVallabhbhai Patel
    Fundamental Rights Sub-CommitteeJ.B. Kripalani
    North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Exluded & Partially Excluded Areas Sub-CommitteeGopinath Bardoloi
    Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than those in Assam) Sub-CommitteeA.V. Thakkar
    Union Powers CommitteeJawaharlal Nehru
    Union Constitution CommitteeJawaharlal Nehru
    Drafting Committee                          B.R. Ambedkar
    The final reading of the draft was completed on November 26, 1949 and the Constitution was declared as passed.
  • The Provisions relating to citizenship, elections and provisional parliament etc. were implemented with immediate effect, that is from the 26th November, 1949. The Constituion came into full operation with effect from 26 January 1950.
  • note: During this period the Constituent Assembly acted as “Temporary Parliament” (15 August 1947 to 26 November 1949).
  • The Constituent Assembly took 2 years, 11 months and 18 days to frame the Constitution. Originally, the Constitution had 22 parts, 395 articles and 8 schedules. Presently, it consists of 450 articles (divided into 24 parts) and 12 schedules.

The Indian Constitution is borrowed from almost all the major countries of the world but has its own unique features too. Major sources are:
1. Government of India Act of 1935 – Federal Scheme, Office of Governor, Judiciary, Public Service Commission, Emergency provisions and administrative details.
2. British Constitution – Parliamentary System, Rule of law, Lagislative Procedure, Single Citizenship, Cabinet System, Prerogative Writs, Parliamentary Privileges and Bicameralism.
3. US Constitution – Fundamental rights, independence of judiciary, judicial review, impeachment of president, removal of Supreme court and high court judges and post of vice president.
4. Irish Constitution- Directive Principles of State Policy, nomination of members of Rajya Sabha and method of election of president
5. Canadian Constitution- Federation with a strong centre,vesting of residuary power in the centre, appointment of state Governor by the centre and advisory jurisdiction of Supreme Court.
6. Australian Constitution- Concurrent list, joint sitting of two houses of Parliament.
7. Constitution of Germany- Suspension of fundamental rights during emergency.
8. French Constitution- Republic and ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in the Preamble.
9. South African Constitution- Procedure for amendment of the constitution and election of members of Rajya Sabha.
10. Japanese Constitution- Procedure established by Law.
11. Constitution of former USSR: Procedure of five-year Plan, fundamental duties, ideals of justice in Preamble.