Constituent Assembly of India

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Idea of Constituent Assembly for making the constitution was first mooted by M. N. Roy in 1934.

First time Indian National Congress officially demanded the formation of constituent assembly in 1935.

In 1940, the coalition Government in England recognized the principle that Indians should themselves frame a new constitution for autonomous India. First time demand accepted, in principle, for a constituent assembly in August offer of 1940.

Cripps Mission (March, 1942) (came in the backdrop of WW-II), failed due to disagreement between Congress and Muslim League. In its proposals, it had envisaged the framing of constitution of India by an elected constituent Assembly of the Indian People.

Finally, under the provisions of Cabinet Mission Plan (1946) a constituent assembly was formed for framing the Indian Constitution.

The Constituent Assembly met for the first time in New Delhi on 9 December, 1946 in the Constitution Hall which is now known as the Central Hall of Parliament House.

The inaugural session began with the introduction of Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha, the temporary Chairman of the Assembly, by Acharya Kripalani.

Later, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and H. C. Mukherjee were elected as President and Vice-President of the assembly respectively.

Sir B. N. Rau was appointed as the constitutional advisor to the assembly.

The First Day’s proceedings ended after all the 207 members present submitted their credentials and signed the Register.

The Constituent Assembly took almost three years (2 years, 11 months and 17 days to be precise) to complete its 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.

SESSIONS OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY:

First Session: 9-23 December, 1946
Second Session: 20-25 January, 1947
Third Session: 28 April – 2 May, 1947
Fourth Session: 14-31 July, 1947
Fifth Session: 14-30 August, 1947
Sixth Session: 27 January, 1948
Seventh Session: 4 November,1948 – 8 January, 1949
Eighth Session: 16 May – 16 June, 1949
Ninth Session: 30 July – 18 September, 1949
Tenth Session: 6-17 October, 1949
Eleventh Session: 14-26 November, 1949

[The Assembly met once again on 24 January, 1950, when the members appended their signatures to the Constitution of India]

As to its composition, members were chosen by indirect election by the members of the Provincial Legislative Assemblies, according to the scheme recommended by the Cabinet Mission.

The arrangement was:

292 members were elected through the Provincial Legislative Assemblies;
93 members represented the Indian Princely States; and
4 members represented the Chief Commissioners’ Provinces.

The total membership of the Assembly thus was to be 389. However, as a result of the partition under the Mountbatten Plan of 3 June, 1947, a separate Constituent Assembly was set up for Pakistan and representatives of some Provinces ceased to be members of the Assembly. As a result, the membership of the Assembly was reduced to 299.

On 13 December, 1946, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru moved the Objectives Resolution of the Constituent Assembly.

This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 January 1947.
Late in the evening of 14 August, 1947 the Assembly met in the Constitution Hall and at the stroke of midnight, took over as the Legislative Assembly of an Independent India.

On 29 August, 1947, the Constituent Assembly set up a Drafting Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar to prepare a Draft Constitution for India.

While deliberating upon the draft Constitution, the Assembly moved, discussed and disposed of as many as 2,473 amendments out of a total of 7,635 tabled.

The Constitution of India was adopted on 26 November, 1949 and the hon’ble members appended their signatures to it on 24 January, 1950.

In all, 284 members actually signed the Constitution.

The Constitution of India came into force on 26 January, 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 provisions relating to citizenship, elections, provisional Parliament, and temporary provisions, were given effect from 26th November 1949.

The rest of the constitution came in to force on the 26th January, and date is referred to in the constitution as the Date of its commencement. (To commemorate the independence day celebrated since 1930 after the passage of Purna Swaraj resolution).

In addition to the making of the constitution and enacting of ordinary laws, the constituent assembly also performed following functions:

It ratified India’s membership of the Commonwealth in May 1949.
It adopted the national flag on 22 July 1947.
It adopted the national anthem and national song on January 24, 1950.
It elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India on January 24, 1950.

 IMPORTANT COMMITTEES OF THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY

COMMITTEES CHAIRMAN
Committee on the Rules of Procedure Rajendra 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 Flag Rajendra Prasad
Committee on the Functions of the Constituent Assembly G.V. Mavalankar
States Committee Jawaharlal Nehru
Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas Vallabhbhai Patel
Minorities Sub-Committee H.C. Mookherjee
Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee J.B. Kripalani
North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Excluded & Partially Excluded Areas Sub-Committee Gopinath Bardoloi
Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than those in Assam) Sub-Committee A.V. Thakkar
Union Powers Committee Jawaharlal Nehru
Union Constitution Committee Jawaharlal Nehru
Drafting Committee B.R. Ambedkar

The most important of the committees was the drafting committee which was entrusted with the task of making the new constitution. It consisted of seven members:

  • Dr. Ambedkar (chairman)
  • N. Gopalaswamy Ayyengar
  • Alladi Krishnaswamy Aiyyar
  • Dr. K.M. Munshi
  • Syed Saadullah
  • N. Madhav Rau (he replaced B.L. Mitter who resigned due to ill-health)
  • T.T. Krishnamachari (he replaced D.P. Khaitan who died in 1948)

First ‘Draft constitution of India’ was published in Feb 1948. It was prepared by Sir B. N. Rau, constitutional advisor to the constituent assembly.

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the chairman of the drafting committee is recognized as the father of the Indian constitution.

As far as composition of Constituent Assembly is concerned United Provinces had highest no. of members (55) followed by Madras (49) and Bihar (36) among Provinces. Among States, Mysore (7) had highest members.

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