The Constituent Assembly of India
Composition of the Constituent Assembly of India
On the basis of the framework provided by the Cabinet Mission, a Constituent Assembly was constituted on 9th December, 1946. The Constitution making body was elected by the Provincial Legislative Assembly constituting 389 members, which included 93 from Princely States and 296 from British India. The seats to the British India provinces and princely states were allotted in proportion with their respective population and were to be divided among the Muslim, Sikhs and rest of the communities. All sections of the Indian society got representation in the Constituent Assembly despite of limited suffrage.
The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly took place on December 9, 1946 in New Delhi with Dr Sachidanand was elected as the interim President of the Assembly. However, on December 11, 1946, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as the President and H.C. Mukherjee as the Vice-President of the Constituent Assembly.
Functions of the Constituent Assembly
- Framing the Constitution.
- Enacted laws and involved in the decision making process.
- It adopted the national flag on July 22, 1947.
- It accepted and approved India's membership of the British Commonwealth on May 1949.
- It elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India on January 24, 1950.
- It adopted the national anthem on January 24, 1950.
- It adopted the national song on January 24, 1950.
The Objective Resolution was moved on December 13, 1946 by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, which provided the philosophy and guiding principles for framing the Constitution and later took the form of Preamble of the Constitution of India. However, this Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 January.
The Resolution stated that the Constituent Assembly would firstly, proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic, which includes all the territories, retaining as autonomous units and possess residuary powers; all the people of India shall be guaranteed justice, equality of status, freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and subject to law and public morality; adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward, depressed classes; the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea and air and thus, India would contribute to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.
Committees of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly appointed eight major committees to deal with various aspects of constitution making-Union Powers Committee, Union Constitution Committee, Provincial Constitution Committee, Drafting Committee, Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and Minorities, Rules of Procedure Committee, States Committee (Committee for Negotiating with States) - Jawaharlal Nehru, Steering Committee.
Among these eight major committees, the most significant was the Drafting Committee. On 29th 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.
Criticism of the Constituent Assembly
The grounds on which the Constituent Assembly was criticized were as follows:
- Not a popular body: Critics argued that the members of the Constituent Assembly were not directly elected by the people of India. The Preamble says that the Constitution has been adopted by the people of India, whereas it was adopted by only few individuals who were not even elected by the people.
- Not a sovereign body: The critics stated that the Constituent Assembly was not a sovereign body as it was not created by the people of India. It was created by the proposals of the British rulers by executive action before India’s independence, and its composition was determined by them.
- Time consuming: The critics maintain that the time taken to prepare the constitution was too much in comparison to other nations. The framers of the US constitution took only four months to prepare the constitution which was pioneer in the modern world.
- Dominated by Congress: The critics continued to argue that the Congress in the Constituent Assembly was quite dominating and imposed its thinking on the people of the country through the constitution drafted by them.
- Dominated by one community: According to some critics, the Constituent Assembly lacked religious heterogeneity and was dominated by only the Hindus.
- Dominated by Lawyers: Critics also argued that the constitution becomes bulky and cumbersome due to dominance of lawyers in the Constituent Assembly. They have made the language of the Constitution, difficult for a layman to understand. The other sections of the society couldn't voice their concerns and was unable to participate in the decision making process during the time of drafting of the constitution.
Therefore, the constituent Assembly became the provisional Parliament of India and significantly contributed to the drafting of the historic Constitution of India and later helped to construct the Indian political system.