The Constituent Assembly of India
For the first time, 1934 that the idea of a Constituent Assembly for India was put forward by M. N. Roy or Manabendra Nath Roy a pioneer of communist movement in India and an advocate of radical democratism. However, it became the official demand of the Indian National Congress in 1935. The demand was accepted in August 1940 offer by the British. On august 8, 1940, a statement was made by the by the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, on the expansion of the Governor-General’s Executive Council and the establishment of a War Advisory Council. This offer also known as “August Offer of 1940” also promised for giving full weight to minority opinion, recognizing the Indians to form their own constitution. Under the cabinet mission plan of 1946, elections were held for the first time for constituent Assembly.
The Constitution of India was drafted by the constituent assembly and it was set up under the cabinet Mission plan on 16 May 1946. The members of the constituent assembly were elected by the Provincial assemblies by method of single transferable vote system of proportional representations. Total membership of the constituent assembly was 389, out of which 292 the representatives of the states were, 93 were representatives of princely states and 4 were from the chief commissioners provinces of Delhi, Ajmer-Mewar, Coorg and British Baluchistan.
The first leaders of Constituent Assembly
The Constituent assembly was the First parliament of Independent India. Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha was the first president (temporary Chairman of the Assembly) of the Constituent Assembly when it met on December 9, 1946. Dr. Rajendra Prasad then became the President of the Constituent Assembly, and who later become the first President of India. The Vice President of the Constituent Assembly was Professor Harendra Coomar Mookerjee, former Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University and a prominent Christian from Bengal who also served as the Chairman of the Minorities Committee of the Constituent Assembly. He was appointed Governor of West Bengal after India became a republic.
The elections for the 296 seats assigned to the British Indian provinces were completed by July-August 1946. Congress won 208 seats and Muslim league won 73 seats. After this election, the Muslim league refused to cooperate with the Congress. The political situation got worse and Hindu Muslim riots started. The Muslim league demanded for a separate Constituent assembly for Muslims in India.
On June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten , the last British Governor General of India announced his plan of scrapping the Cabinet Mission plan and this later culminated in Indian Independence Act and separate nations India and Pakistan. The Indian Independence act was passed on July 18, 1947. Earlier it was declared that India will get its independence in June 1948, but this event led to an early independence on August 15, 1947. The Cabinet assembly which was elected for an undivided India met for the first time on June 9, 1946. It reassembled on 14 August 1947 as a sovereign body and successor to the British parliament’s plenary authority and power in India.
As a result of the partition, under the Mountbatten plan a separate constituent assembly was set up for Pakistan on June 3, 1947. The representatives of the members which were from the areas of the Pakistan ceased to be members of the Constituent assembly of India. Fresh elections were held for west Punjab and east Bengal which were now in Pakistan. The membership of the Constituent assembly became 299 after this reorganization and it met on December 31, 1947.
The above description makes it clear that –
- Constituent Assembly had been elected firstly, for undivided India. Its first sitting was held on December 9, 1946 and re-assembled as Constituent Assembly for divided India on 14 August 1947.
- Its members were elected by indirect election by the members of the Provisional Legislative Assemblies that had been established in 1935.
- The Constituent Assembly was composed roughly along the lines suggested by the plan proposed by the committee of the British cabinet, known as the Cabinet Mission.
- As per the Cabinet Mission plan, each Province and each Princely State or group of States were allotted seats proportional to their respective population roughly in the ratio of 1:10 Lakh. As a result the Provinces (that were under direct British rule) were to elect 292 members while the Princely States were allotted a minimum of 93 seats.
- The seats in each Province were distributed among the three main communities, Muslims, Sikhs and general, in proportion to their respective populations.
- Members of each community in the Provisional Legislative Assembly elected their own representatives by the method of proportional representation with single transferable vote.
- The method of selection in the case of representatives of Princely States was to be determined by consultation.
- As a consequence of the Partition under the plan of 3 June 1947 those members who were elected from territories which fell under Pakistan ceased to be members of the Constituent Assembly.
- The numbers in the Assembly were reduced to 299 of which 284 were actually present on 26 November 1949 and appended their signature to the Constitution as finally passed.
Important Committees of the Constituent Assembly (and their Chairmen)
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
Sessions of the Constituent Assembly
There were 11 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, 194
- 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