Overview of Constituent Assembly of India
Constituent Assembly was a body that was assembled for drafting the constitution of newly independent India. It was an enormous challenge to draft the constitution for a diverse country like India.
In 1936, the Indian National Congress (INC), for the first time, officials demanded a Constituent Assembly to frame the Constitution of India (in Lucknow Session).
Constituent Assembly framed the present Constitution of India setup under the Cabinet Mission Plan of May 16, 1946.
Composition of Constituent Assembly
The Orignal Constituent Assembly comprised 389 members. Provincial Legislative Assemblies (Assemblies during British era) elected 292 members. While the Princely States nominated 93 members.
They added a single representative from each of the four Chief Commissioners Provinces (Delhi, Ajmer-Marwar, Coorg, and British Baluchistan).
Constituent Assembly allotted seats proportional to their respective population to the Princely states and each of the provinces.
They distributed seats in provinces among the three major communities – Muslim, Sikh (only in Punjab) and in proportion to their respective populations.
Members of each community in the Provincial Legislative Assembly elected their own representatives.
Princely states nominated their member themselves.
Functioning of the Constituent Assembly
The First meeting of the Constituent Assembly took place on December 9, 1946, with Dr. Sachidanand Sinha as interim President.
Assembly appointed B. N. Rau as the constitution advisor for the Assembly.
On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru brought forward the ‘Objective Resolution’ in the Constituent Assembly.
It laid down the fundamentals and philosophy of the Constitutional Structure.
The Constituent Assembly unanimously adopted it on January 22, 1947.
Aspirants can read more about objective Resolution by clicking this link here.
Now let’s know about one of the historic act “Indian Independence Act”. The act brought a lot of change to the Constituent Assembly.
Indian Independence Act
Lord Mountbatten, who was the last viceroy of India, brought Mountbatten Plan forward.
They put Mountbatten’s plan into action by the Indian Independence Act of 1947, which was passed in the British Parliament and received the royal assent on 18 July 1947.
Mountbatten passed the Indian Independence Act in 1947. The act created two new independent dominions, India and Pakistan.
It split Pakistan into Pakistan and East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh. It partitioned the Bengal and Punjab provinces into two new countries.
Changes – By Indian Independence Act
- The representatives of the princely states who had stayed away from the Constituent Assembly, gradually joined it.
- After the acceptance of Mountbatten plan of June 3, 1947 for the partition of the country, the representatives of most of the other princely states took their seats in the Constituent Assembly. The member of the Muslim League of the Indian dominion also entered the Constituent Assembly.
The Indian Independence Act of 1947 made the following three changes in the position of the Assembly:
Full Sovereign Body
It made the Assembly a fully sovereign body, which could frame and amend the constitution the way it pleases. The Act empowered the Assembly to abrogate or alter any law made by the British Parliament about India.
Two Separate Functions of Constituent Assembly
The Assembly also became a legislative body. They assigned two separate functions to the Assembly, that is:
Making a Constitution for the free India.
Enacting of Ordinary Laws for the country.
These two functions were to be performed on separate days.
Whenever the Constituent Assembly met as the Constituent body, Dr. Rajendra Prasad chaired it.
When it met a legislative body, G. V Mavalankar chaired it.
These two functions continued until November 26, 1949, when making the Constitution was over.
Thus, the Constituent Assembly became the First Parliament of Free India.
Muslim league withdrew from Constituent Assembly
Originally Assembly comprises 389 members.
The Muslim league members (hailing from the areas included in Pakistan) withdrew from the Constituent Assembly of India.
The total strength of the Assembly came down to 299 as against 389, originally fixed in 1946 under the Cabinet Mission Plan.
After the withdrawal of Muslim League, The Strength of the Indian Provinces (formerly British Provinces) reduced to 229 from 296 and those of the princely states from 93 to 70.
Other functions – Constituent Assembly
The Assembly also performed the following functions.
- It ratified the India’s membership in the Commonwealth in May 1949.
- It adopted National Flag on July 22, 1947.
- It adopted National Anthem on January 24, 1950.
- It adopted National Song on January 24, 1950.
- It elected Dr Rajendra Prasad as the first president of India on January 24, 1950.
Committees of Constituent Assembly
Constituent Assembly appointed several committees to deal with different tasks of constitution-making.
There were eight Major committees & the other were minor committees.
Eight Major Committees
|1||Union Power Committee||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|2||Union Constitution Committee||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|3||Provincial Constitution Committee||Sardar Patel|
|4||Drafting Committee||Dr. B.R. Ambedkar|
|5||Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights and Minorities.|
This Committee has Two Sub Committees.
1. Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee.
2. Minorities Sub-Committee
1. J.B. Kripalani
2. H.c. Mukherjee
|6||Rules of Procedure Committee||Dr. Rajendra Prasad|
|7||States Committee – Committee for negotiating with states||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|8||Steering Committee||Dr. Rajendra Prasad|
Drafting committee was the most important committee among all the major committees.
Aspirants can read more about the drafting committee by clicking here ‘Drafting Committee’.
Let’s see some of the minor committees and who were their heading Chairperson.
Some Minor Committees
|1||Committee on the functioning of the Constituent Assembly||G.V. Mayalankar|
|2||Order of business Committee||Dr. K.M. Munshi.|
|3||House Committee||B. Pattabhi Sitaramaya|
|4||Ad hoc Committee on the National Flag||Dr. Rajendra Prasad|
|5||Special Committee to examine the Draft Constitution||Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar|
|6||Credentials Committee||Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar|
|7||Finance & Staff Committee – Dr. Rajendra Prasad.||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|8||Hindi Translation Committee.||Dr. Rajendra Prasad|
|9||Urdu Translation Committee.|
|10||Press Gallery Committee.|
|11||Committee to Examine the Effect of Indian Independence Act of 1947.|
|12||Committee on Chief Commissioners Provinces.||B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya|
|13||Commission on Linguistic Provinces.||B Pattabhi Sitaramayya|
|14||Expert Committee on Financial Provisions.|
|15||Ad hoc Committee on Supreme Court.||S. Varadachariar|
FAQs related to Constituent Assembly
How many members were there in the Constituent Assembly?
- The total membership of the Assembly was 389, of which 292 were representatives of the provinces, 93 represented the princely states, and four were from the chief commissioner provinces of Delhi, Ajmer-Merwara, Coorg, and British Baluchistan.
Who is the head of the Constituent Assembly?
- The Constituent Assembly framed the Constitution of India, established by the members of the provincial assemblies elected by the people of India. Dr Sachidanand Sinha was the first interim president of the Assembly. Later assembly elected Dr Rajendra Prasad as its president.
When did the constituent assembly first meet?
- The assembly first met on 9 December 1946.
Who was the vice president of the Constituent Assembly?
Who was the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee?
- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.
When was National Flag of Union adopted?
- We adopted the National Flag of the Union on 22 July 1947.
How many days it took for the constituent assembly to frame the constitution?
- The assembly took 2 years, 11 months and 17 days to frame the constitution.
When was Jana Gana Mana adopted as our national anthem?
- On 24 January 1950, ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was adopted as the national anthem.
The Constituent Assembly took how many sessions?
- There were a total number of 11 sessions held.
What is the date of the last session?
- They held the last session during 14 – 26 November 1949.
When did the constitution of India come into force?
- The constitution came into force on 26 January 1950 (which is celebrated as Republic Day).
What was the symbol adopted for the Constituent Assembly?
- Assembly adopted Elephant as the symbol (seal).
Criticisms of the Constituent Assembly
- Constituent Assembly was a partly elected and partly nominated body. The members of the Provincial Assemblies indirectly elected the members, who they elected themselves on a limited franchise.
- The Assembly was not a representative body because they conducted no universal adult franchise to elect them. However, the leaders enjoyed popular support from the people.
- Direct elections by the universal adult franchise when the country was on the brink of partition and amidst communal riots would have been impractical.
It is said that the makers took a long time in framing the constitution. However, assembly did it by keeping in mind the complexity and the peculiarities of the diverse and large nation like India.
- People alleged that the assembly had Hindu dominance. This was again because of proportional representation from communities.
Complex Language of Constitution
- People criticised the language of the constitution for being literary and complicated.
- According to critics, the Assembly took an unduly long time to make the Constitution for India. They said that framers of the American Constitution took only four months to complete their work.
Not a Sovereign Body
- The Critics maintained that the Assembly was not a sovereign body as the proposals of the British Government created it. They also said that Assembly held its session with the permission of the British government.
Not a Representative Body
- The Critics have also argued that the Assembly was not a representative body as people of India did not directly elect its members based on Universal Adult Franchise.
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|Written Constitution – Easy Explanation||Article 16|
|Right to Equality Article [14-18]||Right to Freedom Article [19-22]|
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