The Constituent Assembly of India| Composition, Objectives, Functions, Committees, Criticism of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly of India was a representative and sovereign body formed on the recommendations of the Cabinet Mission which visited India in 1946 to draft a Constitution for the country. 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.
• In the front row were Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Acharya J.B. Kripalani, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Smt. Sarojini Naidu, Shri Hare-Krushna Mahatab, Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Shri Sarat Chandra Bose, Shri C. Rajagopalachari and Shri M. Asaf Ali were sitting. Two hundred and seven representatives, including nine women were present.
Composition of Constituent Assembly
• This Constitution making body was elected by the Provincial Legislative Assembly constituting of 389 members who included 93 from Princely States and 296 from British India. 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.
The 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;
• 4 members represented the Chief Commissioners’ Provinces.
On December 11, 1946, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as the President and H.C. Mukherjee as the Vice-President of the Constituent Assembly.
Objectives of the Constituent Assembly
On 13 December, 1946, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru moved the Objectives Resolution in which Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution. The rule formed by the constituent assembly governs territories that now comprise British India, the territories that now form the Indian States, and such other parts of India as are outside British India and the States as well as such other territories as are willing to be constituted into the Independent Sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all.
• All power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people
• All the people of India shall be guaranteed and secured justice, social economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action, subject to law and public morality.
• Adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes.
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.
Functions of the Constituent Assembly
- It ratified the India’s membership of the Commonwealth in May 1949.
- It adopted the national flag on July 22, 1947.
- It adopted the national anthem on January 24, 1950.
- It adopted the national song on January 24, 1950.
- It elected Dr Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India on January 24, 1950.
In all, the Constituent Assembly had 11 sessions over two years, 11 months and 18 days. The Constitution-makers had gone through the constitutions of about 60 countries, and the Draft Constitution was considered for 114 days. The total expenditure incurred on making the Constitution amounted to 64 lakh.
Committees of the Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly appointed eight major committees that are:
- 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
- Jawaharlal Nehru Steering Committee
The Drafting Committee was the most important of these committees. 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.
The Constitution of India was adopted on 26 November, 1949 and the hon’ble members appended their signatures to it on 24 January, 1950. The provisions relating to Citizenship, Elections, provisional parliament, temporary and transitional provisions were given immediate effect on 26 November 1949 before the enforcement of Indian Constitution. The Constitution of India came into force on 26 January, 1950.
Criticism of the Constituent Assembly
- Not a Representative Body
- Not a Sovereign Body
- Time Consuming
- Borrowed Constitution
- Dominated by Congress
- Domination of Lawyers
- Dominated by Hindus
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|