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As we pledge on the Constitution it is important to know more about its structure and democratic values


Constituent Assembly

In the tumultuous years preceding India’s independence from British rule, the vision for a sovereign nation with a democratic framework began taking shape. Central to this vision was the Constituent Assembly, entrusted with the monumental task of crafting the foundational document of independent India – the Constitution. Assembled with representatives from diverse backgrounds and ideologies, the Constituent Assembly embarked on a journey that would shape the destiny of the world’s largest democracy.

Composition of the Constituent Assembly

The Constituent Assembly of India, initially comprising 389 members, witnessed a significant reduction in its numbers post-independence, settling at 299 members. Of these, 229 hailed from British India provinces, while the princely states were represented by 70 individuals. Additionally, six members belonged to backward tribes, reflecting a commitment to inclusivity.

Remarkably, nearly 80% of the members entered the Assembly through tickets issued by the Indian National Congress, reflecting its dominant position in the nationalist movement. However, it’s noteworthy that only 15 women found a place in the entire Assembly, with none serving on the prestigious Drafting Committee.
The idea of a Constituent Assembly was first mooted by M.N. Roy in 1934, gaining traction when the Indian National Congress endorsed it in 1935. The British administration acquiesced to the demand in 1940, setting the stage for the Constituent Assembly’s formation.

Committees of the Constituent Assembly

To streamline the complex process of constitution-making, the Constituent Assembly constituted a total of 22 committees, with 8 major committees at the forefront of the drafting process. These committees delved into various aspects of governance, rights, and principles, ensuring thorough deliberations and expert inputs. The 8 major committees are as listed below:

1. Committee on the Rules of Procedure (Chairman – Dr. Rajendra Prasad);
2. Union Powers Committee (Chairman – Jawaharlal Nehru);
3. Union Constitution Committee (Chairman – Jawaharlal Nehru);
4. Provincial Constitution Committee (Chairman – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel);
5. Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas (Chairman – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel);
6. States Committee (Chairman – Jawaharlal Nehru);
7. Steering Committee (Chairman – Dr. Rajendra Prasad); and
8. Drafting Committee (Chairman – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar)

Among these committees, the Drafting Committee held paramount importance, tasked with preparing the initial draft of the Constitution. Chaired by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Drafting Committee comprised distinguished members, each contributing significantly to the crafting and drafting of the Constitution. Notable members included K.M. Munshi, Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, Mohammed Saadulla, B.L. Mitter, and D.P. Khaitan. B.L. Mitter’s resignation due to ill health saw N. Madhava Rao stepping in, while T.T. Krishnamachari replaced D.P. Khaitan following the latter’s demise in July 1948.

Members of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly

1. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, known for his expertise in law and his efforts towards social change, brought a deep understanding of the challenges faced by marginalized groups in India to the Drafting Committee. As the chairman, he emphasized the importance of social justice, pushing for rules that protected the rights of historically oppressed communities like the Dalits. His insistence on including fundamental rights in the Constitution aimed to not only guarantee political freedoms but also tackle economic disparities, setting a strong foundation for a more inclusive society.

2. K.M. Munshi: Renowned for his legal acumen, K.M. Munshi was deeply involved in social reform and activism, particularly advocating for women’s rights and challenging caste-based discrimination. His contributions extended beyond legal expertise to actively engaging in debates within the Constituent Assembly on crucial topics like fundamental rights, citizenship, and minority rights. Munshi’s multifaceted contributions to the Constituent Assembly, spanning legal expertise and social activism, left a lasting impact on the drafting of the Constitution, shaping its provisions to uphold principles of equality, justice, and inclusivity.

3. Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar: Ayyar’s distinguished career as a lawyer and diplomat equipped him with a deep understanding of constitutional principles and their practical implications. His contributions to the Drafting Committee were marked by meticulous attention to detail and a keen focus on legal precision. He gained recognition for his expertise, notably serving on the Government of India Committee tasked with amending the laws concerning Partnership and Sale of Goods in 1929. His significant contributions extended to pivotal debates within the Constituent Assembly, where he made notable interventions on critical subjects such as citizenship, fundamental rights, and the declaration of emergencies.

4. N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar: With a rich background in politics and administration, Ayyangar brought a pragmatic perspective to the Drafting Committee. Additionally, he was entrusted with the crucial task of drafting Article 370, which delineated the special relationship between the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian Union. He also co-authored the Sapru Commission Report on constitutional reforms. Between 1947 and 1948, Ayyangar assumed the role of a minister without portfolio in Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet. Notably, in 1948, he led the delegation representing India’s stance at the United Nations during the ongoing dispute over Kashmir.

5. Mohammed Saadulla: As a representative from the north-eastern region, Saadulla brought a unique perspective to the Drafting Committee, ensuring that the concerns and aspirations of the region were adequately addressed in the Constitution. His contributions in the Assembly focused on ensuring Assam’s financial stability and safeguarding minority rights. His deep-rooted understanding of the socio-political landscape of Assam and the surrounding areas informed his contributions, particularly in areas related to tribal rights, cultural autonomy, and regional development.

6. B.L. Mitter (replaced by N. Madhava Rao): Mitter’s brief tenure on the Drafting Committee underscored the indispensable role of legal expertise in the drafting process. Due to his ill health, he was replaced by N. Madhava Rao in the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly. Rao’s contribution was central in issues in relation to federalism and village panchayats.

7. D.P. Khaitan (replaced by T.T. Krishnamachari): Khaitan’s untimely demise was a loss to the Drafting Committee, depriving it of his formidable legal intellect and nuanced understanding of governance issues. However, his replacement by Tiruvallur Thattai Krishnamachari ensured continuity in the drafting process, with Krishnamachari bringing his administrative acumen and pragmatic approach to bear on the Committee’s deliberations. One of the major involvements from Krishnamachari can be seen in the freedom of speech.

Constituent Assembly and Democratic Aspirations of Nation Building

The Constituent Assembly of India stands as a testament to the spirit of democratic deliberation and inclusive nation-building. Through meticulous committee structures and the dedicated efforts of its members, the Assembly succeeded in crafting a Constitution that continues to guide and inspire the nation, reflecting its commitment to democracy, justice, and equality. As we commemorate the legacy of the Constituent Assembly, it’s imperative to recognize the contributions of each member, especially those of the Drafting Committee, in shaping India’s constitutional ethos and democratic framework.