History of the Constitution of India: Some lesser known facts
In 1946, the British began to seriously consider granting India independence, and sent a Cabinet Mission to India with a plan to meet representatives of the British government and various Indian states, to discuss the possibility of setting up a Constituent Assembly to draft the framework of the Indian Constitution. Here are some lesser known facts on how the Constitution of India was written.
- 1946: The Constituent Assembly was formed under the Cabinet Mission Plan. Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected as its permanent Chairman and Dr B.R. Ambedkar was appointed Chairman of the Drafting Committee. 13 Committees were set up to prepare draft reports that went into the framing of the final constitution.
- The Constituent Assembly comprised of 389 members and the initial break-up was – Provinces (292 representatives), States (93 representatives), Chief Commissioner Provinces (3), Baluchistan (1). Later, with Muslim League withdrawing the number was reduced to 299.
- January 1948: The first draft of the Indian Constitution was presented for discussion.
- November 4, 1948: Discussions commenced and carried on for 32 days. During this period, 7635 amendments were proposed and of these, 2473 were discussed in detail. The Constituent Assembly sat for 2 years, 11 months and 18 days.
- January 24, 1950: The Constitution of India was signed by 284 members of the Constituent Assembly, which included 15 women.
- January 26, 1950: The Constitution of India came into force on this day.
- The original Constitution of India was handwritten in Hindi and English by Prem Behari Narain Raizada. Each page was written in intricate calligraphy and in flowing italic, and artists from Shantiniketan in West Bengal further worked upon the presentation of each page. The original copies in English and Hindi are preserved in specially designed helium-filled cases and kept in the Parliament of India Library.
- The Constitution of India is the world’s longest and most comprehensive constitution and contains 25 parts, 448 articles and 12 schedules. The original Constitution had 395 articles and 9 schedules.
- The Constitution of India is also viewed as one of the best drawn constitution in light of the diversity of culture, religion and geography; the fact that it has had only 101 amendments till date shows the comprehensive nature of thought that went into its writing by the Constituent Assembly.
The Constitution draws inspiration and features from Constitutions of other countries as below:
- France: The Preamble of the Constitution of India includes the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The inspiration came from the French Revolution when these were first formed.
- Great Britain: The Indian Parliamentary System is largely influenced by the structure and functioning of the British Parliamentary system. Inspiration on law-making procedures, rule of law and the principles of single citizenship came from the British Constitution.
- Canada: Concept of strong central authority in a federal structure.
- USA: The Indian Preamble begins with “We the people” and its inspiration came from the Preamble of the American Constitution. Features of Fundamental Rights, Independence of the Judiciary, the Judicial Review system, removal of Judges of Supreme Court and High Court also came from the US constitution.
- Republic of Ireland: Directive Principles of State Policy.
- Australia: Concurrent List.
- Germany (Weimer Constitution): The concept of Emergency.
- USSR: The concept of Five Year Plans.
Federation or Union:
It was Dr B.R. Ambedkar who clarified that India was a Union and no state had the right to secede from the Union. The first article of the Constitution says, “India, that is Bharath, shall be a Union of states”. When the Constitution of India came into force of January 26, 1950, a debate began on whether India was a Union or a Federation. It was Dr Ambedkar who, at the drafting stage, spoke of India being a federation but with a strong center. The term ‘cooperative federalism’ soon became popular that spoke of dual-polity of states and the Center.
The Preamble of the Constitution of India states that India is a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. The term “Socialist” was added later in 1976 through the Constitution 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.