Making of the Indian Constitution

Original Preamble of India Constitution
Original Preamble of India

The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly of India took place in the constitution Hall, New Delhi on Monday the 9th December, 1946 at eleven of the clock.

Acharya J.B. Kripalani has requested Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha to take the chair as temporary chairman. Perhaps he anticipated that a time may come when some elements might demand to change the constitution Dr. Sinha warned “my prayer is that the constitution that you are going to plan may similarly be reared for immortality if the work of man may justly aspire to such a title and it may be structure of adamantine strength which will outlast and overcome all present and future destructive forces.

Having invited your attention to some aspects of the question of constitution-making in Europe and America, I may now profitably turn to some aspects of the question in our own country. The first definite reference to a Constituent Assembly (though not under those words or under that particular name) I have found in a statement of Mahatma Gandhi, made so far back as 1922. Mahatmaji wrote:

“Swaraj will not be a free gift of the British Parliament. It will be a declaration of India’s full self-expression, expressed through an act of Parliament. But it will be merely a courteous ratification of the declared wish of the people of India. The ratification will be a treaty to which Britain will be a party. The British Parliament, when the settlement comes, will ratify the wishes of the people of India as expressed through the freely chosen representatives.”

The demand made by Mahatma Gandhi for a Constituent Assembly, composed of the “freely chosen representatives” of the people of India, was affirmed, from time to time, by various public bodies and political leaders; but it was not till May 1934, that the Swaraj Party, which was then formed at Ranchi (in Bihar), formulated a scheme in which the following resolution was included:

The policy embodied in this resolution was approved by the All-India Congress Committee, which met at Patna-the capital of Bihar–a few days later, in May, 1934; and it was thus that the scheme of a Constituent Assembly for framing the Indian Constitution was officially adopted by the Indian National Congress.

“The Congress stands for a genuine democratic State in India where political power has been transferred to the people, as a whole, and the Government is under their effective control. Such a State can only come into existence through a Constituent Assembly having the power to determine finally the constitution of the country”.

Hon’ble Members, I fear I have trespassed long on your patience, and should now bring my remarks to a close. My only justification for having detained you so long is the uniqueness of this great and memorable occasion in the history of India, the enthusiasm with which this Constituent Assembly had been welcomed by large classes of people in this country, the keen interest which matters relating to it had evoked amongst various communities and the prospect which it holds out for the final settlement of the problem of all problems, and the issue of all issues, namely the political independence of India, and her economic freedom.

Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma sab mit gaya jahan see,
Baqi abhi tak hai nam-o-nishan hamara,
Kuch bat hai ke hasti mit-ti nahin hamari,
Sadion raha hai dushman daur-e-zaman hamara.

It means: “Greece, Egypt, and Rome, have all disappeared from the surface of the Earth; but the name and fame of India, our country, has survived the ravages of Time and the cataclysms of ages. Surely, surely, there is an eternal element in us which had frustrated all attempts at our obliteration. In spite of the fact that the heavens themselves had rolled and revolved for centuries, and centuries, in a spirit of hostility and enmity towards us.” I particularly ask you to bring to your task a broad and catholic vision, for as the Bible justly teaches:

“Where there is no vision the people perish.” (Applause.)

My next duty as temporary Chairman is to request that Acharya Kripalani and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Sahib will kindly approach, on behalf of the Constituent Assembly, the duly elected President of this House now, and bring him up to the platform to sit on the chair by my side. (Cheers)

The Chairman: Now that the permanent elected Chairman of the House has taken his seat, it is open to Hon’ble Members to offer to him their congratulations. I call upon Sir
S. Radhakrishnan to be the first speaker.

India is a symphony where there are, as in an orchestra, different instruments, each with its particular sonority, each with its special sound, all combining to interpret one particular score. It is this kind of combination that this country has stood for. It never adopted inquisitorial methods. It never asked the Parsis or the Jews or the Christians or the Muslims who came and took shelter there to change their creeds or become absorbed in what might be called a uniform Hindu humanity. It never did this. ‘Live and let live’–that has been the spirit of this country.

In Dr. Rajendra Prasad we have one who embodies this spirit of gentleness. (Cheers) He is the soul of goodness, he has great patience and courage, he has suffered.

Rajendra Prasad is the suffering servant of India, of the Congress, who incarnates the spirit for which this country stands. I only hope that this spirit of amity, concord and harmony which has come down to us from the image of Siva in the Indus civilisation down to Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Rajendra Prasad, will inspire our efforts. (Applause)

I see gaps in this House and my heart is sore because of the absence of those Muslim brothers to whose coming I am looking forward under the leadership of my old friend Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah. I think if any persuasion were necessary, if any fine wand of magic were necessary to bring them in, it would be the essential sweetness, the essential wisdom, the essential creative faith of Dr. Rajendra Prasad. I am hoping and I believe I am right in hoping that my friend Dr. Ambedkar who is so bitter today will soon be one of the most emphatic supporters of this Constituent Assembly in all its purposes and that through him his adherents of many millions will realise that their interests are as safe as the interests of more privileged people. I hope those that call themselves the original masters of this land, the tribal people, will realise that there is no distinction of caste, creed, ancient or modern status in this Constituent Assembly.

Shrimati Sarojini Naidu’s Address.

The Chairman, Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha: I shall now request Bulbul-i-Hind, the Nightingale of India, to address the House (Laughter and cheers) not in prose but in poetry.

(Mrs. Sarojini Naidu then went up to the rostrum amidst acclamation.)

Mrs. Sarojini Naidu (Bihar: General): Mr. Chairman, the manner of your calling me is not constitutional.” (Laughter)

Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha (The Chairman): Order, Order. No reflection on the Chairman please! (Continued laughter.)

Mrs. Sarojini Naidu: It reminds me of some line of the Kashmiri Poet who said:–

Bulbul ko gul Mubarak, gul ko chaman Mubarak,
Rangeen tabiaton ko range sukhan mubarak.

I have been asked to speak–for how long? But I believe that I must disprove the age-old proverb that woman has not only the last but the longest word. I have the last word not because I am a woman but because I am acting today as the hostess of the Indian national Congress which has so gladly invited those who are outside its fold to come and participate with us in framing the constitution that is to be the immortal charter of India’s freedom.

After this Rajendra Babu replies to felicitation–

This Constituent Assembly has come into being with a number of limitations, many of which we will have to bear in mind as we proceed. But, it must also be borne in mind that the Assembly is a sovereign body and is fully competent to conduct its proceedings in the manner it chooses to follow. No outside power can meddle with its proceedings. I also believe that it is competent to break the limitations attached to it at its birth. It should be our effort to get free of these limitations and frame a constitution which will assure all men and women of this country, no matter of what religion, province or shade of opinion that their rights are fully protected. If such an efforts is made in this House and we succeed in it, I believe that it will be such a landmark in the history of the world that it will be hard to rival.    

It is also to be remembered and we, who are present in the House, cannot forget it even for a moment that many of the seats are vacant in this meeting. Our brethren of the Muslim League are not with us and their absence increases our responsibility. We shall have to think at each step: What would they have done if they were here? We have to proceed keeping all these things in view. We hope they will soon come and take their places and share in the deliberations for framing a constitution for their country which will give it freedom, that they will join us in our march for freedom. But if unfortunately these seats continue to remain unoccupied, it will be our duty to frame a constitution which will leave no room for complaint from anybody. 

All that we need is honesty of purpose, firmness of determination, a desire to understand each other’s view-point, that we shall do justice, that we shall behave as fairly, as squarely as possible towards everyone else–and with that determination, with that resolve, I cannot see why we should not be able to overcome the obstacles in our way. I am aware that this Constituent Assembly has been born with certain limitations placed on it from its very birth. We may not forget, disregard or ignore those limitations, in the course of our proceedings and in arriving at our decisions.

I will again repeat it is a most regrettable thing that I find many seats unoccupied today in this Assembly. I am hoping that our friends of the Muslim League will soon come to occupy these places and will be glad and happy to participate in this great work of creating a constitution for our people, creating a constitution which according to the experience of all other nations of the world, which according to our own experience and which according to our own traditions and our own peculiar condition will guarantee to everyone all that can be guaranteed, all that need be guaranteed and all that require to be guaranteed, and will not leave any room for any complaint from any side. I am hoping also that you all will do your best to achieve this great objective.  

Above all, what we need is freedom and as someone has said “nothing is more valuable than the freedom to be free”. Let us hope and pray that as a result of the labours of this Constituent Assembly we shall have achieved that freedom and we shall be proud of it. (Applause)

After this a resolution was moved listing aims objects of the Constituent Assembly. This resolution was moved why Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. “The Resolution that I am placing before you is in the nature of a pledge. It has been drafted after mature deliberation and efforts have been made to avoid controversy. A great country is sure to have a lot of controversial issues; but we have tried to avoid controversy as much as possible. The Resolution deals with fundamentals which are commonly held and have been accepted by the people. I do not think this Resolution contains anything which was outside the limitations laid down by the British Cabinet or anything which may be disagreeable to any Indian, no matter to what party or group he belongs. Unfortunately, our country is full of differences, but no one, except perhaps a few, would dispute the fundamentals which this Resolution lays down. The Resolution states that it is our firm and solemn resolve to have a sovereign Indian republic. We have not mentioned the word ‘republic’ till this time; but you will well understand that a free India can be nothing but a republic.

I beg to move:

“(1)      This 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;

(2)        WHEREIN the 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; and

(3)        WHEREIN the said territories, whether with their present boundaries or with such others as may be determined by the Constituent Assembly and thereafter according to the Law of the Constitution, shall possess and retain the status of autonomous Units, together with residuary power, and exercise all powers and functions of government and administration, save and except such powers and functions as are vested in or assigned to the Union, or as are inherent or implied in the Union or resulting therefrom; and

(4)        WHEREIN all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people; and

(5)        WHEREIN shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India 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; and

(6)        WHEREIN adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and

(7)        WHEREBY shall be maintained the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea, and air according to justice and the law of civilized nations, and

(8)        This ancient land attains its rightful and honoured place in the world and make its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.”

There is another person who is absent here and who must be in the minds of many of us today–the great leader of our people, the father of our Nation (applause)–who has been the architect of this Assembly and all that has gone before it and possibly of much that will follow. He is not here because, in pursuit of his ideals, he is ceaselessly working in a far corner of India. But I have no doubt that his spirit hovers over this place and blesses our undertaking.

As I stand here, Sir, I feel the weight of all manner of things crowding around me. We are at the end of an era and possibly very soon we shall embark upon a new age; and my mind goes back to the great past of India, to the 5,000 years of India’s history, from the very dawn of that history which might be considered almost the dawn of human history, till today. All that past crowds around me and exhilarates me and, at the same time, somewhat oppresses me. Am I worthy of that past? When I think also of the future, the greater future I hope, standing on this sword’s edge of the present between this mighty past and the mightier future, I tremble a little and feel overwhelmed by this mighty task.

I think also of the various Constituent Assemblies that have gone before and of what took place at the making of the great American nation when the fathers of that nation met and fashioned out a constitution which has stood the test of so many years, more than a century and a half, and of the great nation which has resulted, which has been built up on the basis of that Constitution. My mind goes back to that mighty revolution which took place also over 150 years ago and to that Constituent Assembly that met in that gracious and lovely city of Paris which has fought so many battles for freedom, to the difficulties that Constituent Assembly had and to how the King and other authorities came in its way, and still it continued. The House will remember that when these difficulties came and even the room for a meeting was denied to the then Constituent Assembly, they betook themselves to an open tennis court and met there and took the oath, which is called the Oath of the Tennis Court, that they continued meeting in spite of Kings, in spite of the others, and did not disperse till they had finished the task they had undertaken. Well, I trust that it is in that solemn spirit that we too are meeting here and that we, too, whether we meet in this chamber or other chambers, or in the fields or in the market-place, will go on meeting and continue our work till we have finished.

Then my mind goes back to a more recent revolution which  gave rise to a new type of State, the revolution that took place in Russia and out of which has arisen the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, another mighty country which is playing a tremendous part in the world, not only a mighty country but, for us in India, a neighbouring country.    

The House will notice that in this Resolution, although we have not used the word ‘democratic’ because we thought it is obvious that the word ‘republic’ contains that word and we did not want to use unnecessary words sand redundant words, but we have done something much more than using the word. We have given the content of democracy in this Resolution and not only the content of democracy but the content, if I may say so, of economic democracy in this Resolution. Others might take objection to this Resolution on the ground that we have not said that it should be a Socialist State. Well I stand for socialism and hope that India will stand for Socialism and that India will go towards the constitution of a Socialist State, and I do believe that the whole world will have to go that way. What form of Socialism again is another matter for your consideration. But the main thing is that in such a Resolution, if, in accordance with my own desire, I had put in that we want a Socialist State, we would have put in something which may be agreeable to many and may not be agreeable to some, and we wanted this Resolution not to be controversial in regard to such matters. 

We have to think of this tremendous prospect of the present and the greater prospect of the future and not get lost in seeking small gains for this group or that. In this Constituent Assembly we are functioning on a world stage and the eyes of the world are upon us and the eyes of our entire past are upon us. Our past is witness to what we are doing here and though the future is still unborn, the future too somehow looks at us. I think so, and so, I would beg of this House to consider this Resolution in this mighty prospect of our past, of the turmoil of the present and of the great and unborn future that is going to take place soon. Sir, I beg to move. (Prolonged Cheers)

L.S. Herdenia is a journalist by profession and a well-known activist & fighter for the cause of Secularism and Communal Harmony

Support Countercurrents

Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B.
Become a Patron at Patreon

Join Our Newsletter


Join our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Get CounterCurrents updates on our WhatsApp and Telegram Channels

Related Posts

Join Our Newsletter

Annual Subscription

Join Countercurrents Annual Fund Raising Campaign and help us

Latest News