Composition and Working of the Constituent Assembly

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Composition of the Constituent Assembly

  1. In the year 1946, on 20 November a decision was taken to convene the first session of the Constituent Assembly on 9 December, 1946.
  2. The members of the Constituent Assembly were chosen by indirect election by members of the Provincial Legislative Assemblies, according to the scheme recommended by the Cabinet Mission.
  3. Elections to elect members from British India were held in July-August 1946. The Congress won 199 out of 210 general categories of seats. For these elections to the Constituent Assembly, only the Sikhs and the Muslims were reorganized as minorities and elections for the Constituent Assembly was not held on the basis of universal adult franchise.
  4. The arrangement was:
  5. 292 members were elected through the Provincial Legislative Assemblies.
  6. 93 members represented the Indian Princely States.
  7. 4 members represented the Chief Commissioners’ Provinces.
  8. The total membership of the Assembly thus was to be 389.
  9. It was also decided that out of that strength, 296 were to be from the British provinces and 93 to be from the princely Indian states.
  10. The Congress also won three seats out of four Sikh seats from the Punjab, and three out of 78 seats reserved for Muslims and three seats from Coorg, Ajmer, Mewar and Delhi. The total tally of the Congress was 208 and the Muslim League won 73 out of 78 Muslim seats.
  11. The Indian Muslim League tried its best to put hurdles in the smooth functioning of the Constituent Assembly, despite the best efforts of Nehru’s conciliatory gestures.
  12. In this backdrop, the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly began on 9 December, 1946.
  13. Before the commencement of deliberations of the Constituent Assembly, Nehru announced, “the first task of this Assembly is to free India through a constitution, to feed the starving people, and to clothe the naked masses, and to give every Indian the fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity”.
  14. The oldest member, Dr Sachchidanand Sinha was made the Provisional President of the Assembly but, the invitations were dispatched by the secretary of the assembly and not by the Viceroy, though he desired to do so.
  15. The first session was attended by 207 members. The Muslim League stayed away from the deliberations and the Congress Muslims attended the session.
  16. On 11 December, Dr Rajendra Prasad was chosen by election as the first permanent Chairman of the Assembly.
  17. Nehru moved the famous objec­tives resolution on 13 December and it was discussed for a week and they postponed the adoption of the objectives resolution as the members of the Muslim League were absent and the princely states were to join the Assembly.
  18. 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.
  19. As a result, the membership of the Assembly was reduced to 299.
  20. The strength of the Indian provinces was thus reduced to 229 from 296 and of those of the princely states from 70 to 93.
  21. Of these 284 were actually present on the 26th Nov, 1949 and appended their signatures to the constitution when it was finally passed.

 

 Working of the Constituent Assembly

  1. In the session which took place between January 20 and 22, 1947, the objectives resolution was passed.
  2. The third session of the Assembly took place from 28 April to 2 May 1947, and on 3 June the Mountbatten Plan was announced despite the absence of the Muslim League.
  3. The Mountbatten Plan clearly made the partition of India as India and Pakistan certain.
  4. After the declaration of Independence on 15 August, 1947, the Constituent Assembly became a sovereign body and also doubled as the legislature for the new state. It served as a constitution-making body as well as law-making organ.
  5. A number of committees were created and of such committees, one was headed by B.N. Rao and the other to draft the constitution was headed by Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
  6. In July 1946 itself a committee consisting of Nehru as the Chairman and Asaf Ali, K.T. Shah, D.R. Gadgil, K.M. Munshi, Humayun Kabir, R. Santhanam and N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar as members was constituted to prepare material and proposals for the constitution.
  7. The Constituent Assembly as well as the Congress Working Committee thoroughly discussed all the points. This was made clear by Austin as follows: “The Congress Assembly Party was the unofficial, private forum that debated every provision of the constitution and in most cases decided the fate before it reached the floor of the House. Every one elected to the Assembly on the Congress ticket could attend the meetings whether or not he was a member of the party or even close to it”.
  8. In the constitution-making process, both Nehru and Sardar Patel played a very important role by their keen involvement. It was Nehru who spelt out the philosophy and basic features of the consti­tution and Sardar Patel played the decisive role in bringing in the representatives of the erstwhile princely states into the Constituent Assembly, in seeing to it that separate electorates were eliminated and in scotching any move for reservation of seats for religious minorities.

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