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Evolution and Framing of Indian Constitutions – Overview
- In 1938, Jawaharlal Nehru, on behalf of the INC declared that ‘the Constitution of free India must be framed, without outside interference, by a Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of the adult franchise’.
- The demand was finally accepted in principle by the British Government in what is known as the’ August Offer’ of 1940. In 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the cabinet, came to India with a draft proposal of the British Government on the framing of an independent Constitution to be adopted after World War II.
- The Cripps Proposals were rejected by the Muslim League which wanted India to be divided into two autonomous states with two separate Constituent Assemblies. Finally, a Cabinet Mission was sent to India. While it rejected the idea of two Constituent Assemblies, it put forth a scheme for the Constituent Assembly which more or less satisfied the Muslim League.
- It was under the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 that the Constituent Assembly was constituted to frame a Constitution for India: The Constituent Assembly, which had been elected for undivided India and held its first sitting on December 9 1946, reassembled on August 14, 1947, as the sovereign Constituent Assembly for the Dominion of India.
- It was elected by indirect election by the members of the Provincial Legislative Assembly (Lower House only), according to the scheme recommended by the Cabinet Delegation. The essentials of this scheme were as follows –
- The Provinces elected 292 members while the Indian States were allotted a maximum of 93 seats,
- The seats in each province were distributed among the three main committees Muslim, Sikh, and General, in proportion to their respective population.
- Members of each community in the Provincial Legislative Assembly elected their own representatives by the method of proportional representation with a single transferable vote,
- The method of selection in the case of representatives of Indian States was to be determined by consolation. As a result of the Partition under the Plan of June 3, 1947, a separate Constituent Assembly was set up for Pakistan. The representatives of Bengal, Punjab, Sind, North-Western Frontier Province, Baluchistan and the Sylhet district of Assam (which had joined Pakistan by a referendum) ceased to be members of the Constituent Assembly of India, and there was a fresh election in the new Provinces of West Bengal and East Punjab. (Hence, when the Constituent Assembly reassembled on Oct. 31, 1947) the membership of the House was reduced to 299. Of these 284 were actually present on Nov. 26, 1949, and appended their signatures to the Constitution as finally passed.
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A Note on Objective Resolution
On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru moved the historic “Objective Resolution” in the Assembly. It laid down the fundamentals and philosophy of the constitutional structure. It reads:
- This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as the Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution –
- 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 India and the States as well as other territories as are willing to be constituted into independent sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all, and
- 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 powers 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 there from,
- Wherein all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of Government are derived from the people,
- 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
- Wherein adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes
- 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
- This ancient land attains its rightful and honoured place in the world and makes its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind. This Resolution was unanimously adopted by the Assembly on January 22, 1947. It influenced the eventual shaping of the Constitution through all its subsequent stages. Its modified version forms the Preamble of the present Constitution.
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