Indian Constituent Assembly | Overview
- Role of a Constituent Assembly in constitution-making
- Committees of Indian Constituent Assembly
- Major Committees
- Minor Committees
- Role of the Drafting Committee
- Role of the Advisory Committee
The present article aims to provide a detailed idea about the Indian Constituent Assembly, its features, with a primary focus on all the committees involved in the constitution-making of the country.
In a democratic country, citizens enjoy the right of selecting their representative government and have the privilege of participating in the framing of its constitution. However, constitution-making is a complex process and involves a lot of participatory process in discussions, debates, and meetings.
The article is divided into three major sections: the first two sections will envisage the history of constitution-making, its process, and the role of the constituent assembly committees in drafting the constitution of India. The third section will specifically discuss the major committees of the constituent Assembly and the then article concludes with a suitable remark at the end.
The Constituent Assembly refers to a constitution-making body. The body may comprise of an Assembly of people or an established convention by the people of a country, particularly, for the purpose of framing its constitution.
In India, the idea of formulating a constituent Assembly dates back to 1906 when the Indian National Congress demanded swaraj. Following that in 1936, the congress upheld that they stand for a genuinely democratic state in India, where the ultimate power is in the citizens’ hands, and the government is under their effective control. The objective behind was that such a democratic state can only come into existence through a constituent Assembly.
In March 1946, Mr Atlee, the labour Prime minister categorically held that Indian citizens have the right to frame their constitution. The Constituent Assembly was formed and met for the first time on 9 December 1946; however, it was not a sovereign body then and had to follow the procedure prescribed by the Cabinet Mission of British Parliament. Dr Rajendra Prasad was elected the chairman of the constituent Assembly.
When India got independence in July 1947, the formulated Constituent Assembly came into action as a fully sovereign body as per Cabinet Mission Plan. The Constituent Assembly set up various committees for framing of the Indian constitution. There were 22 committees set up by the constituent assembly for framing the constitution, including a Drafting committee.
The primary committees set up were: Committee on Chief Commissioners of Provinces, Committee on financial relations, Union Powers Committee on Minorities and Fundamental Rights, and Advisory Committee on Tribal areas. The committees formed a report which was considered and on which basis a drafting committee was set up with Dr B.R. Ambedkar as the chairman of the committee who was the then law member of the Indian government.
The purpose of the drafting committee was to provide a legal form to the decision embodied in the reports of the mentioned committees. On November 4 1948, the final draft constitution was submitted to the constituent Assembly, and after several debates and discussions, the new constitution of independent India was adopted by the parliament on 26 January 1950.
Role of a Constituent Assembly in constitution-making
The primary role of a constituent Assembly is to frame the constitution of the country. It has been before, and even at present, the most common and preferable mode for making a constitution. The only difference could be the functions, composition, and the mode of operation of the constituent Assembly of different nations. These differences play a significant role in the process of the framework of the constitution, its orientation, and the supposed outcome.
Additionally, it is noteworthy that the role of the constituent Assembly must be viewed in the context of the complete process of framing a constitution. The constitution framing tasks must not be shared with other institutions because that may result in biased outcomes. However, participation from the public and the concerned individuals must be welcomed.
Although the role of constituent assemblies has not always been democratic sometimes, it may double up as the legislature, so a distinction between the two is obliterated. The Indian constituent assembly covers all aspects of the constitution and consults all concerned people and special groups, then prepares a draft, debates it, adopts it, and finally brings it into force.
Committees of Indian Constituent Assembly
The Constituent Assembly of India appointed a total of 22 committees with respective assigned tasks for constitution-making. Out of these 22, eight were major committees, and others were minor committees.
The list of the committees, i.e. major committees and minor committees with their respective chairman is given as outlined below:
|S. No.||Committee||Presided by|
|1.||Union Powers Committee||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|2.||Union Constitution Committee||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|3.||Provincial Constitution Committee||Sardar Patel|
|4.||Drafting Committee||Dr B.R. Ambedkar|
|5.||Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas.|
This committee had the following sub-committees:
|6.||Rules of Procedure Committee||Dr Rajendra Prasad|
|7.||States Committee (Committee for Negotiating with States)||Jawaharlal Nehru|
|8.||Steering Committee||Dr Rajendra Prasad|
|S. No.||Committee||Presided by|
|1.||Committee on the Functions of the Constituent Assembly||G.V. Mavalankar|
|2.||Order of Business Committee||Dr K.M. Munshi|
|3.||House Committee||B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya|
|4.||Ad-hoc Committee on the National Flag||Dr Rajendra Prasad|
|5.||Special Committee to Examine the Draft Constitution||Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar|
|6.||Credentials Committee||Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar|
|7.||Finance and Staff Committee||Dr Rajendra Prasad|
|8.||Hindi Translation Committee|
|9.||Urdu Translation Committee|
|10.||Press Gallery Committee|
|11.||Committee to Examine the Effect of the Indian Independence Act of 1947|
|12.||Committee on Chief Commissioners’ Provinces||B. Pattabhi Sitaramayya|
|13.||Commission on Linguistic Provinces|
|14.||Expert Committee on Financial Provisions|
|15.||Ad-hoc Committee on the Supreme Court||S. Varadachariar.|
Role of the Drafting Committee
The drafting committee was set up by the constituent assembly on 29 August 1947, under Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s chairmanship to prepare the draft of the constitution. It consisted of a total of seven members. Amongst all the committee of the assembly, the drafting committee was the most important as it was entrusted with the final task of preparing a draft of the new constitution, based on the reports submitted by the other committees.
The first draft was published in February 1948, and the citizens of India were given an eight months time period to discuss the draft and propose amendments. In light of the public comments and suggestions, the committee prepared the second draft, which got published in October, the same year. The committee scrutinized and revised the reports several times until they got a satisfactory draft. It is a fact that, while deliberating upon the draft constitution, the constituent Assembly moved, discussed, and disposed of at least 2,473 amendments out of a total of 7,635 tabled.
Role of the Advisory Committee
The function of the advisory committee was to give advice to the constituent Assembly on matters of safeguarding the interests of the minorities, backward, and tribal peoples. The committee acted as a representative of all these classes of people.
In words of the statement used in the Assembly, “the Advisory Committee on the rights of citizens, minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas will contain a due representation of the interests affected and their function will be to report to the Union Constituent Assembly upon the list of fundamental rights, clauses for protecting minorities, and a scheme for the administration of Tribal and Excluded Areas, and to advise whether these right’s should be incorporated in the Provincial, the Group of the Union Constitutions.”
The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution in the world containing 395 articles, 22 Parts, and 12 Schedules. However, it is noteworthy that the framing of the Indian constitution was not such an easy and quick process. The Indian constitution was framed by a constituent assembly, having 13 sets up committees that formed their reports, which became the basis for the drafting committee in the constitution draft framework. The final draft made it through a period of over three years of various debates and deliberations. Nonetheless, we are thankful to the committee members and the legislators who completed the historic task of drafting the constitution for independent India.
The drafting of the Indian constitution is now considered a monumental feat of our democracy for which the members of the constituent Assembly’s committees deserve immense respect. The committee members, despite belonging to different culture and communities, collectively dedicate their efforts in establishing a democratic republic in India. The result is that our constitution even now stands as a shining beacon of democratic governance.
 M. Laxmikanth, Indian Polity, (2017).