Indian Constituent Assembly: Features and its Committees

By | January 16, 2021
Indian Constituent Assembly

Indian Constituent Assembly | Overview

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.

Introduction

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.[1]

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.[2]

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:[3]

Major Committees

S. No.CommitteePresided by
1.Union Powers CommitteeJawaharlal Nehru
2.Union Constitution CommitteeJawaharlal Nehru
3.Provincial Constitution CommitteeSardar Patel
4.Drafting CommitteeDr B.R. Ambedkar
5.Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas.

This committee had the following sub-committees:

  1. Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee – J.B. Kripalani
  2. Minorities Sub-Committee – H.C. Mukherjee
  3. North-East Frontier Tribal Areas and Assam Excluded & Partially Excluded Areas Sub-Committee – Gopinath Bardoloi
  4. Excluded and Partially Excluded Areas (Other than those in Assam) Sub-Committee – A.V. Thakkar
Sardar Patel
6.Rules of Procedure CommitteeDr Rajendra Prasad
7.States Committee (Committee for Negotiating with States)Jawaharlal Nehru
8.Steering CommitteeDr Rajendra Prasad

Minor Committees

S. No.CommitteePresided by
1.Committee on the Functions of the Constituent AssemblyG.V. Mavalankar
2.Order of Business CommitteeDr K.M. Munshi
3.House CommitteeB. Pattabhi Sitaramayya
4.Ad-hoc Committee on the National FlagDr Rajendra Prasad
5.Special Committee to Examine the Draft ConstitutionAlladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar
6.Credentials CommitteeAlladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar
7.Finance and Staff CommitteeDr 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’ ProvincesB. Pattabhi Sitaramayya
13.Commission on Linguistic Provinces
14.Expert Committee on Financial Provisions
15.Ad-hoc Committee on the Supreme CourtS. 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.[4]

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.[5]

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.”[6]

Conclusion

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.


[1] Constituent Assembly, last assessed Jan 11th 2021, Available Here

[2] Yash Ghai, The Role of Constituent Assemblies in Constitution-making, last assessed Jan 11th 2021, Available Here

[3] M. Laxmikanth, Indian Polity, (2017).

[4] Ibid.

[5]Constituent Assembly of India Debates (proceedings) Volume II, last assessed Jan 11th 2021, Available Here

[6] Ibid.


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