The birth of the Indian Republic on the 26th of January 1950 was the culmination of a long drawn struggle against British domination and the realization of a long cherished dream of sovereignty for its people. As we celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the republic, it would be meaningful to look back and trace the nation's historic journey that led to this moment of glory.

When was the idea of a Republic first conceived?

  • While the idea of total independence from British rule as opposed to a Dominion status had started gaining ground in the late 1920s, the declaration for Poorna Swarajya was first made at the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress on 31st December 1929, under the presidency of Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru. The declaration was officially promulgated on the 26th of January 1930. Since then the architects of our freedom started observing January 26 "Independence Day". The declaration paved the way for the Civil Disobedience movement and all that followed, leading to our freedom from Bristish Rule. It was to commemorate this declaration that 26th of January was chosen as the dayfor oULronstitution to come into force and for India to become a Republic.

When was the Constituent Assembly framed and how was the Constitution Drafted?

  • The Indian Constituent Assembly was constituted as a result of the negotiations between the Indian leaders and members of the British Cabinet Mission. It had its first meeting on December 9, 1946. The Assembly consisted of 389 members representing provinces (292), states (93), the Chief Commissioner Provinces (3), and Baluchistan (1). Dr. Sachhidanand Sinha, the oldest member of the Assembly was elected Provisional President. On December 11, 1946, the Assembly elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as its permanent Chairman. The strength of the Assembly was reduced to 299 (229 representing the provinces and 70 representing the states) following withdrawal of the Muslim League members after the partition of the country. The Constituent Assembly set up 13 committees for framing the constitution. On the basis of the reports of these committees, a draft of the Constitution was prepared by a seven-member Drafting Committee under the Chairmanship of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The draft Constitution was published in January, 1948, and people were given eight months to discuss the draft and propose amendments. In all 7635 amendments were tabled out of which 2473 were discussed and disposed. After the draft was discussed by the people, the press, the provincial assemblies and the Constituent Assembly in the light of the suggestions received, the same was finally adopted on November 26, 1949, and was signed by the President of the Assembly. The members of the Assembly however appended their signatures on two hand written copies of the constitution, one in Hindi and one in English, on 24 January, 1950. Thus it took the Constituent Assembly 2 years, 11 months and 18 days to complete the task. During this period the Assembly had met in sessions open to the public for 166 days.

Who were some of the prominent figures in the Constituent Assembly?

  • Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, RajendraPrasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Nalini Ranjan Ghosh , Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, B. R. Ambedkar, Benegal Narsing Rau K. M. Munshi ,Ganesh Mavlankar were some well known members of the Assembly. Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai Deshmukh and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur were important women members. The first president of the Constituent Assembly was Sachidanand Sinha later, Rajendra Prasad was elected president of the Constituent Assembly.

What were the main Objectives of the Constitution?

  • The objectives of the Constitution were outlined in the Objective Resolution moved by Jawaharlal Nehru on December 13, 1946 and unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947. The main principles outlined in the resolution were to to proclaim India as an independent sovereign republic; establish a democratic union with an equal level of self government for all the constituent parts; provide for all power and authority of the government to be derived from the people; guarantee and secure to all people of India justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity and before law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action.; provide adequate safeguards for minorities, backward and tribal areas and depressed and other backward classes.; maintain the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea, and air according to justice . and law of civilized nations; secure for India its rightful and honored place in the world and contribute to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind. These objectives are incorporated in the Preamble to the Constitution.

  • In drafting the Constitution, what were the ideas that influenced the drafters?

  • The framers of the Constitution borrowed the good features of other constitutions like those of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, making necessary modifications for its suitability to the Indian conditions. The parliamentary system of government, rule of law, law-making procedure and single citizenship were borrowed from the British Constitution. Independence of Judiciary, Judicial Review, Fundamental Rights, and guidelines for the removal of judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts were adopted from the US Constitution. The federal system, with a strong central authority, was adopted from Canada. Directive Principles of State Policy were borrowed from the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland. The idea of Concurrent List was borrowed from the Australian Constitution. The provisions relating to emergency were influenced by the Weimar Constitution. Above all, the Government of India Act, 1935, exercised great influence on the Indian Constitution. The federal scheme, office of governor, powers of federal judiciary, etc., were drawn from this Act.

What is the significance of the Preamble to the Constitution?

  • The Preamble is brief introductory statement that sets out the guiding purpose and principles of the document. Despite its importance of the Preamble, initially it was not regarded as part of the Constitution and hence, was not treated as a source of any substantive powers. In the Berubari case, the Supreme Court specifically held that the Preamble could not override the express provisions of the Act. However, in the Keshavananda Bharati case of 1973, the Supreme Court took the view that the Preamble is part of the Constitution. Chief Justice Sikri observed "the Preamble of our Constitution is of extreme importance and the Constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of the grand and noble vision expressed in the Preamble". The court relied on the Preamble while restricting the amending power of the Parliament under Article 368 of the Constitution. It held that the basic elements of the Preamble cannot be amended under ArtArtic1e 368. Thus the preamble may be used to interpret ambiguous areas of the constitution where differing interpretations present Themselves.

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