The making of the Constitution of India
26th January- The Republic Day of India
“The Constitution is not a mere lawyer’s document, it is a vehicle of Life, and its spirit is always the spirit of Age.” This is how B.R. Ambedkar, The Father of Indian Constitution described the Constitution.
By: M Ahmad
India observes Republic Day on January 26, every year. Republic Day marks an important event in the country’s history and commemorates the enactment of the constitution of India which came into effect on January 26, 1950, and made the nation into a republic.
The constitution of a country is the fundamental law of the land on the basis of which all other laws are made and enforced. It sets out the framework and principal functions of the organs of the Government within the state and declares the principles by these organs must operate. The constitution is the supreme or fundamental law of the country which not only defines the framework of the basic political principles but also establishes what the different government institutions should do in terms of procedure, powers and duties.
Indian Constitution was made by the Constituent Assembly which had been elected for undivided India. It was constituted under the scheme formulated by the cabinet mission plan. The Constituent Assembly of India sat for the first time on December 9, 1946 and started a historical journey which saw India attainting independence, deciding on its national flag, national anthem; and ultimately adoption of the Constitution which made it a democratic republic. The Constituent Assembly was formed on the basis of the population. So there were 389 representatives who were called from entire India to form the Constituent Assembly, 296 representatives from British India and 93 representatives from the Princely States. The Princely States denied participation so it was formed with the 296 representatives from British India. The members of the Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 9th December 1946.
On December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru moved the historic ‘objectives resolution’. The resolution encapsulated the aspiration and values behind the constitution. It laid down the fundamentals and philosophy of the constitutional structure. On August 29 1947, under the chairmanship of Dr. BR Ambedkar who said that Our Constitution would be both unitary as well as federal according to the requirements of time and circumstances, drafting committee was formed to prepare a draft of the Constitution. It consisted of seven members. The Assembly met in sessions open to the public, for 166 days, spread over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution. It submitted its first report on February 21, 1948. At that time draft constitution contained 315 articles and 8 schedules. The people of India were given 8 months to discuss the draft and propose amendments and as many as 7635 amendments were proposed. In the light of the public comments, criticisms and suggestions, the drafting committee prepared a second draft and published it in October 1948 and was presented to Constituent Assembly on November 4, 1948, for first reading. The final draft was concluded on November 26, 1949.
In the last meeting of the Assembly, that is, on 24th January 1950 the members of the Assembly signed two copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) and also“ Jana Gana Mana” was adopted as the national anthem and the first two verses of“ Vande Mataram” as the national song. Each member signed both Hindi and English copies of the Constitution. The very last signature is that of Feroze Gandhi. He has signed in two languages, first in Devanagari and then in the Roman script. Most others have signed in English, the exceptions being Abul Kalam Azad in Urdu and Purushottam Das Tandon in Devanagari.
The Congress declared 26th January, 1930 as ‘Independence Day’, when the Declaration of Independence was officially promulgated. It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world. At the time of commencement, the constitution had 395 articles in 22 parts and 8 schedules and consists of almost 80,000 words.
This book is one of 1,000 photolithographic reproductions of the Constitution of the Republic of India. The illustrations represent styles from the different civilizations of the subcontinent, ranging from the prehistoric Mohenjodaro, in the Indus Valley, to the present. The calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizda. It was illuminated by Nandalal Bose and other artists, published by Dehra Dun, and photolithographed at the Survey of India Offices. There are three original copies of the Constitution of India. All of these copies are preserved in the Central Library of the Parliament. There is a security enclosure of three rooms, which you have to cross to view them. The original copy of the Constitution is 22 inches long and 16 inches wide. It is written on sheets of parchment and its manuscript consists of 251 pages. It is obvious that keeping this precious document needs a lot of effort. Utmost care has been taken to ensure that the original copy of the Constitution isn’t spoiled, therefore, it is kept in a box filled with helium gas.
The Indian Constitution is called a living document because it can be amended or changed. It accepts the necessity of modifications according to changing needs of society. Thus, both political practices and judicial rulings have shown maturity and flexibility in implementing the Constitution. There have been 105 amendments in the Constitution of India up to October 2021. The first amendment was done in 1950. After that, the Constitution has been amended 104 times. This is the beauty of the Indian Constitution.
The Indian Constitution which upholds the principles of equality, fraternity, secularism etc. are often considered as a bag of borrowings due to the adoption of provisions of various other countries. The directive principles have been taken from the Irish Constitution, our Parliamentary type of Government with a cabinet system that is accountable to the lower house is an idea that the makers borrowed from the British Parliamentary system. The Supreme Court, our Fundamental Rights, and the role of the Vice-President were suggested by the Constitution of the United States of America. Emergency provisions were picked from the German Constitution, and the French Constitution influenced the concepts of liberty, fraternity and equality. The Japanese Constitution influenced the principles about the functioning of the Supreme Court. The Constitution of India has borrowed some of its features from 10 other countries, including Britain, Ireland, Japan, USA, South Africa, Germany, Australia, and Canada.
The writer is Incharge Abhedananda Home-Higher Secondary Institution for Specially-abled Children, Solina, Srinagar, J&K email: [email protected])