After the end of the Second World War in 1945, the question of India’s freedom assumed priority. The British Government sent three-man delegation to India to suggest the ways and means for the smooth transfer of power. This delegation, called Cabinet Mission, announced on 16 March 1946 its proposals in which, it was suggested that a Constituent Assembly be set up to frame a Constitution for the future governance of India.
Accordingly, elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in which members were elected by the Provincial Legislative Assemblies. Dr. Ambedkar, having failed to get elected from Bombay due to Congress opposition, managed to enter the Constituent Assembly through the Bengal Assembly with the support of Jogendranath Mandal and other Scheduled Caste members.
The Constituent Assembly started its work of framing free India’s Constitution on 9th December 1946. In all 296 members were entitled to take part in the inaugural session. But only 207 attended, the absentees were mainly the Muslim League members who had boycotted the Constituent Assembly.
The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly of India commenced in the Constitution Hall, New Delhi on Monday, the 9th December 1946, at Eleven of the Clock. Acharya J. B. Kripalani requested Dr. Sachchidanand Sinha to take the chair as temporary Chairman. The Chairman gave an inaugural address to the House. This was followed by nomination of Shri Frank Anthony as the Deputy Chairman.
The members then presented the credentials and signed their names in the register. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar signed as a member from Bengal. The Assembly passed the rules for the election of the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly on 10th December 1946. The Assembly thereafter elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as permanent Chairman of the Assembly on 11th December 1946.
The Cabinet Mission had recommended the setting up of an advisory committee on Fundamental Rights, Minorities etc. Accordingly, the assembly constituted the Advisory Committee under the Chairmanship of Sardar Patel by a resolution on 24th January 1947. The Committee consisted of 50 members in which Dr. Ambedkar was one. To facilitate its work, the Advisory Committee appointed the following four subcommittees.
- Fundamental Rights sub-committee.
- Minorities sub-committee.
- North-East Frontier Tribal Areas sub-committee.
- Excluded and partially excluded areas (other than those in Assam) sub-committee.
Dr. Ambedkar was a member of the first two sub-committees and took keen interest in their deliberations. He also submitted a memorandum to the Fundamental Rights sub-committee in which he gave concrete shape to his ideas. This memorandum was later published for wider circulation under the title ‘States and Minorities, what are their rights and how to secure them in the Constitution of free India’.
The Constituent Assembly also appointed three other committees, namely (1) the Union Power Committee, (2) the Union Constitution Committee and (3) the provisional Constitution Committee. Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was the Chairman of the first two committees while the third one was under the Chairmanship of Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. These Committees were set up by a resolution on 30th April 1947.
Dr. Ambedkar was member of the Union Constitution Committee. The report of the Committee was submitted to the President of the Assembly by its Chairman Pandit Nehru on 4th July 1947. The work done by Dr. Ambedkar in various sub-committees of the Assembly was considered very useful and convinced the Congress bosses beyond doubt that the legislation and solidification of freedom would not be easy without the services of Dr. Ambedkar. Consequent upon the partition of Bengal, Dr. Ambedkar ceased to be a member of the Constituent Assembly. The Congress Party which had earlier opposed tooth and nail his entry into the Constituent Assembly came forward and sponsored his candidature.
In his letter dated 30th June 1947, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly requested Mr. B. G. Kher, the then Prime Minister of Bombay to elect Dr. Ambedkar immediately. He wrote, “Apart from any other consideration we have found Dr. Ambedkar’s work both in the Constituent Assembly and the various committees to which he was appointed to be of such an order as to require that we should not be deprived of his services. As you know, he was elected from Bengal and after the division of the Province, he has ceased to be a member of the Constituent Assembly. I am anxious that he should attend the next session of the Constituent Assembly commencing from the 14th July and it is therefore necessary that he should be elected immediately”.
Accordingly, Dr. Ambedkar was re-elected in July 1947 from Bombay as a member of the Constituent Assembly. Soon after, Prime Minister Nehru invited him to join the Cabinet he formed on 15th August 1947 on the eve of independence. Dr. Ambedkar accepted the invitation and became India’s first Law Minister. On 29th August, the Assembly unanimously elected him as Chairman of the Drafting Committee, which was assigned the task of framing the Constitution. Dr. Ambedkar, who was a strong opponent of Congress, had now become their friend, philosopher and guide in the Constitutional matters.
Committee to Scrutinise Draft Constitution
- Shri Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar,
- Shri N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar,
- The Honourable Dr. B. R. Ambedkar,
- Shri K. M. Munshi,
- Saiyid Mohd. Saadulla,
- Sir B. L. Mitter,
- Shri D. P. Khaitan,
The above committee was appointed to scrutinise and to suggest necessary amendment to the Draft Constitution of India prepared in the Office of the Assembly on the basis of the decision taken in the Assembly.
The Drafting Committee first met on August 30, 1947 and elected Dr. Ambedkar as its Chairman unanimously. The Committee sat from October 27, 1947 day to day, discussing and revising articles of the Draft prepared by the office of the Constitutional adviser. The Committee met in all on 44 days till February 13, 1948 in which Dr. Ambedkar himself conducted all the business. Fresh Draft of the Constitution as settled by the Drafting Committee was submitted to the President of the Assembly on February 21, 1948. The Committee continued to function and dealt with suggestions for amendments made from time to time. The Draft Constitution had been before the public for eight months and came up before the Constituent Assembly for discussion on 4th November 1948.
First reading of the Draft Constitution
The Constituent Assembly of India met in the Constitution Hall, New Delhi on Thursday the 4th November 1948.
After completing the formalities of presentation of credentials, signing the register and taking the pledge, the President, Hon’ble Dr. Rajendra Prasad addressed the Members to rise in their seats to pay homage and reverence to the Father of the Nation. He described Mahatma Gandhi as one, ‘who breathed life into our dead flesh and bones, who lifted us out of darkness of despondency and despair to the light and sunshine of hope and achievement and who led us from slavery to freedom’.
The Members stood up in silence.
Thereafter, the deaths of Quaid-E-Azam Mohamed Ali Jinnah, Shri D. P. Khaitan and Shri D. S. Gurung, were also mourned by standing in the seat and observing silence. It is to be noted that Shri D. P. Khaitan was one of the members of Drafting Committee.
In the afternoon session, the President called upon Dr. Ambedkar to move his motion. Accordingly, Dr. Ambedkar introduced the Draft Constitution to the Assembly for consideration.
After the Draft Constitution was presented to the Constituent Assembly on 4th November 1948, a brief general discussion followed, which is called the first reading of the Constitution. The second reading commenced on 15th November 1948. In the second reading, the Constitution was discussed clause by clause in detail. The discussion concluded on 17th October 1949.
The Constituent Assembly again sat on the 14th November 1949 for the third reading. This was finished on the 26th November 1949 when the Constitution was declared as passed and thereafter the President of the Assembly signed it.
Why Dr. Ambedkar is the chief architect of Constitution of India?
After the speech of Dr. Ambedkar, members of the Constituent Assembly rose and spoke on the Draft Constitution. As much as 44 members expressed their views on Draft constitution and praised the drafting committee, especially, Dr Ambedkar. The view of only one member, Shri T. T. Krishnamachari, suffice to answer why Dr. Ambedkar is the chief architect of Constitution of India. He expressed himself as-
Shri T. T. Krishnamachari (Madras: General): Mr. President, Sir, I am one of those in the House who have listened to Dr. Ambedkar very carefully. I am aware of the amount of work and enthusiasm that he has brought to bear on the work of drafting this Constitution. At the same time I do realise that that amount of attention that was necessary for the purpose of drafting a Constitution so important to us at this moment has not been given to it by the Drafting Committee. The House is perhaps aware that of the seven members nominated by you, one had resigned from the House and was replaced. One died and was not replaced. One was away in America and his place was not filled up and another person was engaged in State affairs and there was a void to that extent. One or two people were far away from Delhi and perhaps reasons of health did not permit them to attend. So it happened ultimately that the burden of drafting this Constitution fell on Dr. Ambedkar and I have no doubt that we are grateful to him for having achieved this task in a manner which is undoubtedly commendable. But my point really is that the attention that was due to a matter like this has not been given to it by the Committee as a whole.
Some time in April the Secretariat of the Constituent Assembly had intimated me and others besides myself that you had decided that the Union Powers Committee, the Union Constitution Committee and the Provincial Constitution Committee, at any rate the members thereof, and a few other selected people should meet and discuss the various amendments that had been suggested by the members of the House and also by the general public. A meeting was held for two days in April last and I believe a certain amount of good work was done and I see that Dr. Ambedkar has chosen to accept certain recommendations of the Committee, but nothing was heard about this committee thereafter. I understand that the Drafting Committee—at any rate Dr. Ambedkar and Mr. Madhava Rao—met thereafter and scrutinised the amendments and they have made certain suggestions, but technically, perhaps this was not a Drafting Committee. Though I would not question your ruling on this matter, one would concede that the moment a Committee had reported that Committee became functus officio, and I do not remember your having reconstituted the Drafting Committee……
If we concentrate on the last line of Shri T. T. Krishnamachari, it is clear that the committee was never reconstituted. It clearly indicates Dr Ambedkar alone did the whole work of scrutinising and amending the draft constitution. The views of other members can be read at http://www.mea.gov.in/Images/attach/amb/Volume_13.pdf page numbers 71 to 92.