Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.

At the dawn of history India started on her unending quest, and trackless centuries are filled with her striving and the grandeur of her successes and, her. failures. Through good and ill fortune alike she has never lost sight of that quest or forgotten the ideals which gave her strength. We end today a period of ill fortune and India discovers herself again. The achievement we celebrate today is but a step, an opening of opportunity, to the greater trumphs and achievements that await us. Are we brave enough and wise enough to grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future?

Freedom and power bring responsibility. That responsibility rests upon this’ Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India. Before the birth of freedom we have endured all the pains of labour and our hearts are heavy with the memory of this sorrow. Some of those pains continue even now. Nevertheless the past is over and it is the future that beckons to us now.



That future is not one of ease or resting but of incessant striving so that we might fulfil the pledges we have so oft-en taken and the one we shall take today. The service of India means the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to, wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us but as long as there are tears and suffering, so long our work will not be over and so we have to labour and to work and work hard to give reality to. our dreams. Those dreams are for India, but they are also for the world, for all the nations and peoples are too closely knit together today for any one of them to imagine that it can live apart. Peace has been said to be indivisible, so is freedom, so is prosperity now, and so also is disaster in this One World that can no longer be split into isolated fragments.

To the people of India, whose representatives we are, we make appeal. to join us with faith and confidence in this great adventure. This is no time for petty and destructive criticism, no time for ill-will or blaming others. We have to build the noble mansion of free India where all her children may dwell.


Mr. President: Shrimati Hansa Mehta will now present the National Flag on behalf of the women of India. (Cheers.)



Mrs. Hansa Mehta (Bombay: General): Mr. President, Sir, in the absense of Shrimati Sarojini Naidu, it is my proud privilege, on behalf of the women of’India, to present this flag to the Nation through you. I have a list here of nearly a hundred prominent women of all communities who have expressed a desire to associate themselves with this ceremonial. There are hundreds and hundreds of other women who would equally like to participate in this function. It is in the fitness of things that this first flag that will fly over this august House should be a gift from, the women of India. (Cheers.) We have donned the saffron colour, we have fought, suffered and sacrificed in the cause of our country’s freedom. We have today attained our goal. In presenting this symbol of our freedom, we once more offer our services to the nation. We pledge ourselves to work for a great India, for building’up a nation that will be a nation among nations. We pledge ourselves for working for a greater cause, to maintain the freedom that we have attained. We have great traditions to maintain, traditions that ‘made India so great in the past. It is the duty of every man and woman to preserve these traditions so that India may hold her spiritual supremacy over the world. May this flag be the symbol of that great India and may it ever fly high and serve as a light in the bloom that threatens the world today. My It bring happiness to those who live under its protecting care. (Cheers.)


The Honourable Dr. B.R. Ambedkar : Sir, looking back on the work of the Constituent Assembly it will now be two years, eleven months and seventeen days since it first met on the 9th of December 1946. During this period the Constituent Assembly has altogether held eleven sessions. Out of these eleven sessions the first six were spent in passing the Objectives Resolution and the consideration of the Reports of Committees on Fundamental Rights, on Union Constitution, on Union Powers, on Provincial Constitution, on Minorities and on the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes. The seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and the eleventh sessions were devoted to the consideration of the Draft Constitution. These eleven sessions of the Constituent Assembly have consumed 165 days. Out of these, the Assembly spent 114 days for the consideration of the Draft Constitution.



Coming to the Drafting Committee, it was elected by the Constituent Assembly on 29th August 1947. It held its first meeting on 30th August. Since August 30th it sat for 141 days during which it was engaged in the preparation of the Draft Constitution. The Draft Constitution as prepared by the Constitutional Adviser as a text for the Draft Committee to work upon, consisted of 243 articles and 13 Schedules. The first Draft Constitution as presented by the Drafting Committee to the Constituent Assembly contained 315 articles and 8 Schedules. At the end of the consideration stage, the number of articles in the Draft Constitution increased to 386. In its final form, the Draft Constitution contains 395 articles and 8 Schedules. The total number of amendments to the Draft Constitution tabled was approximately 7,635. Of them, the total number of amendments actually moved in the House were 2,473.

I mention these facts because at one stage it was being said that the Assembly had taken too long a time to finish its work, that it was going on leisurely and wasting public money. It was said to be a case of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning. Is there any justification for this complaint? Let us note the time consumed by Constituent Assemblies in other countries appointed for framing their Constitutions. To take a few illustrations, the American Convention met on May 25th, 1787 and completed its work on September 17, 1787 i.e., within four months. The Constitutional Convention of Canada met on the 10th October 1864 and the Constitution was passed into law in March 1867 involving a period of two years and five months. The Australian Constitutional Convention assembled in March 1891 and the Constitution became law on the 9th July 1900, consuming a period of nine years. The South African Convention met in October, 1908 and the Constitution became law on the 20th September 1909 involving one year’s labour. It is true that we have taken more time than what the American or South African Conventions did. But we have not taken more time than the Canadian Convention and much less than the Australian Convention. In making comparisons on the basis of time consumed, two things must be remembered. One is that the Constitutions of America, Canada, South Africa and Australia are much smaller than ours. Our Constitution as I said contains 395 articles while the American has just seven articles, the first four of which are divided into sections which total up to 21, the Canadian has 147, Australian 128 and South African 153 sections. The second thing to be remembered is that the makers of the Constitutions of America, Canada, Australia and South Africa did not have to face the problem of amendments. They were passed as moved. On the other hand, this Constituent Assembly had to deal with as many as 2,473 amendments. Having regard to these facts the charge of dilatoriness seems to me quite unfounded and this Assembly may well congratulate itself for having accomplished so formidable a task in so short a time.

Turning to the quality of the work done by the Drafting Committee, Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed felt it his duty to condemn it outright. In his opinion, the work done by the Drafting Committee is not only not worthy of commendation, but is positively below par. Everybody has a right to have his opinion about the work done by the Drafting Committee and Mr. Naziruddin is welcome to have his own. Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed thinks he is a man of greater talents than any member of the Drafting Committee. The Drafting Committee would have welcomed him in their midst if the Assembly had thought him worthy of being appointed to it. If he had no place in the making of the Constitution it is certainly not the fault of the Drafting Committee.

Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed has coined a new name for the Drafting Committee evidently to show his contempt for it. He calls it a Drafting committee. Mr. Naziruddin must no doubt be pleased with his hit. But he evidently does not know that there is a difference between drift without mastery and drift with mastery. If the Drafting Committee was drifting, it was never without mastery over the situation. It was not merely angling with the off chance of catching a fish. It was searching in known waters to find the fish it was after. To be in search of something better is not the same as drifting. Although Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed did not mean it as a compliment to the Drafting committee. I take it as a compliment to the Drafting Committee. The Drafting Committee would have been guilty of gross dereliction of duty and of a false sense of dignity if it had not shown the honesty and the courage to withdraw the amendments which it thought faulty and substitute what it thought was better. If it is a mistake, I am glad the Drafting Committee did not fight shy of admitting such mistakes and coming forward to correct them.

I am glad to find that with the exception of a solitary member, there is a general consensus of appreciation from the members of the Constituent Assembly of the work done by the Drafting Committee. I am sure the Drafting Committee feels happy to find this spontaneous recognition of its labours expressed in such generous terms. As to the compliments that have been showered upon me both by the members of the Assembly as well as by my colleagues of the Drafting Committee I feel so overwhelmed that I cannot find adequate words to express fully my gratitude to them. I came into the Constituent Assembly with no greater aspiration than to safeguard the interests of he Scheduled Castes. I had not the remotest idea that I would be called upon to undertake more responsible functions. I was therefore greatly surprised when the Assembly elected me to the Drafting Committee. I was more than surprised when the Drafting Committee elected me to be its Chairman. There were in the Drafting Committee men bigger, better and more competent than myself such as my friend Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar. I am grateful to the Constituent Assembly and the Drafting Committee for reposing in me so much trust and confidence and to have chosen me as their instrument and given me this opportunity of serving the country. (Cheers)

The credit that is given to me does not really belong to me. It belongs partly to Sir B.N. Rau, the Constitutional Adviser to the Constituent Assembly who prepared a rough draft of the Constitution for the consideration of the Drafting Committee. A part of the credit must go to the members of the Drafting Committee who, as I have said, have sat for 141 days and without whose ingenuity of devise new formulae and capacity to tolerate and to accommodate different points of view, the task of framing the Constitution could not have come to so successful a conclusion. Much greater, share of the credit must go to Mr. S.N. Mukherjee, the Chief Draftsman of the Constitution. His ability to put the most intricate proposals in the simplest and clearest legal form can rarely be equalled, nor his capacity for hard work. He has been as acquisition tot he Assembly. Without his help, this Assembly would have taken many more years to finalise the Constitution. I must not omit to mention the members of the staff working under Mr. Mukherjee. For, I know how hard they have worked and how long they have toiled sometimes even beyond midnight. I want to thank them all for their effort and their co-operation.(Cheers)

The task of the Drafting Committee would have been a very difficult one if this Constituent Assembly has been merely a motley crowd, a tasseleted pavement without cement, a black stone here and a white stone there is which each member or each group was a law unto itself. There would have been nothing but chaos. This possibility of chaos was reduced to nil by the existence of the Congress Party inside the Assembly which brought into its proceedings a sense of order and discipline. It is because of the discipline of the Congress Party that the Drafting Committee was able to pilot the Constitution in the Assembly with the sure knowledge as to the fate of each article and each amendment. The Congress Party is, therefore, entitled to all the credit for the smooth sailing of the Draft Constitution in the Assembly.

The proceedings of this Constituent Assembly would have been very dull if all members had yielded to the rule of party discipline. Party discipline, in all its rigidity, would have converted this Assembly into a gathering of yes’ men. Fortunately, there were rebels. They were Mr. Kamath, Dr. P.S. Deshmukh, Mr. Sidhva, Prof. K.T. Shah and Pandit Hirday Nath Kunzru. The points they raised were mostly ideological. That I was not prepared to accept their suggestions, does not diminish the value of their suggestions nor lessen the service they have rendered to the Assembly in enlivening its proceedings. I am grateful to them. But for them, I would not have had the opportunity which I got for expounding the principles underlying the Constitution which was more important than the mere mechanical work of passing the Constitution.

Finally, I must thank you Mr. President for the way in which you have conducted the proceedings of this Assembly. The courtesy and the consideration which you have shown to the Members of the Assembly can never be forgotten by those who have taken part in the proceedings of this Assembly. There were occasions when the amendments of the Drafting Committee were sought to be barred on grounds purely technical in their nature. Those were very anxious moments for me. I am, therefore, specially grateful to you for not permitting legalism to defeat the work of Constitution-making.

As much defence as could be offered to the constitution has been offered by my friends Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Mr.. T.T. Krishnamachari. I shall not therefore enter into the merits of the Constitution. Because I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However had a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot. The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the State depend are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them? If they adopt the revolutionary methods, however good the Constitution may be, it requires no prophet to say that it will fail. It is, therefore, futile to pass any judgement upon the Constitution without reference to the part which the people and their parties are likely to play.

The condemnation of the Constitution largely comes from two quarters, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. Why do they condemn the Constitution? Is it because it is really a bad Constitution? I venture to say no’. The Communist Party want a Constitution based upon the principle of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. They condemn the Constitution because it is based upon parliamentary democracy. The Socialists want two things. The first thing they want is that if they come in power, the Constitution must give them the freedom to nationalize or socialize all private property without payment of compensation. The second thing that the Socialists want is that the Fundamental Rights mentioned in the Constitution must be absolute and without any limitations so that if their Party fails to come into power, they would have the unfettered freedom not merely to criticize, but also to overthrow the State.



These are the main grounds on which the Constitution is being condemned. I do not say that the principle of parliamentary democracy is the only ideal form of political democracy. I do not say that the principle of no acquisition of private property without compensation is so sacrosanct that there can be no departure from it. I do not say that Fundamental Rights can never be absolute and the limitations set upon them can never be lifted. What I do say is that the principles embodied in the Constitution are the views of the present generation or if you think this to be an over-statement, I say they are the views of the members of the Constituent Assembly. Why blame the Drafting Committee for embodying them in the Constitution? I say why blame even the Members of the Constituent Assembly? Jefferson, the great American statesman who played so great a part in the making of the American constitution, has expressed some very weighty views which makers of Constitution, can never afford to ignore. In one place he has said:-
“We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of the majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.”

In another place, he has said :

“The idea that institutions established for the use of the national cannot be touched or modified, even to make them answer their end, because of rights gratuitously supposed in those employed to manage them in the trust for the public, may perhaps be a salutary provision against the abuses of a monarch, but is most absurd against the nation itself. Yet our lawyers and priests generally inculcate this doctrine, and suppose that preceding generations held the earth more freely than we do; had a right to impose laws on us, unalterable by ourselves, and that we, in the like manner, can make laws and impose burdens on future generations, which they will have no right to alter; in fine, that the earth belongs to the dead and not the living;”

I admit that what Jefferson has said is not merely true, but is absolutely true. There can be no question about it. Had the Constituent Assembly departed from this principle laid down by Jefferson it would certainly be liable to blame, even to condemnation. But I ask, has it? Quite the contrary. One has only to examine the provision relating to the amendment of the Constitution. The Assembly has not only refrained from putting a seal of finality and infallibility upon this Constitution as in Canada or by making the amendment of the Constitution subject tot he fulfilment of extraordinary terms and conditions as in America or Australia, but has provided a most facile procedure for amending the Constitution. I challenge any of the critics of the Constitution to prove that any Constituent Assembly anywhere in the world has, in the circumstances in which this country finds itself, provided such a facile procedure for the amendment of the Constitution. If those who are dissatisfied with the Constitution have only to obtain a 2/3 majority and if they cannot obtain even a two-thirds majority in the parliament elected on adult franchise in their favour, their dissatisfaction with the Constitution cannot be deemed to be shared by the general public.



There is only one point of constitutional import to which I propose to make a reference. A serious complaint is made on the ground that there is too much of centralization and that the States have been reduced to Municipalities. It is clear that this view is not only an exaggeration, but is also founded on a misunderstanding of what exactly the Constitution contrives to do. As to the relation between the Centre and the States, it is necessary to bear in mind the fundamental principle on which it rests. The basic principle of Federalism is that the Legislative and Executive authority is partitioned between the Centre and the States not by any law to be made by the Centre but by the Constitution itself. This is what Constitution does. The States under our Constitution are in no way dependent upon the Centre for their legislative or executive authority. The Centre and the States are co-equal in this matter. It is difficult to see how such a Constitution can be called centralism. It may be that the Constitution assigns to the Centre too large a field for the operation of its legislative and executive authority than is to be found in any other federal Constitution. It may be that the residuary powers are given to the Centre and not to the States. But these features do not form the essence of federalism. The chief mark of federalism as I said lies in the partition of the legislative and executive authority between the Centre and the Units by the Constitution. This is the principle embodied in our constitution. There can be no mistake about it. It is, therefore, wrong to say that the States have been placed under the Centre. Centre cannot by its own will alter the boundary of that partition. Nor can the Judiciary. For as has been well said:

“Courts may modify, they cannot replace. They can revise earlier interpretations as new arguments, new points of view are presented, they can shift the dividing line in marginal cases, but there are barriers they cannot pass, definite assignments of power they cannot reallocate. They can give a broadening construction of existing powers, but they cannot assign to one authority powers explicitly granted to another.”

The first charge of centralization defeating federalism must therefore fall.

The second charge is that the Centre has been given the power to override the States. This charge must be admitted. But before condemning the Constitution for containing such overriding powers, certain considerations must be borne in mind. The first is that these overriding powers do not form the normal feature of the constitution. Their use and operation are expressly confined to emergencies only. The second consideration is : Could we avoid giving overriding powers to the Centre when an emergency has arisen? Those who do not admit the justification for such overriding powers to the Centre even in an emergency, do not seem to have a clear idea of the problem which lies at the root of the matter. The problem is so clearly set out by a writer in that well-known magazine “The Round Table” in its issue of December 1935 that I offer no apology for quoting the following extract from it. Says the writer :

“Political systems are a complex of rights and duties resting ultimately on the question, to whom, or to what authority, does the citizen owe allegiance. In normal affairs the question is not present, for the law works smoothly, and a man, goes about his business obeying one authority in this set of matters and another authority in that. But in a moment of crisis, a conflict of claims may arise, and it is then apparent that ultimate allegiance cannot be divided. The issue of allegiance cannot be determined in the last resort by a juristic interpretation of statutes. The law must conform to the facts or so much the worse for the law. When all formalism is stripped away, the bare question is, what authority commands the residual loyalty of the citizen. Is it the Centre or the Constituent State ?”

The solution of this problem depends upon one’s answer to this question which is the crux of the problem. There can be no doubt that in the opinion of the vast majority of the people, the residual loyalty of the citizen in an emergency must be to the Centre and not to the Constituent States. For it is only the Centre which can work for a common end and for the general interests of the country as a whole. Herein lies the justification for giving to all Centre certain overriding powers to be used in an emergency. And after all what is the obligation imposed upon the Constituent States by these emergency powers? No more than this – that in an emergency, they should take into consideration alongside their own local interests, the opinions and interests of the nation as a whole. Only those who have not understood the problem, can complain against it.

Here I could have ended. But my mind is so full of the future of our country that I feel I ought to take this occasion to give expression to some of my reflections thereon. On 26th January 1950, India will be an independent country (Cheers). What would happen to her independence? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again? This is the first thought that comes to my mind. It is not that India was never an independent country. The point is that she once lost the independence she had. Will she lost it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mahommed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Gohri to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki Kings. When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Moghul Emperors. When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh Kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators.

Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indian place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.(Cheers)

On the 26th of January 1950, India would be a democratic country in the sense that India from that day would have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The same thought comes to my mind. What would happen to her democratic Constitution? Will she be able to maintain it or will she lost it again. This is the second thought that comes to my mind and makes me as anxious as the first.

It is not that India did not know what is Democracy. There was a time when India was studded with republics, and even where there were monarchies, they were either elected or limited. They were never absolute. It is not that India did not know Parliaments or Parliamentary Procedure. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that not only there were Parliaments-for the Sanghas were nothing but Parliaments – but the Sanghas knew and observed all the rules of Parliamentary Procedure known to modern times. They had rules regarding seating arrangements, rules regarding Motions, Resolutions, Quorum, Whip, Counting of Votes, Voting by Ballot, Censure Motion, Regularization, Res Judicata, etc. Although these rules of Parliamentary Procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the Sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the rules of the Political Assemblies functioning in the country in his time.

This democratic system India lost. Will she lost it a second time? I do not know. But it is quite possible in a country like India – where democracy from its long disuse must be regarded as something quite new – there is danger of democracy giving place to dictatorship. It is quite possible for this new born democracy to retain its form but give place to dictatorship in fact. If there is a landslide, the danger of the second possibility becoming actuality is much greater.

If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.

The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not “to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions”. There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O’Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

The third thing we must do is not to be content with mere political democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life. These principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things. It would require a constable to enforce them. We must begin by acknowledging the fact that there is complete absence of two things in Indian Society. One of these is equality. On the social plane, we have in India a society based on the principle of graded inequality which we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up.

The second thing we are wanting in is recognition of the principle of fraternity. what does fraternity mean? Fraternity means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians-if Indians being one people. It is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life. It is a difficult thing to achieve. How difficult it is, can be realized from the story related by James Bryce in his volume on American Commonwealth about the United States of America.

The story is- I propose to recount it in the words of Bryce himself- that-

“Some years ago the American Protestant Episcopal Church was occupied at its triennial Convention in revising its liturgy. It was thought desirable to introduce among the short sentence prayers a prayer for the whole people, and an eminent  New England divine proposed the words `O Lord, bless our nation’. Accepted one afternoon, on the spur of the moment, the sentence was brought up next day for reconsideration, when so many objections were raised by the laity to the word nation’ as importing too definite a recognition of national unity, that it was dropped, and instead there were adopted the words `O Lord, bless these United States.”

There was so little solidarity in the U.S.A. at the time when this incident occurred that the people of America did not think that they were a nation. If the people of the United States could not feel that they were a nation, how difficult it is for Indians to think that they are a nation. I remember the days when politically-minded Indians, resented the expression “the people of India”. They preferred the expression “the Indian nation.” I am of opinion that in believing that we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into several thousands of castes be a nation? The sooner we realize that we are not as yet a nation in the social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us. For then only we shall realize the necessity of becoming a nation and seriously think of ways and means of realizing the goal. The realization of this goal is going to be very difficult – far more difficult than it has been in the United States. The United States has no caste problem. In India there are castes. The castes are anti-national. In the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste. But we must overcome all these difficulties if we wish to become a nation in reality. For fraternity can be a fact only when there is a nation. Without fraternity equality and liberty will be no deeper than coats of paint.

These are my reflections about the tasks that lie ahead of us. They may not be very pleasant to some. But there can be no gainsaying that political power in this country has too long been the monopoly of a few and the many are only beasts of burden, but also beasts of prey. This monopoly has not merely deprived them of their chance of betterment, it has sapped them of what may be called the significance of life. These down-trodden classes are tired of being governed. They are impatient to govern themselves. This urge for self-realization in the down-trodden classes must no be allowed to devolve into a class struggle or class war. It would lead to a division of the House. That would indeed be a day of disaster. For, as has been well said by Abraham Lincoln, a House divided against itself cannot stand very long. Therefore the sooner room is made for the realization of their aspiration, the better for the few, the better for the country, the better for the maintenance for its independence and the better for the continuance of its democratic structure. This can only be done by the establishment of equality and fraternity in all spheres of life. That is why I have laid so much stresses on them.

I do not wish to weary the House any further. Independence is no doubt a matter of joy. But let us not forget that this independence has thrown on us great responsibilities. By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame except ourselves. There is great danger of things going wrong. Times are fast changing. People including our own are being moved by new ideologies. They are getting tired of Government by the people. They are prepared to have Governments for the people and are indifferent whether it is Government of the people and by the people. If we wish to preserve the Constitution in which we have sought to enshrine the principle of Government of the people, for the people and by the people, let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lie across our path and which induce people to prefer Government for the people to Government by the people, nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them. That is the only way to serve the country. I know of no better.

Mr. President : The House will adjourn till Ten of the clock tomorrow morning when we shall take up the voting on the motion which was moved by Dr. Ambedkar.

The Assembly then adjourned till Ten of the Clock on Saturday, the 26th November 1949.




THE Speech is what the Constituent Assembly of India dreamt of about Republic of India

Before I formally put the motion which was moved by Dr. Ambedkar, I desire to say a few words.

I desire to congratulate the Assembly on accomplishing a task of such tremendous magnitude. It is not my purpose to appraise the value of the work that the Assembly has done or the merits or demerits of the Constitution which it has framed. I am content to leave that to others and to posterity. I shall attempt only to point out some of its salient features and the method which we have pursued in framing the Constitution.

Before I do that, I would like to mention some facts which will show the tremendousness of the task which we undertook some three years ago. If you consider the population with which the Assembly has had to deal, you will find that it is more than the population of the whole of Europe minus Russia, being 319 millions as against 317 millions. The countries of Europe have never been able to join together or colaesce even in a Confederacy, much less under one unitary Govt. Here, in spite of the size of the population and the country, we have succeeded in framing a Constitution which covers the whole of it. Apart from the size, there were other difficulties which were inherent in the problem itself. We have got many communities living in this country. We have got many languages prevalent in different parts of it. We have got other kinds of differences dividing the people in the different parts from one another. We had to make provision not only for areas which are advanced educationally and economically; we had also to make provision for backward people like the Tribes and for backward areas like theTribal areas. The communal problem had been one of the knottiest problems which the country has had before it for a pretty long time. The Second Round Table Conference which was attended by Mahatma Gandhi failed because the communal problem could not be solved. The subsequent history of the country is too recent to require narration here; but we know this that as a result, the country has had to be divided and we have lost two big portions in the north-east and north-west.

Another problem of great magnitude was the problem of the Indian States. When the British came to India, they did not conquer the country as a whole or at one stroke. They got bits of it from time to time. The bits which came into their direct possession and control came to be known as British India; but a considerable portion remained under the rule and control of the Indian Princes. The British thought at the time that it was not necessary or profitable for them to take direct control of those territories, and they allowed the old Rulers to continue subject to their suzerainty. But they entered into various kinds of treaties and engagements with them. We had something near six hundred States covering more than one-third of the territory of India and one-fourth of the population of the country. They varied in size from small tiny principalities to big States like Mysore, Hyderabad, Kashmir, etc. When the British decided to leave this country, they transferred power to us; but at the same time, they also declared that all the treaties and engagements they had with the Princes had lapsed. The paramountcy which they had so long exercised and by which they could keep the Princes in order also lapsed. The Indian Government was then faced with the problem of tackling these States which had different traditions of rule, some of them having some form of popular representation in Assemblies and some having no semblance of anything like that, and governing completely autocratically.

As a result of the declaration that the treaties with the Princes and Paramountcy had lapsed, it became open to any Prince or any combination of Princes to assume independence and even to enter into negotiations with any foreign power and thus become islands of independent territory within the country. There were undoubtedly geographical and other compulsions which made it physically impossible for most of them to go against the Govt. of India but constitutionally it had become possible. The Constituent Assembly therefore had at the very beginning of its labours, to enter into negotiations with them to bring their representatives into the Assembly so that a constitution might be framed in consultation with them. The first efforts were successful and some of them did join this Assembly at an early stage but others hesitated. It is not necessary to pry into the secrets of what was happening in those days behind the scenes. It will be sufficient to state that by August 1947 when the Indian Independence Act came into force, almost all of them with two notable exceptions, Kashmir in the north and Hyderabad in the South, had acceded to India. Kashmir soon after followed the example of others and acceded. There were standstill agreements with all of them including Hyderabad which continued the status quo. As time passed, it became apparent that it was not possible at any rate for the smaller States to maintain their separate independence existence and then a process of integration with India started. In course of time not only have all the smaller States coalesced and become integrated with some province or other of India but some of the larger ones also have joined. Many of the States have formed Unions of their own and such Unions have become part of the Indian Union. It must be said to the credit of the Princes and the people of the States no less than to the credit of the States Ministry under the wise and far-sighted guidance of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that by the time we have been able to pass this Constitution, the States are now more or less in the same position as the Provinces and it has become possible to describe all of them including the Indian States and the Provinces as States in the Constitution. The announcement which has been made just now by Sardar Valabhbhai Patel makes the position very clear, and now there is no difference between the States, as understood before, and the provinces in the New Constitution.

It has undoubtedly taken us three years to complete this work, but when we consider the work that has been accomplished and the number of days that we have spent in framing this Constitution, the details of which were given by the Honourable Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, yesterday, we have no reason to be sorry for the time spent.

It has enabled the apparently intractable problem of the States and the communal problem to be solved. What had proved insoluble at the Round Table Conference and had resulted in the division of the country has been solved with the consent of all parties concerned, and again under the wise guidance of the Honourable Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

At first we were able to get rid of separate electorates which had poisoned our political life for so many years, but reservation of seats for the communities which enjoyed separate electorates before had to be conceded, although on the basis of their population and not as had been done in the Act of 1919 and the Act of 1935 of giving additional representation on account of the so-called historical and other superiority claimed by some of the communities. It has become possible only because the Constitution was not passed earlier that even reservation of seats has been given up by the communities concerned and so our Constitution does not provide for reservation of seats on communal basis, but for reservation only in favour of two classes of people in our population, namely, the depressed classes who are Hindus and the tribal people, on account of their backwardness in education and in other respects. I therefore see no reason to be apologetic about the delay.

The cost too which the Assembly has had to incur during its three year’s existence is not too high when you take into consideration the factors going to constitute it. I understand that the expenses up to the 22nd of November come to Rs. 63,96,729/-.

The method which the Constituent Assembly adopted in connection with the Constitution was first to lay down its ‘terms of reference’ as it were in the form of an Objective Resolution which was moved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in an inspiring speech and which constitutes now the Preamble to our Constitution. It then proceeded to appoint a number of committees to deal with different aspects of the Constitutional problem. Dr. Ambedkar mentioned the names of these Committees. Several of these had as their Chairman either Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru or Sardar Patel to whom thus goes the credit for the fundamentals of our Constitution. I have only to add that they all worked in a business-like manner and produced reports which were considered by the Assembly and their recommendations were adopted as the basis on which the draft of the Constitution had to be prepared. This was done by Mr. B.N. Rau, who brought to bear on his task a detailed knowledge of Constitutions of other countries and an extensive knowledge of the conditions of this country as well as his own administrative experience. The Assembly then appointed the Drafting Committee which worked on the original draft prepared by Mr. B. N. Rau and produced the Draft Constitution which was considered by the Assembly at great length at the second reading stage. As Dr. Ambedkar pointed out, there were not less than 7,635 amendments of which 2,473 amendments were moved. I am mentioning this only to show that it was not only the Members of the Drafting Committee who were giving their close attention to the Constitution, but other Members were vigilant and scrutinizing the Draft in all its details. No wonder, that we had to consider not only each article in the Draft, but practically every sentence and sometimes, every word in every article. It may interest honourable members to know that the public were taking great interest in its proceedings and I have discovered that no less than 53,000visitors were admitted to the Visitors gallery during the period when the Constitution has been under consideration. In the result, the Draft Constitution has increased in size, and by the time it has been passed, it has come to have 395 articles and 8 schedules, instead of the 243 articles and 13 schedules of the original Draft of Mr. B.N. Rau. I do not attach much importance to the complaint which is sometimes made that it has become too bulky. If the provisions have been well thought out, the bulk need not disturb the equanimity of our mind.

We have now to consider the salient features of the Constitution. The first question which arises and which has been mooted is as to the category to which this Constitution belongs. Personally, I do not attach any importance to the label which may be attached to it – whether you call it Federal Constitution or Unitary Constitution or by any other name. It makes no difference so long as the Constitution serves our purpose. We are not bound to have a constitution which completely and fully falls in line with known categories of constitutions in the world. We have to take certain facts of history in our own country and the Constitution has not to an inconsiderable extent been influenced by such realities as facts of history.

You are all aware that until the Round Table conference of 1930, India was completely a Unitary Government, and the provinces derived whatever power they possessed from the Government of India. It was there for the first time that the question of Federation in a practical form arose which would include not only the provinces but also the many States that were in existence. The Constitution of 1935 provided for a Federation in which both the provinces of India and the States were asked to join. But the federal part of it could not be brought into operation, because terms on which the Princes could agree to join it could not be in settled in spite of prolonged negotiation. And, when the war broke out, that part of the Constitution had practically to be abrogated.

In the present Constitution it has been possible not only to bring in practically all the States which fell within our geographical limits, but to integrate the largest majority of them in India, and the Constitution as it stands practically makes no difference so far as the administration and the distribution of powers among the various organs of the State are concerned between what were the Provinces and what were Indian States before. They are all now more or less on the same footing and, as time passes, whatever little distinction still exists is bound to disappear. Therefore, so far as labelling is concerned, we need not be troubled by it.

Well, the first and the most obvious fact which will attract any observer is the fact that we are going to have a Republic. India knew republics in the past olden days, but that was 2,000 years ago or more and those republics were small republics. We never had anything like the Republic which we are going to have now, although there were empires in those days as well as during the Mughal period which covered very large parts of the country. The President of the Republic will be an elected President. We never have had an elected Head of the State which covered such a large area of India. And it is for the first time that it becomes open to the humblest and the lowliest citizens of the country to deserve and become the President or the Head of this big State which counts among the biggest States of the world today. This is not a small matter. But because we have an elected President, some of the problems which are of a very difficult nature have arisen. We have provided for the election of the President. We have provided for an elected legislature which is going to have supreme authority. In America, the legislature and the President are both elected and, there both have more or less equal powers – each in its or his own sphere, the President in the executive sphere and the legislature in the legislative sphere.

We considered whether we should adopt the American model or the British model where we have a hereditary king who is the fountain of all honour and power, but who does not actually enjoy any power. All the power rests in the Legislature to which the Ministers are responsible. We have had to reconcile the position of an elected President with an elected Legislature and, in doing so, we have adopted more or less the position of the British Monarch for the President. This may or may not be satisfactory. Some people think too much power has been given to the President; others think that the President, being an elected President, should have even more powers than are given to him.

If you look at it from the point of view of the electorate which elects the Parliament and which elects the President, you will find that practically the entire adult population of the country joins in electing this Parliament and it is not only the Members of the Parliament of India but also the Members of the Legislative Assemblies of the States who join in electing the President. It thus comes about that, while the Parliament and Legislative Assemblies are elected by the adult population of the country as a whole, the President is elected by representatives who represent the entire population twice over, once as representatives of the States and again as their representatives in the Central Parliament of the country. But although the President is elected by the same electorate as the Central and State Legislatures, it is as well that his position is that of a Constitutional President.

Then we come to the Ministers. They are of course responsible to the Legislature and tender advice to the President who is bound to act according to that advice. Although there are no specific provisions, so far as I know, in the Constitution itself making it binding on the President to accept the advice of his Ministers, it is hoped that the convention under which in England the King acts always on the advice of his Ministers will be established in this country also and, the president, not so much on account of the written word in the Constitution, but as the result of this very healthy convention, will become a Constitutional President in all matters.

The Central Legislature consists of two Houses known as the House of People and the Council of States which both together constitute the Parliament of India. In the Provinces, or States as they are now called, we shall have a Legislative Assembly in all of them except those which are mentioned in Parts C and D of Schedule I, but every one of them will not have a Second Chamber. Some of the provinces, whose representatives felt that a Second Chamber is required for them, have been provided with a Second Chamber. But there is a provision in the Constitution that if a province does not want such a Second Chamber to continue or if a province which has not got one wants to establish one, the wish has to be expressed through the Legislature by a majority of two-thirds of the Members voting and by a majority of the total number of Members in the Legislative Assembly. So, even while providing some of the States with Second Chambers, we have provided also for their easy removal or for their easy establishment by making this kind of amendment of the Constitution not a Constitutional Amendment, but a matter of ordinary parliamentary legislation.

We have provided for adult suffrage by which the legislature assemblies in the provinces and the House of the People in the Centre will be elected. It is a very big step that we have taken. It is big not only because our present electorate is a very much smaller electorate and based very largely on property qualification, but it is also big because it involves tremendous numbers. Our population now is something like 320 millions if not more and we have found from experience gained during the enrolment of voters that has been going on in the provinces that 50 per cent. roughly representing the adult population. And on that basis we shall have not less than 160 million voters on our rolls. The work of organising election by such vast numbers is of tremendous magnitude and there is no other country where election on such a large scale has ever yet been held.

I will just mention to you some facts in this connection. The legislative assemblies in the provinces, it is roughly calculated, will have more than 3,800 members who will have to be elected in as many constituencies or perhaps a few less. Then there will be something like 500 members for the House of the People and about 220 Members for the Council of States. We shall thus have to provide for the election of more than 4,500 members and the country will have to be divided into something like 4,000 constituencies or so. I was the other day, as a matter of amusement, calculating what our electoral roll will look like. If you print 40 names on a page of foolscap size, we shall require something like 20 lakhs of sheets of foolscap size to print all the names of the voters, and if you combine the whole thing in one volume, the thickness of the volume will be something like 200 yards. That alone gives us some idea of the vastness of the task and the work involved in finalising the rolls, delimiting Constituencies, fixing polling stations and making other arrangements which will have to be done between now and the winter of 1950-51 when it is hoped the elections may be held.

Some people have doubted the wisdom of adult franchise. Personally, although I look upon it as an experiment the result of which no one will be able to forecast today, I am not dismayed by it. I am a man of the village and although I have had to live in cities for a pretty long time, on account of my work, my roots are still there. I, therefore, know the village people who will constitute the bulk of this vast electorate. In my opinion, our people possess intelligence and commonsense. They also have a culture which the sophisticated people of today may not appreciate, but which is solid. They are not literate and do not possess the mechanical skill of reading and writing. But, I have no doubt in my mind that they are able to take measure of their own interest and also of the interests of the country at large if things are explained to them. In fact, in some respects, I consider them to be even more intelligent than many a worker in a factory, who loses his individuality and becomes more or less a part of the machine which he has to work. I have, therefore, no doubt in my mind that if things are explained to them, they will not only be able to pick up the technique of election, but will be able to cast their votes in an intelligent manner and I have, therefore, no misgivings about the future, on their account. I cannot say the same thing about the other people who may try to influence them by slogans and by placing before them beautiful pictures of impracticable programmes. Nevertheless, I think their sturdy commonsense will enable them to see things in the right perspective. We can, therefore, reasonably hope that we shall have legislatures composed of members who shall have their feet on the ground and who will take a realistic view of things.

Although provision has been made for a second chamber in the Parliament and for second chambers in some of the States, it is the popular House which is supreme. In all financial and money matters, the supremacy of the popular House is laid down in so many words. But even in regard to other matters where the Upper Chamber may be said to have equal powers for initiating and passing laws, the supremacy of the popular House is assured. So far as Parliament is concerned, if a difference arises between the two Chambers, a joint session may be held; but the Constitution provides that the number of Members of the Council of States shall not be more than 50 per cent. of the Members of the House of the People. Therefore, even in the case of a joint session, the supremacy of the House of the People is maintained, unless the majority in that very House is a small one which will be just a case in which its supremacy should not prevail. In the case of provincial legislatures, the decision of the Lower House, prevails if it is taken a second time. The Upper Chamber therefore can only delay the passage of Bills for a time, but cannot prevent it. The President or the Governor, as the case may be, will have to give his assent to any legislation, but that will be only on the advice of his Ministry which is responsible ultimately to the popular House. Thus, it is the will of the people as expressed by their representatives in the popular Chamber that will finally determine all matters. The second Chamber and the President or the Governor can only direct reconsideration and can only cause some delay; but if the popular Chamber is determined, it will have its way under the Constitution. The Government therefore of the country as a whole, both in the Centre and in the Provinces, will rest on the will of the people which will be expressed from day to day through their representatives in the legislatures and, occasionally directly by them at the time of the general elections.

We have provided in the Constitution for a judiciary which will be independent. It is difficult to suggest anything more to make the Supreme Court and the High Courts independent of the influence of the Executive. There is an attempt made in the Constitution to make even the lower judiciary independent of any outside or extraneous influence. One of our articles makes it easy for the State Governments to introduce separation of Executive from Judicial functions and placing the magistracy which deals with criminal cases on similar footing as Civil Courts. I can only express the hope that this long overdue reform will soon be introduced in the States.

Our Constitution has devised certain independent agencies to deal with particular matters. Thus, it has provided for Public Service Commission both for the Union and for the States and placed such Commission on an independent footing so that they may discharge their duties without being influenced by the Executive. One of the things against which we have to guard is that there should be no room as far as it is humanly possible for jobbery, nepotism and favouritism. I think the provisions which we have introduced into our Constitution will be very helpful in this direction.

Another independent authority is the Comptroller and Auditor-General who will watch our finances and see to it that no part of the revenues of India or of any of the States is used for purposes and on items without due authority and whose duty it will be otherwise to keep our accounts in order. When we consider that our Governments will have to deal with hundreds of crores, it becomes clear how important and vital this Department will be. We have provided another important authority, i.e., the Election Commissioner whose function it will be to conduct and supervise the elections to the Legislatures and to take all other necessary action and connection with them. One of the dangers which we have to face arises out of any corruption which parties, candidates or the Government in power may practise. We have had no experience of democratic elections for a long time except during the last few years and now that we have got real power, the danger of corruption is not only imaginary. It is therefore as well that our Constitution guards against this danger and makes provision for an honest and straightforward election by the voters. In the case of the Legislature, the High Courts, the Public Services Commission, the Comptroller and Auditor-General and the Election Commissioner, the Staff which will assist them in their work has also been placed under their control and in most of these cases their appointment, promotion and discipline vest in the particular institution to which they belong thus giving additional safeguards about their independence.

The Constitution has given in two Schedules, namely Schedules V and VI, special provisions for administration and control of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes. In the case of the Tribes and Tribal Areas in States other than Assam, the Tribes will be able to influence the administration through the Tribes Advisory Council. In the case of the Tribes and Tribal Areas in Assam, they are given larger powers through their district Councils and Autonomous Regional Councils. There is, further provision for a Minister in the State Ministries to be in charge of the welfare of the Tribes and the Scheduled Castes and a Commission will also report about the way in which the areas are administered. It was necessary to make this provision on account of the backwardness of the Tribes which require protection and also because their own way of solving their own problems and carrying on their Tribal life. These provisions have given them considerable satisfaction as the provision for the welfare and protection of the Scheduled Castes has given satisfaction to them.

The Constitution has gone into great details regarding the distribution o power and functions between the Union and the States in all aspects of their administrative and other activities. It has been said by some that the powers given to the Centre are too many and too extensive and the States have been deprived of power which should really belong to them in their own fields. I do not wish to pass any judgment on this criticism and can only say that we cannot be too cautious about our future, particularly when we remember the history of this country extending over many centuries. But such powers as have been given to the Centre to act within the sphere of the States relate only to emergencies, whether political or financial and economic, and I do not anticipate that there will be any tendency on the part of the Centre to grab more power than is necessary for good administration of the country as a whole. In any case the Central Legislature consists of representatives from the States and unless they are convinced of their over-riding necessity, they are not likely to consent to the use of any such powers by the Central executive as against the States whose people they represent. I do not attach much importance to the complaint that residuary powers have been vested in the Union. Powers have been very meticulously and elaborately defined and demarcated in the three lists of Schedule Seven, and the residue whatever it may be, is not likely to cover any large field, and, therefore, the vesting of such residuary powers does not mean any very serious derogation in fact from the power which ought to belong to the States.

One of the problems which the Constituent Assembly took considerable time in solving relates to the language for official purposes of the country. There is a natural desire that the we should have our own language, and in spite the difficulties on account of the multiplicity of languages prevalent in the country, we have been able to adopt Hindi which is the language that is understood by the largest number of people in the country as our official language. I look upon this as a decision of very great importance when we consider that in a small country like Switzerland they have no less than three official languages and in South Africa two official languages. It shows a spirit of accommodation and a determination to organize the country as one nation that those whose language is not Hindi have voluntarily accepted it as the official language. (Cheers). There is no question of imposition now. English during the period of British rule, Persian during the period of the Muslim Empire were Court and official languages. Although people have studies them and have acquired proficiency in them, nobody can claim that they were voluntarily adopted by the people of the country at large. Now for the first time in our history we have accepted one language which will be the language to be used all over the country for all official purposes, and let me hope that it will develop into a national language in which all will feel equal pride while each area will be not only free, but also encouraged to develop its own peculiar language in which its culture and its traditions are enshrined. The use of English during the period of transition was considered inevitable for practical reasons and no one need be despondent over this decision, which has been dictated purely by practical considerations. It is the duty of the country as a whole now and especially of those whose language is Hindi to so shape and develop it as to make it the language in which the composite culture of India can find its expression adequately and nobly.

Another important feature of our Constitution is that it enables amendments to be made without much difficulty. Even the constitutional amendments are not as difficult as in the case of some other countries, but many of the provisions in the Constitution are capable of being amended by the Parliament by ordinary acts and do not require the procedure laid down for constitutional amendments to be followed. There was a provision at one time which proposed that amendments should be made easy for the first five years after the Constitution comes into force, but such a provision has become unnecessary on account of the numerous exceptions which have been made in the Constitution itself for amendments without the procedure laid down for constitutional amendments. On the whole, therefore, we have been able to draft a Constitution which I trust will serve the country well.

There is a special provision in our Directive Principles to which I attach great importance. We have not provided for the good of our people only but have laid down in our directive principles that our State shall endeavour to promote material peace and security, maintain just and honourable relations between nations, foster respects for international law and treaty obligations and encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration. In a world torn with conflicts, in a world which even after the devastation of two world wars is still depending on armaments to establish peace and goodwill, we are destined to play a great part, if we prove true to the teachings of the Father of the Nation and give effect to this directive principle in our Constitution. Would to God that he would give us the wisdom and the strength to pursuance this path in spite of the difficulties which beset us and the atmosphere which may well choke us. Let us have faith in ourselves and in the teachings of the Master whose portrait hangs over my head and we shall fulfil the hopes and prove true to the best interests of not only our country but of the world at large.

I do not propose to deal with the criticism which relate mostly to the articles in the part dealing with Fundamental Rights by which absolute rights are curtailed and the articles dealing with Emergency Powers. Other Members have dealt with these objections at great length. All that I need state at this stage is that the present conditions of the country and tendencies which are apparent have necessitated these provisions which are also based on the experience of other countries which have had to enforce them through judicial decisions, even when they were not provided for in the Constitution.

There are only two regrets which I must share with the honourable Members I would have liked to have some qualifications laid down for members of the Legislatures. It is anomalous that we should insist upon high qualifications for those who administer or help in administering the law but none for those who made it except that they are elected. A law giver requires intellectual equipment but even more than that capacity to take a balanced view of things to act independently and above all to be true to those fundamental things of life – in one word – to have character (Hear, hear). It is not possible to devise any yardstick for measuring the moral qualities of a man and so long as that is not possible, our Constitution will remain defective. The other regret is that we have not been able to draw up our first Constitution of a free Bharat in an Indian language. The difficulties in both cases were practical and proved insurmountable. But that does not make the regret any the less poignant.

We have prepared a democratic Constitution. But successful working of democratic institutions requires in those who have to work them willingness to respect the view points of others, capacity for compromise and accommodation. Many things which cannot be written in a Constitution are done by conventions. Let me hope that we shall show those capacities and develop those conventions. The way in which we have been able to draw this Constitution without taking recourse to voting and to divisions in Lobbies strengthens that hope.

Whatever the Constitution may or may not provide, the welfare of the country will depend upon the way in which the country is administered. That will depend upon the men who administer it. It is a trite saying that a country can have only the Government it deserves. Our Constitution has provision in it which appear to some to be objectionable from one point or another. We must admit that the defects are inherent in the situation in the country and the people at large. If the people who are elected are capable and men of character and integrity, they would be able to make the best even of a defective Constitution. If they are lacking in these, the Constitution cannot help the country. After all, a Constitution like a machine is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of the men who control it and operate it, and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them. There is a fissiparous tendency arising out of various elements in our life. We have communal differences, caste differences, language differences, provincial differences and so forth. It requires men of strong character, men of vision, men who will not sacrifice the interests of the country at large for the sake of smaller groups and areas and who will rise over the prejudices which are born of these differences. We can only hope that the country will throw up such men in abundance. I can say this from the experience of the struggle that we have had during the period of the freedom movement that new occasions throw up new men; not once but almost on every occasion when all leading men in the Congress were clapped into prison suddenly without having the time to leave instructions to others and even to make plans for carrying on their campaigns, people arose from amongst the masses who were able to continue and conduct the campaigns with intelligence, with initiative, with capacity for organization which nobody suspected they possessed. I have no doubt that when the country needs men of character, they will be coming up and the masses will throw them up. Let not those who have served in the past therefore rest on their oars, saying that they have done their part and now has come the time for them to enjoy the fruits of their labours. No such time comes to anyone who is really earnest about his work. In India today I feel that the work that confronts us is even more difficult than the work which we had when we were engaged in the struggle. We did not have then any conflicting claims to reconcile, no loaves and fishes to distribute, no powers to share. We have all these now, and the temptations are really great. Would to God that we shall have the wisdom and the strength to rise above them, and to serve the country which we have succeeded in liberating.

Mahatma Gandhi laid stress on the purity of the methods which had to be pursued for attaining our ends. Let us not forget that this teaching has eternal value and was not intended only for the period of stress and struggle but has as much authority and value today as it ever had before. We have a tendency to blame others for everything that goes wrong and not to introspect and try to see it we have any share in it or not. It is very much easier to scan one’s own actions and motives if one is inclined to do so than to appraise correctly the actions and motives of others. I shall only hope that all those whose good fortune it may be to work this Constitution in future will remember that it was a unique victory which we achieved by the unique method taught to us by the Father of the Nation, and it is up to us to preserve and protect the independence that we have won and to make it really bear fruit for the man in the street. Let us launch on this new enterprise of running our Independent Republic with confidence, with truth and non-violence and above all with heart within and God over head.

Before I close, I must express my thanks to all the Members of this august Assembly from whom I have received not only courtesy but, if I may say so, also their respect and affection. Sitting in the Chair and watching the proceedings from day to day. I have realised as nobody else could have, with what zeal and devotion the members of the Drafting Committee and especially its Chairman, Dr. Ambedkar in spite of his indifferent health, have worked. (Cheers). We could never make a decision which was or could be ever so right as when we put him on the Drafting Committee and made him its Chairman. He has not only justified his selection but has added luster to the work which he has done. In this connection, it would be invidious to make any distinction as among the other members of the Committee. I know they have all worked with the same zeal and devotion as its Chairman, and they deserve the thanks of the country.

I must convey, if you will permit me, my own thanks as well as the thanks of the house to our Constitutional Adviser, Shri B.N. Rau, who worked honorarily all the time that he was here, assisting the Assembly not only with his knowledge and erudition but also enabled the other Members to perform their duties with thoroughness and intelligence by supplying them with the material on which they could work. In this he was assisted by his band and research workers and other members of the staff who worked with zeal and devotion. Tribute has been paid justly to Shri S.N. Mukerjee who has proved of such invaluable help to
the Drafting Committee.

Coming to the staff of the Secretariat of the Constituent Assembly I must first mention and thank the Secretary, Mr. H.V.R. Iengar, who organised the Secretariat as an efficient working body. Although latterly when the work began to proceed with more or less clock-work regularity, it was possible for us to relieve him of part of his duties to take up other work, but he has never lost tough with our Secretariat or with the work of the Constituent Assembly.

The members of the staff have worked with efficiency and with devotion under our Deputy Secretary Shri Jugal Kishore Khanna. It is not always possible to see their work which is done remvoed from the gaze of the Members of this Assembly but I am sure the tribute which Member after Members has paid to their efficiency and devotion to work is thoroughly deserved. Our Reports have done their work in a way which will give credit to them and which has helped in the preservation of a record of the proceedings of the Assembly which have been long and taxing. I must mention the translators as also the Translation Committee under the Chairmanship of Honourable Shir G.S. Gupta who have had a hard job in finding Hindi equivalents for English terms used in the Constitution. They are just now engaged in helping a Committee of Linguistic Experts in evolving a vocabulary which will be acceptable to all other languages as equivalents to English words used in the Constitution and in law. The Watch and Ward offices, and the Police and last though not least the Marshall have all performed their duties to our satisfaction. (Cheers). I should not forget the peons and even the humbler people. They have all done their best. It is necessary for me to say all this because with the completion of the work of Constitution-framing most of them who have been working on a temporary basis, will be out of employment unless they could be absorbed in other Departments and Ministries. I do hope that it will be possible to absorb them (hear, hear) as they have considerable experience and are willing and efficient set of workers. All deserve my thanks as I have received courtesy, co-operation and loyal service from all (Prolonged Cheers.)

It now remains to put the motion which was moved by Dr. Ambedkar, to the vote of the House. The question is :

“That the Constitution as settled by the Assembly be passed.”

The motion was adopted, (Prolonged Cheers).




“I recognize the solemnity of this occasion. We, have after a long struggle reached one stage, and now another stage begins. It has been your kindness to place on me a very heavy responsibility. I have always held that the time, for congratulation is not when a man is appointed to an office, but when he retires, and I would like, to wait until the moment comes when I have to lay down the office which you have conferred on me to see whether I have deserved the confidence and the goodwill which have been showered on me from all sides and by all friends alike.

When I sit listening to laudatory speeches–and although I have, tried to cut that down to some extent, here also I have had to submit to it to a certain extent,-I am reminded of a story in the Maha Bharat, which is so full of piquant situations, and the solution that was found by Shree Krishna, who solved all those difficult and apparently insoluble problems which arose was this. One of those days, Arjun took a vow that he would perform a certain thing before the sun set on that day and that if he did not succeed, he would bum himself on a pyre. He unfortunately, did not succeed. And then the problem arose as to what was to be done. In fulfilment of that vow, he. would have to bum himself. This, of course, was unthinkable so far as the Pandavas were concerned. But Arjuna, was adament in his resolve. Shri Krishna solved this problem by saying, “if you sit and praise yourself or listen to praise by others, that would be equivalent to committing suicide and burning yourself; So you had better submit to that and your vow will be fulfilled.” Very often I have listened to such speeches in that spirit. Because, I have felt that there, are many things which I am not able to fulfil, which I am not able to accomplish, and the only way in which I can fulfil these things is to commit that kind of suicide. But, here, I am in a somewhat different situation. When our prime Minister and our Deputy Prime Minister speak with emotion about me, I cannot but reciprocate that kind of emotion. We have lived and worked together for mare than quarter of a century and in the closest association we have fought. We have never faltered; we have jointly succeeded also. And now that I am placed in one chair and they are occupying other chairs side by side, and there are other friends whose association I value equally well who will be sitting by their side to help and assist me and when I know that I have the good will of all the members of this House and of a very large circle of friends outside this House. I feel confident that the duties which have been imposed upon me will be discharged to their satisfaction: not because I can do that, but because the joint efforts of all will enable the duties to be so performed.

The country today is facing very many problems and my feeling is that the kind of work which we have now to do is different from that which we used to do two years ago. It requires greater devotion, greater care, greater application and greater sacrifice. I can only hope that the country will throw up men and ,women who will be able to take up the burden and fulfil the highest aspirations of our people. May God give us strength to do that.”

A bumpy ride


Freedom of thought and expression was an idea the Republic embraced in its ringing preamble to the Constitution and indexed as Article 19 (1) of that document. The Supreme Court of India has, in turn, reiterated, defended and breathed new life into the idea through innumerable verdicts. But between the declaration/defence of the idea and its delineation, there often fell a shadow. That’s what makes the story of freedom of expression in post-Constitution India so compelling. The British, as good imperialists, had always realised the importance of the press. Historian Chandrika Kaul, in her book Reporting The Raj cites Lord Curzon as having termed journalists friendly to the colonial enterprise as “live rails”, connecting the outskirts of the Empire with its heart. But if the Raj used the media to consolidate its hold on India and influence world opinion, it’s equally true that India’s independence struggle was waged as much on the inked sheets of nationalist newspapers as on the paved streets of Bombay and Lahore.

In these 60 years of the Republic, the media scene has undergone a sea change.

Media boom

The literacy level, which had stood at 18.33 per cent in 1951 grew to 66 per cent by 2001. In 1950, there were six radio stations and 214 newspapers, 12 per cent of which were in English. By 2005, there were some 1,834 dailies, with the Hindi and regional language newspapers establishing an emphatic presence in the world’s second largest newspaper market in the world. There are, in addition, over 500 private television channels, some 70 private FM stations, and an ever-burgeoning number of Internet users, 81,000,000 at the last count.

These figures would suggest that freedom of expression has struck deep roots in India but that may be too quick a reading. For one, it is all very well to take pride in having the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression, but what does it mean in a country where a third of the population is still illiterate? Who do the Indian media speak for? How is freedom of expression to reach the last person in a country divided by language, caste, class, region? Finally, what is the equation between the political elite and the right of the citizen’s freedom of expression? Uncomfortable questions that have no easy answers.

Certainly the Indian State’s negotiations with the right to freedom of expression have been uneasy. The first amendment to the Constitution — the Nehru government’s response to the Supreme Court striking down of the Bihar Land Reform Act, 1950 — modified Article 19 (1) by introducing “reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right”. In Parliament, Prime Minister Nehru, who prided himself on his liberal outlook, tried to tackle the vexed issue of contending rights, “We have to remember that the nation must be free … if national freedom is imperilled or individual freedom is imperilled what good do other freedoms do?” Far less persuasive was his daughter, Indira Gandhi, when she invoked the Defence of India Act to “maintain law and order” during the 21-month Emergency of 1975, under which, “all printers, publishers and editors of newspapers, periodicals, pamphlets and other documents” should submit for scrutiny all material before it saw the light of day.

While it is easy to perceive the Emergency as the low point in the exercise of the freedom of expression, there have been many attempts before it and since, where the State — always invoking a higher principle — has attempted to circumscribe it. There was the Defamation Bill, introduced by the Rajiv Gandhi government, and the Prevention of Terrorism Act, passed under Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule, which contained provisions that directly targeted media freedom.

Many-pronged attack

But undermining media and cultural freedom has been attempted, not just by an over-anxious State, but by politically inspired vigilante groups — the hounding of India’s most celebrated artist M.F. Husain and routine attacks on media houses are recent instances — as well as contempt-happy courts and legislatures. On occasion, the media too have discredited themselves by misusing and abusing the unique powers given to them of interpreting contemporary reality for the ordinary citizen.

Fortunately, there have also been many sterling attempts to preserve this right against great odds. Over these last 60 years, there have been innumerable and eloquent court verdicts celebrating it, starting with Romesh Thapar vs State of Madras of 1950. The most significant move, however, to foster and extend the freedom of expression was initiated not as much by the courts as much as by civil society. The Right to Information Act 2005 logically complements Article 19 (1) a. As Aruna Roy, whose organisation, the MKSS, had spearheaded the legislation, once pointed out in an interview I did with her: “If you can have access to information and are not be allowed to express it, it is of no use to anyone. Conversely, if you can express yourself but have no access to information, what good is it?”

Six decades is a long enough period to test the power of an idea against the noisy backdrop of contemporary India. Freedom of expression has allowed us, the children of the Republic, to imagine new forms of political democracy, pluralism and personal empowerment. But it will forever be an incomplete freedom that needs to be defended every passing day.

The writer is Director, Women’s Feature Service.

Democratic journey


A look at the difficult circumstances in which our Constitution was adopted…



On a cold winter’s morning 60 years ago today, 271 men and women huddled together in New Delhi’s Legislative Building. As members of the Constituent Assembly, they had spent the past three years debating a governing charter for India. Together, they had produced the world’s longest national basic law. They now assembled for their final session and could barely contain their excitement. Before them lay two large blue books with the Constitution’s 90,000 words carefully handwritten in English and Hindi. The books were also illustrated with events from Indian history exquisitely prepared by the great national artist, Nandalal Bose of Santiniketan.

The Assembly was established under the “cabinet mission plan” after Prime Minister Clement Atlee concluded that Great Britain could no longer rule India. Under the mission’s plan, legislative elections were held in every British India province with eligible voters having to satisfy certain property qualifications. Provincial legislators then elected the Assembly’s members under a formula, which ensured that each member represented approximately one million people. Members were also elected or nominated to represent the native princely states.

In the Assembly, the Congress commanded a significant majority. Yet, the body’s membership remained heterogeneous and diverse because the Congress high command strove to ensure that different shades of opinion were adequately represented. With remarkable foresight, the party also arranged for the election of several non-Congressmen, including B.R. Ambedkar, who had repeatedly clashed with Congress leaders; K.M. Munshi, who had left the party; and S.P. Mookerjee, the Hindu Mahasabha leader. Despite some inevitable differences, they worked closely with the Congress’s stalwarts, Nehru, Patel, and Azad. This “team of rivals”, to use the American historian Doris Kearns Godwin’s phrase, later ensured that the Constitution quickly acquired widespread legitimacy and popular acceptance.

Unique character


There were no foreign consultants involved in framing the Constitution. This is in sharp contrast to the considerable external influence evident in other contemporaneously written national charters, notably the post-World War Japanese Constitution, or closer to home, the first Sri Lankan Constitution of 1946. Our founders were adamant that Indians should have full control over the drafting process. They accomplished that objective with the assistance of several lawyer-members including Nehru, Prasad, Ambedkar, and Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and eminent non-partisan experts, such as N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, a veteran administrator and Jerome D’Souza, a Jesuit educationalist, who had also joined the Assembly.

The Assembly’s members were initially divided into several committees to study such specific topics as fundamental rights, minorities, and centre-state relations. Relying on their inputs, the Assembly’s Constitutional Adviser B.N. Rau, a brilliant ICS officer and judge, prepared an initial draft constitution in February 1948. Rau’s draft was further revised by Ambedkar’s drafting committee and issued in November 1948. The Assembly took almost a year to discuss it. Members insisted on reviewing every clause, and in some cases, every word and sentence. More than 2,000 amendments were considered and several were accepted. The house also received a large number of comments and suggestions on the draft from societies, chambers of commerce, government agencies, academics, and ordinary citizens. The drafting committee produced a revised draft, which was eventually adopted by the Assembly, with some changes, as the Constitution on November 26, 1949.

When the Assembly convened for its final session on January 24, 1950, its secretary, H.V.R. Iengar announced that Rajendra Prasad had been elected unopposed as India’s first President. After accepting members’ congratulations, Prasad announced that Jana Gana Mana would be the National Anthem and that Vande Mataram would have equal status. He then invited members to sign the Constitution’s calligraphic copies. Nehru was the first to do so and members from Madras followed him. After the last member had signed the books, Prasad decided that he, too, must do so. But, rather than signing behind the last signatory, he clumsily inserted his name in the small space between the last line of the text and Nehru’s signature.

Two days later, the Constitution became fully effective with “the fanfare of trumpets, the booming of guns and scenes of rejoicing.” At a ceremony held in Rashtrapathi Bhavan’s Durbar Hall, Governor General Rajagopalachari solemnly proclaimed India as a “Sovereign, Democratic Republic”. He then exchanged seats with Prasad, and Chief Justice Kania swore-in Prasad as the first President. Twenty years after the Lahore Congress’s Poorna Swaraj declaration, India had finally reclaimed its own sovereignty and formally severed legal links with Great Britain. Later that afternoon, Prasad rode in a carriage built originally for Viceroy Hardinge to witness a ceremonial parade at the Irwin Stadium.

Significant step


In many ways, India’s birth as a republic in 1950 was more significant than its emergence as an independent dominion in 1947. First, in a completely radical break with the past, the Indian people chose to place themselves under a supreme law instead of being ruled by a monarch’s diktat. They adopted a system of governance that meticulously defines the powers and responsibilities of the three branches and regulates relations between the centre and the states. Second, the Constitution is the bedrock of India’s parliamentary democracy. It ensures that the governments are made and unmade through universal adult franchise supervised by an independent election commission. Third, through its unprecedented abolition of untouchability, the Constitution serves as a powerful emancipation proclamation ending centuries of caste-based discrimination and social exclusion. Its lofty Directive Principles of State Policy further underscores its commitment to social justice. Fourth, the Constitution expressly guarantees every citizen important fundamental rights, which may be subject to only certain restrictions. These rights include the ability to freely speak and express oneself; the freedom of conscience and to profess, practise, and even propagate a religion; basic protections against arbitrary arrest and detention by authorities, and various cultural and educational guarantees.

In an editorial on January 26, 1950, The Hindu welcomed the new republic’s creation but emphasised the need to keep “a crusading spirit alive”. It pointed out that the Constitution provides a “shell of democracy” and that it is up to the Indian people to breathe life into it. It reminded readers that the German Weimar Republic had also fashioned an admirable constitution. But that charter became “waste paper” because it lacked “fire in its belly”. It was that fire, The Hindu argued, which had to be kindled if India was to establish a fair, equitable, and viable polity. Those words ring loudly this day as they did 60 years ago.

Vikram Raghavan is a Senior Counsel in the World Bank’s Legal Vice Presidency. He is a contributor to the blog Law and Other Things.

The Constituent Assembly: Here’s where it all began


When the Constituent Assembly met for the first time on December 9, 1946, it was the best of times, it was also the worst of times. Indian independence was within sniffing distance, but the threat of Partition hung ominously in the air. Large-scale communal riots – a prelude to the massacres during Partition – had broken out in parts of north India triggered by the great Calcutta killings earlier that year. When the Assembly convened, the Muslim League was conspicuous by its absence. The Assembly would meet for three more sessions over the first half of 1947 before it became the legislative Assembly of an independent India at the stroke of midnight on August 14. With the violence and bloodshed of Partition as the backdrop, a drafting committee was set up later that month with Bhim Rao Ambedkar as chairman. Though we all know Ambedkar as the Father of the Indian Constitution , there were several other figures involved in the painstaking task of drafting the document who are now nearly forgotten. Indeed, there are shelves of books on the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 and the Constituent Assembly in post-revolution France, but precious little on their Indian counterparts who laboured over and debated the emerging Constitution for nearly three years.

Despite the limited franchise of the 1945 provincial elections – where just over 28 per cent of the population voted – which was the basis for the formation of the Constituent Assembly, the gathering was broadly representative of the Indian nation. The Congress had a brute majority – post-1947 , over 80 per cent of the Assembly members were from the party – but by virtue of being an ‘umbrella’ organisation it managed to represent a wide assortment of opinion. The Congress high command had also ensured that prominent non-partymen , who could contribute to the drafting of the Constitution, were elected to the Assembly. Ambedkar himself headed this list along with A K Ayyar, HN Kunzru, N G Ayyangar, K Santhanam, M R Jayakar, Sachidananda Sinha, Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and K M Munshi.

Importantly, the minorities were well represented after 1947 and post-Partition , Muslim League leaders too were back in the Assembly. Hence, Granville Austin, author of the landmark The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation, points out, “Although indirectly elected and therefore not responsible to the mass of Indians, the Constituent Assembly was a highly representative body.”

The biggest absence was Mahatma Gandhi who was busy trying to douse the flames of communal riots. On December 13, 1946 when Nehru moved the historic ‘aims and objects’ of the Constituent Assembly where it was resolved to “proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution” , he said to thunderous applause, “There is another person who is absent here and who must be in the minds of many of us today – the great leader of our people, the father of our Nation – who has been the architect of this Assembly and all that has gone before it and possibly of much that will follow. He is not here because, in pursuit of his ideals, he is ceaselessly working in a far corner of India. But I have no doubt that his spirit hovers over this place and blesses our undertaking.”

Besides Ambedkar, the four Congress giants, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Kalam Azad, were dominant players in drafting the Constitution. Either Ambedkar, Nehru, Patel or Azad headed the eight major committees – rules, steering, advisory, drafting, Union subjects, Union constitution, provincial constitution and states – within the assembly. There were others who were crucial in working out the fine print. Among them were B N Rau, the constitutional adviser, and S N Mukherjee, the chief draftsman. Ambedkar made special mention of both of them in his concluding speech in the Assembly delivered on November 25, 1947.

Of the 165 days that the Assembly sat in session, 114 days were spent in discussing the draft Constitution . The time taken was longer than in some other democracies. The American Convention completed its work in a mere four months. But other countries took much longer with the Australian Constitutional Convention spending nine years and Canada over two years. Ambedkar justified the time taken by pointing to the length of the Indian Constitution – which is one of the longest in the world – and the nearly 2,500 amendments that had to be dealt with.

The framers, not a few of whom had been educated abroad, looked to existing constitutions for inspiration and guidance. Ambedkar, who had degrees from both Columbia University and University of London, admitted as much during the debates: “The only new thing, if there can be any, in a Constitution framed so late in the day are the variations, made to remove the failures and accommodate it to the needs of the country.”

India’s astonishing religious and ethnic diversity, caste inequalities and widespread illiteracy and poverty demanded unique provisions. The Constituent Assembly members were equal to this task, debating and discussing the clauses of the draft Constitution threadbare. Though much of the real work on the Constitution was done in committee rooms, the debates on the floor provide a window to the thinking of the framers. The discussions were often of high quality though it was not unusual for passions to run high. And not every one of the 284 members who put their signature on the Constitution was satisfied with the outcome. One member labeled the Constitution as a “slavish surrender to the West” , while another said, “We wanted the music of veena or sitar but here we have the music of an English band.” But these objections were exceptions.

When the Indian Constitution was formally ratified on November 26, 1949, it concluded a process that resulted in a remarkably forwardlooking document that enshrined individual liberty, equality of opportunity, social justice and secularism. The deliberations by the men and women of the Constituent Assembly are barely remembered today. But in more ways than one, it is comparable to the other great exercises in republic-building in America in 1786 and in France in 1789.

Us and the US
There were 55 delegates at the Philadelphia Convention of 1786 which drafted the United States Constitution. The Indian Constituent Assembly was much bigger. There were 299 members in the Assembly of whom 284 actually signed the final document. The meetings of the Philadelphia Convention were secret. There were several delegates who were unhappy with the result and left before the final ceremony. George Mason was one of the most vocal critics who wanted a Bill of Rights in the Constitution. There were some who stayed back but refused to sign. The Indian Constituent Assembly took 2 years 11 months to draft and adopt the Constitution. The debates when printed run into 12 bulky volumes. Though the debates in the Assembly were often passionate, there was little criticism by Assembly members of the final Constitution. The US Constitution is one of the shortest in the world. It has been amended only 27 times. The first ten amendments by the first US Congress in 1789, collectively known as the Bill of Rights, were added to the US Constitution in 1791. The last one was in 1992 and related to Congressional pay. The Indian Constitution is one of the longest in the world. The fundamental rights are part of the Constitution itself. The Constitution has been much amended, 94 times by the latest count.