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India@75

1949: Constituent Assembly adopts Constitution of India

Print edition : Aug 25, 2022 T+T-

1949: Constituent Assembly adopts Constitution of India

Jawaharlal Nehru signs the Constitution at the final session of the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950.

Jawaharlal Nehru signs the Constitution at the final session of the Constituent Assembly on January 24, 1950. | Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The Indian Constitution has stood the test of time.

Constitution is not a mere lawyers’ document, it is a vehicle of Life, and its spirit is always the spirit of Age.”― Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

“We the people of India”.... “in our Constituent Assembly this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution.” That is what the Preamble to the Constitution says and it is a testament to the foresight and wisdom of the Constitution framers that they provided the nation with a document that guarantees the rights of every citizen and upholds the democratic principles of human dignity, equality, and freedom. When many other constitutions have disappeared, the Indian one has stood the test of time and even served as a model for many others.

In many ways, India’s Constitution is unique. When voting rights were being debated in many other countries, one provision of the Constitution was almost unanimously approved: the right to vote for all adult citizens, regardless of religion, caste, education, gender, or income. Set against the backdrop of Partition’s violence, the document also demonstrates the framers’ intention to create a country where not only minorities would be safe, but religious identity would have no bearing on citizenship rights.

Also read: 1948: Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

The Constitution was drafted over a period of 2 years, 11 months, and 17 days from December 9, 1946. Members of Parliament signed it on January 24, 1950, and it came into force on January 26, 1950.

Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly of India, February 1948, New Delhi: (Sitting, from left) N. Madhava Rao; Saiyid Muhammad Saadulla; Dr. B.R. Ambedkar; Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Sir B.N. Rao (Standing, from left) S.N. Mukerjee, Jugal Kishore Khanna and Kewal Krishan.
Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly of India, February 1948, New Delhi: (Sitting, from left) N. Madhava Rao; Saiyid Muhammad Saadulla; Dr. B.R. Ambedkar; Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Sir B.N. Rao (Standing, from left) S.N. Mukerjee, Jugal Kishore Khanna and Kewal Krishan. | Photo Credit: KRISHNAN VV

The Constituent Assembly had established a Drafting Committee led by Dr B.R. Ambedkar on August 29, 1947. In October 1947, Sir B.N. Rau finished the first draft. Almost every clause included marginal notes citing similar provisions in other constitutions or the Government of India Act, 1935.

On February 21, 1948, the Drafting Committee delivered a Revised Draft Constitution to Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, following discussion of each article in Rau’s original draft. A Special Committee examined the text and the Drafting Committee reconvened in October to evaluate it. Ambedkar then presented a new report to the President of the Assembly.

Also read: India at 75: Epochal moments from the 1940s

On November 4, 1948, the Assembly received the Draft Constitution. The debate on it went on for over a year before the document was adopted on November 26, 1949.

It is interesting to note that India’s Constitution is the longest in the world, with 448 Articles in 25 Parts and 12 Schedules now. Nehru commissioned Prem Behari Narain Raizada, a calligrapher, to write the first copy by hand and Shantiniketan artists decorated it.