With 395 articles and over 117,000 words, the Indian Constitution was not a hastily drafted one. The drafting of the longest constitution in the world was a historical episode that took almost three years. The idea of a Constituent Assembly was proposed by radical democrats, decades before formal independence. Later, the Indian National Congress, that represented mainstream politics and led the National Movement for freedom, came to the conclusion that the only method of applying the principle of self-determination was “to convene a constituent assembly representative of all sections of the Indian people to frame an acceptable constitution.” It officially raised the demand for a Constituent Assembly in 1939 and the British accepted the demand in 1940 as an expression of India’s popular will.
Inclusiveness is imperative for the authority of a constitution. Generally, a constitution drafting process can not include all the citizens interested in participating it. Particularly, at the time when the Indian Constitution was framed, there was no precedent, in the history of modern constitutions, to provide every citizen a right to decide the content of the constitution. The accepted practice was to compose a drafting body to reflect the divergent interests of various segments of the nation and to ensure sufficient representation of them all in it.
The Constituent Assembly was elected in 1946 by the members of British India’s elected provincial legislatures. The 299-member Assembly represented all sections of Indian society, and it also served as independent India’s first Parliament. Though the Constituent Assembly was indirectly elected by the Provincial Assemblies, which themselves were elected on the basis of a limited franchise, it truly represented the various religious, linguistic, caste, and socio-economic groups in India. It also represented the whole political spectrum of India that included moderates, extremists, Hindu revivalists, conservative industrialists, feudalists, radical communists and so on. The formation of the Assembly proved the claim that the Indian National Congress “representing the majority of the people of India, elected by them and owing their allegiance” could legitimately be “transformed into the Constituent Assembly of the Indian people”. The legitimacy of a constitution and the authority of its framers do not itself ensure it is working without problems.
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Cite as: Purush Purushothaman, The Indian Constitution: The Core and the Core Issues, 2 Ind. J. of Const. & Admin. L. 107-128(2018).