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Constituent Assembly Of India -Volume I
Dated: December 09, 1946
The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly of India took place in Constitution Hall, New Delhi, on Monday, the 9th December 1946. at Eleven of the Clock.
ELECTION OF TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN
Acharya J. B. Kripalani (United Provinces: General): (in requesting Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha to take the Chair as temporary Chairman, said)-
After the year 1920 when we started on a new way to gain freedom he parted company with us. He, however, never wholly left us. He has always been helping us. He never joined any other organization and his sympathies were ever with us. Such a person is entitled to be the temporary Chairman of this Assembly. His work is brief but it is all the same most important. It is inaugurating the proceeding of this House. As we begin every work with Divine blessings we request Dr. Sinha to invoke these blessings so that our work may proceed smoothly. Now, I once more, (in your behalf, call upon Dr. Sinha to take the Chair.]
(Acharya J. B. Kripalani then conducted Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha to the Chair, which he then occupied amidst acclamation.)
MESSAGES OF GOODWILL
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): Hon'ble Members, I shall read out to you this morning three messages which have been received by me from responsible State Officials of America, China and the Government of Australia. The American Charge d'Affaires writes:
The next message is from the Embassy of the Republic of China-"New Delhi.
Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha Provisional Chairman Constituent Assembly: 'On the auspicious occasion of the opening of the Indian Constituent Assembly I have the honour to extend to Your Excellency in the name of the National Government of China my heartiest congratulations. sincerely hope that your great Assembly will succeed in laying a solid foundation for a democratic and prosperous India.
WANG SHIH CHIEH, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of China.' (Cheers)
The third and last message I have to read out to this Assembly is one from the Australian Government to the Members of the Indian Constituent Assembly.
I am sure the House will authorize me and permit me to convey its thanks to the representatives of these Governments who have sent us such cheering and inspiring messages. I may further add that this is Every auspicious sign for the success of your work. (Cheers).
ELECTION PETITION FROM KHAN ABDUS SAMAD KHAN OF BRITISH BALUCHISTAN
The Chairman: The next thing which I have to bring to the notice of the House is that I have received an election petition from Khan Abdus Samad Khan of British Baluchistan challenging the validity of the election of Nawab Mohammad Khan Jogazai as a member of the Constituent Assembly representing British Baluchistan. The House will doubtless look into this matter, in due course, after the election of the permanent Chairman. But my ruling at this stage is that the gentleman declared elected will continue to be regarded as a Member of this House until the matter is disposed of, at a later stage, by the House, after the election of the permanent Chairman.
The next item on the agenda is the provisional Chairman's inaugural address. I will do my best to read out the whole of the address, but if I feel the strain too much, you will kindly permit me to hand over the typescript to Sir B. N. Rau, who has very kindly undertaken to read it for me. But I hope there will be no occasion for it.
CHAIRMAN'S INAUGURAL ADDRESS HON'BLE MEMBERS OF THE FIRST INDIAN CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY:
I am deeply beholden to you for your having agreed to accept me as the first President of your Constituent Assembly, which will enable me to assist you in transacting the preliminary business before the Ho such as the election of a permanent President, the framing of the Rules of Business, the appointment of various Committees, and settling the question of giving Publicity to, or keeping confidential, your proceedings-which will ultimately lead you to crown your labours by formulating a suitable and stable constitution for an Independent India. In expressing my sense of appreciation of your great kindness, I cannot conceal from myself that I feel comparing small things with great-that I am, on the present occasion in the position in which Lord Palmerston found himself when Queen Victoria offered him the highest Order of Chivalry, namely, the Knighthood of the Garter. In accepting the Queen's offer, Lord Palmerston wrote to a friend as follows:-
I say I find myself more or less in the same position, for you have agreed to accept me as your President on the sole ground that I age, the senior-most member of this Assembly. Whatever the ground however, on which you have chosen to have me as your first President, I am nonetheless profoundly grateful to you. I have had, in my fairly long life, several honours conferred on me in recognition of my services as a humble worker in public interest, but I assure you that I regard your mark of favour as a signal honour, which I shall cherish throughout the rest of my life.
On this historic and memorable occasion, you will not grudge, I am sure, if I venture to address to You some observations on certain aspects of what is called a Constituent Assembly. This political method of devising a constitution for a country has not been known to our fellow-subjects in Britain, for the simple reason, that under the British Constitution, there is no such thing as a constituent law, it being a cherished privilege of the British Parliament, as the sole sovereign authority, to make and unmake all laws, including the constitutional law of the country. As such, we have to look to countries other than Britain to be able to form a correct estimate of the position of a Constituent Assembly. In Europe, the oldest Republic, that of Switzerland, has not had a Constituent Law, in the ordinary sense of that term, for it came into existence, on a much smaller scale than it now exists, due to historic causes and accidents, several centuries back. Nevertheless, the present constitutional system of Switzerland has several notable and instructive features, which have strongly been recommended by qualified authorities to Indian constitution-makers, and I have no doubt that this great Assembly will study carefully the Swiss Constitution, and try to utilise it to the best advantage in the interest of preparing a suitable constitution for a free and independent India.
The only other State in Europe, to the constitution of which we could turn with some advantage, is that of France, the first Constituent Assembly of which (called "The French National Assembly") was convoked in 1789, after the French Revolution had succeeded in overthrowing the French monarchy. But the French Republican system of Government had been changed since then, from time to time, and is even now, more or less, in the melting pot. Though, therefore, you may not be able to as much advantage from a study of the French system of constituent law as that of the Swiss, that is no reason why you should not seek to derive what advantage you can in the preparation of the task before you, by a study of it.
As a matter of fact, the French constitution-makers, who met in 1789 at the first Constituent Assembly of their country, were themselves largely influenced by the work done but a couple of years earlier in 1787, by the historic Constitutional Convention held at Philadelphia by the American constitution-makers, for their country. Having thrown off their allegiance to the British King in Parliament, they met and drew up what had been regarded, and justly so, as the soundest, and most practical and workable republican constitution in existence. It is this great constitution, which had been naturally taken as the model for all subsequent constitutions not only of France, but also of the self-governing Dominions of the British Commonwealth, like Canada, Australia, and South Africa; and I have no doubt that you will also, in the nature of things, pay in the course of your work, greater attention to the provisions of the American Constitution than to those of any other.
I have referred above to the self-governing constitutions of the great Dominions of the British Commonwealth being based on, to a large extent, if not actually derived :from, the American constitutional system. The first to benefit by the American system was Canada, the historic Convention of which country, for drawing up a self-governing constitution, met in 1864, at Quebec. This Convention drew up the Canadian Constitution, which was subsequently embodied in what is still on the Statute Book as the British North American Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1867. You may be interested to hear that the Quebec Convention consisted of only 33 delegates from all the provinces of Canada, and that Convention of 33 representatives issued as many as 74 resolutions, which were afterwards duly incorporated in total in the British North American Act, under the provisions of which the first self-governing Dominion of the British Commonwealth of Canada, came into existence, in 1867. The British Parliament accepted tile Canadian Convention's scheme in its entirety, except for making only one drafting amendment. I hope and pray, Hon'ble Members, that your labours may be crowned with a similar success.
The American constitutional system was more or less adopted in the schemes prepared for framing the Constitutions of Australia and South Africa, which shows that the results achieved by the American Convention held at Philadelphia in 1787, had been accepted by the world as a model for framing independent federal constitutions for various countries. It is for these reasons that I have felt justified in inviting your attention to the American system of constituent and constitutional law as one-which should be carefully studied by you-not necessarily for wholesale adoption, but for the judicious adaptation of its provisions to the necessities and requirements of your own country, with such modifications as may be necessary or essential owing to the peculiar conditions of our social, economic and political life. I have done so as according to Munro--a standard authority on the subject-the American Constitution is based on "a series of agreements as well as a series of compromises". I may venture to add, as a result of my long experience of public life for now nearly half a century, that reasonable agreements and judicious compromises are nowhere more called for than in framing a constitution for a country like India.
In commending to you for your careful consideration and acceptance, with reasonable agreements and judicious compromises, the fundamental principles of the American system, I cannot do better than quote the striking observations on the subject of the greatest British authority namely Viscount Bryce, who in his monumental work, called "The American Commonwealth", writes as follows, putting in a very few lines the substance of the fundamental principles of the American Constitution:-
It may possibly be that in some such scheme, skillfully adapted to our own requirements, a satisfactory solution may be found for a constitution for an Independent India, which may satisfy the reasonable expectations and legitimate aspirations of almost all the leading political parties in the country. Having quoted the greatest British authority on the great, inherent, merits of the American Constitution, you will, I hope, bear with me a fairly long quotation from the greatest American Jurist, Joseph Story. In concluding his celebrated book, called "Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States", he made certain striking and inspiring observations which I present to you as worthy of your attention. Said Story:-
The demand made by Mahatma Gandhi for a Constituent Assembly, composed of the "freely chosen representatives" of the people of India, was affirmed, from time to time, by various public bodies and political leaders, but it was not till May, 1934, that the Swaraj Party, which was then formed at Ranchi (in Bihar), formulated a scheme in which the following resolution was included:-
The policy embodied in this resolution was approved by the All-India Congress Committee, which met at Patna-the capital of Bihar-a few days later, in May, 1934; and it was thus that the scheme of a Constituent Assembly for framing the Indian Constitution was officially adopted by the Indian National Congress.
The above resolution was confirmed at the session of the Congress held at Faizpur in December 1936. The confirming resolution declared that-
In November, 1939, the Congress Working Committee adopted a resolution which declared that-
It remains to add that the conception of a Constituent Assembly as the most appropriate method for framing the constitution of India had also found favour with the members of the Sapru Committee in the report of which, issued last year (1945), is formulated a definite scheme for the composition of a Constituent Assembly. We are meeting, however in Assembly today, under the scheme propounded by the British Cobinet Mission, which, though differing from the suggestions made on the subject by the Congress, the League, and other political organizations, had devised a scheme which, though not by all, had been accepted by many political parties, and also by large sections of the politically-minded classes in the country, but also by those not belonging to any political partly, as one well worth giving a trial, with a view to end the political deadlock, which had obtained for now many years past, and frustrated our aims and aspirations. I have no desire to go further into the merits of the British Cabinet Mission's scheme as that might lead me to trespass on controversial ground, which I have no, desire to traverse on the present occasion. I am aware that some parts of the scheme, propounded by the British Cabinet Mission, have been the subject of acute controversies between some of the political parties amongst us, and I do not want, there-fore, to rush in where even political angles might well fear to tread.
Hon'ble Members, I fear I have trespassed long on your patience, and should now bring my remarks to a close. My only justification for having detained you so long is the uniqueness of this great and memorable occasion in the history of India, the enthusiasm with which this Constituent Assembly had been welcomed by large classes of people in this country, the keen interest which matters relating to it had evoked amongst various communities, and the prospect which it holds out for the final settlement of the problem of all problems, and the issue of all issues, namely, the political independence of India, and her economic freedom. I wish your labours success, and invoke Divine blessings that your proceedings may be marked not only by good sense, public spirit, and genuine patriotism, but also by wisdom, toleration, justice, and fairness to all; and above all with a vision which may restore India to her pristine glory, and give her a place of honour and equality amongst the great nations of the world. Let us not forget to justify the pride of the great Indian poet, Iqbal, and his faith in the immortality of the destiny of our great, historic, and ancient country, when he summed up in these beautiful lines: Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma sabmit gaye jahan se, Baqi abhi talak hai nam-o-nishan hamara. Kuch bat hai ke hasti mit-ti nahin hamari, Sadion raha hai dushman daur-e-zaman hamara.
I particularly ask of you to bring to your task a broad and catholic vision, for Rs the Bible justly teaches us-
NOMINATION OF DEPUTY CHAIRMAN
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): I have a proposal to make to you on purely personal grounds, and I hope You will kindly approve of it. For many years past, under medical advice, I have not been able to do any work in the afternoons, and I do not propose to sit after the luncheon recess. So for the time I am temporary Chairman, while the House is going on with the presentation of credentials and the signing of the register in the afternoon, I propose to request the House to give me the assistance of a Deputy Chairman, and I propose that Mr. Frank Anthony be nominated by you. (After a pause). I declare the motion carried.
DEATH OF MR. PRASANNA DEB RAIKUT
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): Next, I am informed that a member of our Constituent Assembly, who had been duly elected, had passed away, Mr. Prasanna Deb Raikut from Bengal, and I desire on behalf of the Constituent Assembly to convey our condolence to his relations. I think I may take it as carried.
PRESENTATION OF CREDENTIALS AND SIGNING OF THE REGISTER
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): Now I think we shall start the formal business which is the presentation of credentials and the signing of the Register. I will present my credentials to myself. Though Hon'ble Members must pass through certain formalities, I have cut out from the procedure the coming of members to the platform to shake hands with the Chairman after signing the Register. We tested this matter yesterday, and found that it would take about a minute and a half, f not two minutes, if after signing his name each member were to ascend this platform by the circuitous route, and shake hands with the Chairman, and then return to this seat. So, I have thought that that formality may be dispensed with. The Secretary will now call out the names of Hon'ble Members, who will come up, present to him their credentials, sign the Register, and go back to their seats.
The following Members then presented their credentials and signed their names in the Register:-
C.P. AND BERAR
N.-W. F. PROVINCE
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): It has been brought to my notice that there is no Speaker in Sind as there is no legislature there now. Under the circumstances, the Secretary of the Assembly there, has signed the credentials certificates. They may be accepted.
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): If any Hon'ble Member's name has not been called through oversight, he will stand and his-name will be called out. He will then come and sign his name in the Register.
(No one stood up.)
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): That finishes our, agenda for today. Therefore, there will be no sitting in the afternoon. The Assembly will meet tomorrow. A new agenda will be Prepared, which is not yet ready. I have asked the Constitutional Adviser's Office to circulate the agenda to Hon'ble Members, if possible by this evening, and I hope it may be done. If you so desire, the Assembly will meet at 11 A.M. or 11-30.
Many Hon'ble Members: 11 A.M.
The Chairman (Dr. Sachchidananda Sinha): We shall meet at 11.
The Assembly then adjourned till Tuesday, the 10th December 1946, at 11 A.M.