Journey of Indian Constitutional system: Pre-Independence Developments V
The chaos which arose due to the denial of the Muslim League to join the Constituent Assembly forced the British Government to make a change. Lord Mountbatten was sent to India in March 1947 as Governor-General in place of Lord Wavell. The Government then fixed a time limit (15th August 1947) to fasten the transfer of power.
- Mountbatten Plan and Partition of India: Lord Mountbatten proposed for the partition of the two problem Provinces of Punjab and Bengal and brought the Congress and league to an agreement. The question of the partition of the two Provinces was left to the vote of members of the Legislative Assembly of those two Provinces according to the Mountbatten Plan declared on 3rd June 1947. A referendum in North West Frontier Province and the Muslim majority district of Sylhet was also proposed as to whether they would join which Country. West Punjab and East Bengal voted for Partition and to form a new Constituent Assembly while N.W.F. and Sylhet opted for Pakistan. On 26th July 1947, the Governor-General declared the decision for partition of the territory and formation of a separate Constituent Assembly for Pakistan.
- The Indian Independence Act, 1947: The Bill was introduced in Parliament on 4th July and it got Royal Assent on 18th July 1947 which was to have effect from 15th August 1947 as referred in the Act as ‘the appointed day.’ While the other Acts (Acts from 1858 to 1935) intended to provide a constitutional mechanism for administration, this Act only set up two independent dominions – India and Pakistan by the division of British India and authorized the Constituent Assembly of both Dominion to frame Constitution which would supersede the Indian Independence Act. Section 7 of the Act provided that “with the setting up of the two Dominions, the responsibility of the Crown for the government of the erstwhile British India would cease and its suzerainty over the Indian States would lapse. It also directed that the Constituent Assembly which met on 9th December 1946 to be the Constituent Assembly of India and Pakistan would have a separate Constituent Assembly. The Indian Constituent Assembly re-assembled on the midnight of the 14th August 1947 as the Sovereign Constituent Assembly for India.
- Objective Resolution: Introduced on 13th December 1946 and adopted on 22nd January 1947, the historic Objective Resolution of Jawaharlal Nehru was:
“(1)This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an Independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution;
(2)WHEREIN the territories that now comprise British India, the territories that now form the Indian States, and such other parts of India as are outside British India and the States as well as such other territories as are willing to be constituted into the Independent Sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all; and
(3) WHEREIN the said territories, whether with their present boundaries or with such others as may be determined by the Constituent Assembly and thereafter according to the Law of the Constitution, shall possess and retain the status of autonomous Units, together with residuary powers, and exercise all powers and functions of government and administration, save and except such powers and functions as are vested in or assigned to the Union, or as are inherent or implied in the Union or resulting therefrom; and
(4) WHEREIN all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people; and (5)WHEREIN shall be guaranteed and secured to all the people of India justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith worship, vocation, association and action, subject to law and public morality; and
(6)WHEREIN adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and
(7)WHEREBY shall be maintained the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea, and air according to Justice and the law of civilised nations, and
(8)this ancient land attains its rightful and honoured place in the world and makes its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.”[i]
- Draft Constitution, Passing and Commencement of Constitution: The Constituent Assembly after consideration of various principles appointed the Drafting Committee on 19th August 1947. The Drafting Committee embodied all the principles and prepared a Draft Constitution which was published in February 1948. Unlike the Objective Resolution, the Draft Constitution suggested that the residuary powers to be vested in the Union Government. It was presented on 4th November 1948 before the Assembly (may be called as the first reading of the Draft). The second reading commenced on 15th November & ended on 17th November 1948.
On 14th November 1949, the third reading started which was finished on 26th November 1949 and also received the signature of the President and was declared as passed.
Finally, the Constitution came into force on the 26th January 1950 referred as ‘the commencement of this Constitution’ and India became a Sovereign Democratic Republic.
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