Constituent Assembly of India Debates (Proceedings); Volume VII – November 15 and 17, 1948
The Constituent Assembly drafted the Constitution of India from 1946-1950. It sat for the first time on December 9, 1946, and in two years and 11 months, it met for 11 sessions spread over 165 days. On November 26, 1949, the Assembly adopted the Constitution, which came into effect on January 26, 1950.
Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the chairman of the Assembly and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was the chairman of the Drafting Committee. A majority of the Assembly’s deliberations were debates on the Draft Constitution, which was presented for discussion on November 4, 1948. Over the next year, Assembly members debated each clause in detail and proposed amendments that were either adopted or rejected by a majority vote.
The Assembly debated Article 1 of the Constitution on November 15 and 17, 1948. During these debates, some Assembly members proposed that the word ‘States’ be substituted with other words (see Factoid 2). Other members argued that words which specify the political character and future of newly independent India be included in Article 1 (see Factoid 5). The majority of Assembly members, however, rejected the proposed changes and additions.
What does Article 1 of the Constitution of India say?
Article 1 says: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States. The States and the territories thereof shall be as specified in the First Schedule. The territory of India shall comprise—the territories of the States; the Union territories specified in the First Schedule; and such other territories as may be acquired.”
What were the proposed substitutes for the word ‘States’ in Article 1?
Assembly member H.V. Kamath proposed that ‘Pradeshas’ be used instead of ‘States’ in order to avoid confusion, since the word ‘States’ had been used with different meanings throughout the Draft Constitution.
Some members argued that the word ‘Provinces’ be used because ‘States’ indicated imitation and was used in the Constitution of the USA. They also felt that the word ‘States’ has a bad connotation because of its association with the ‘Indian States’ during British rule.
Mahavir Tyagi argued that ‘States’ be replaced with ‘Republican States’ and the phrase “the sovereignty of the Union shall reside in the whole body of the people” be added to emphasise that sovereignty resided with everyone and not just the king, as it did during British times.
What were the arguments against the substitution of the word ‘States’?
Some members argued that the word ‘Pradeshas’ was a Hindi translation of the word ‘States’, and since the Draft Constitution was in English, the Assembly should use ‘States’. Notably, Assembly member (and the first Indian prime minister) Jawaharlal Nehru argued against the use of ‘Pradeshas’, and said that ‘States’ was just what one defined it to be while ‘Pradesh’ was a new term and therefore open to multiple interpretations. Substitutes for other parts of Article 1 were deemed unnecessary by the Assembly.
What were the inclusions proposed for Article 1?
Assembly member K.T. Shah proposed that the phrase “Secular, Federal, Socialist Union of States” be added to Article 1 to delineate the political character of India. However, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar argued that the policy of the state and how society should be organised – socially, economically – must be decided by the people themselves, according to the time and circumstances, and cannot be specified in the Constitution. Further, he said that the amendment is unnecessary because there were other sections in the Constitution that covered the principles of state policy.
Some members of the Assembly proposed that a clause be added to Article 1, stating that 10 years after the Constitution comes into force, member States of the Union of India should be organised on a uniform basis, by groups of village panchayats that would function as democratic units. However, this amendment was rejected.
K.T. Shah proposed that, in Article 1, after the word ‘States’, the words ‘equal inter se’ be added to emphasise the political unity of States despite the existing natural, social and political inequality among them. H.V. Kamath and M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar argued that such equality between ‘States’ already existed in certain parts of the Constitution (Part I of the First Schedule) and that the States were represented in the Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament based on their population.
Did the Constituent Assembly accept any of these amendments?
During the debates on November 15 and 17, 1948, all the proposed amendments related to Article 1 were rejected.
Factoids and Focus compiled by Keiu Kikas.
Constituent Assembly of India
Government of India, New Delhi
15 Nov, 1948