Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Vol. 15): Speeches as Law Minister and Member of Opposition (1947 to 1956)


Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956) was a scholar, social reformer, powerful advocate for Dalits and women, chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India, and the country’s first law minister.

In 1976, the government of Maharashtra set up the Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication Committee to compile his work. The Committee consisted of the state’s then education minister and noted scholars and writers. In 1978, when Vasant Moon (Dalit activist, author and Officer on Special Duty) joined the Committee, it decided to publish his unpublished writings too.

The state’s Education Department started to publish a 22-volume series titled Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches in 1979.  The series was re-printed by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in January 2014.

This 15th volume is divided into 8 sections: Sections I to VI provide excerpts from parliamentary debates from when Ambedkar was the Law Minister till his resignation. Section VII covers his time as a member of the Rajya Sabha, and Section VIII provides short answers by Dr. Ambedkar to questions asked by members of Parliament between November 18, 1947 and September 28, 1951.

Section I - 20th November 1947 to 31st March 1949

This first section is divided into seven sub-sections, each consisting of Dr. Ambedkar’s remarks in the Legislative Assembly concerning a separate legislative Bill or Amendment. The first section contains excerpts from a discussion on a bill amending the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947, which also substitutes the phrase “all the provinces of India” in place of “British India.” Dr. Ambedkar notes that the Existing Laws Adaptation Order defines “British India” as “all the provinces of British India”. He terms the removal of the word ‘British’ in the amendment as “purely sentimental” and recommends retaining it to preserve continuity and intelligibility of the amendment vis-à-vis the principal act.

Continuing on the theme of amendments and revisions, the next sub-section includes Dr. Ambedkar’s speech on the necessity of a Statutory Law Revision Committee. He emphasises the need of such a committee to review and remedy any inconsistencies that may emerge between legislations. This and the next sub-section also discuss the Central Government’s jurisdiction in the context of a bill concerned with regularizing the nursing profession across India.

In debates regarding the Extra Provincial Jurisdiction Bill, Ambedkar expresses that according to the Indian Independence Act, the Dominion Government will not inherit the jurisdiction arising out of paramountcy since the Act abolished paramountcy. But an Indian state may confer jurisdiction upon the Dominion Government. Later in the debate, he also expands on the differences between political rights and justiciable rights. He says, “Justiciable rights must always be determined by a judicial decree founded upon evidence produced by the parties before the court. But the political right […] is never submitted to a court in the ordinary sense of the word.”

The next sub-section contains Dr. Ambedkar’s introduction of the Federal Court (Enlargement of Jurisdiction) Bill. It enlarges the court’s appellate authority in civil cases and makes it compulsory for all civil appeals rising from the decree of the High Court to go to the Federal Court instead of directly to the Privy Council. The law regarding insolvency was contained in two acts: the Provincial Insolvency Act and the Presidency Towns Insolvency Act. A proposed amendment to the Provincial Insolvency Act aimed to incorporate into it a section from the other Act which permitted the official assignee and the creditors to pursue property such as that of a son by his father in a Hindu joint family.

In the last sub-section, Dr. Ambedkar moves for further extension of the period mentioned in India Act, 1946 which gave the Central Legislature power to pass legislations regarding matters in the provincial list during the proclamation of emergency.

Section II - 3rd February 1950 to 20th April 1950

This section covers discussions in the Parliament on the escape of Mir Laik Ali from custody as well as seven bills: Insolvency Law (Amendment) Bill, Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Bill, Societies Registration (Amendment) Bill, Army Bill, Part C States (Laws) Bill, Representation of the People Bill.

One of the discussions in this section includes amendments in the terminology used in the Presidency Towns Insolvency Act and the Provincial Insolvency Act. Dr. Ambedkar also expressed his wish to combine both Acts into one as well as his inability to introduce such a Bill in Parliament due to restrictions of time and manpower.

With regards to the escape of Nizam Mir Laik Ali from custody, Dr. Ambedkar explains that the case is not for the House to discuss as it relates to law and order, which is a subject of List II and thus under state purvey. He says that, “The mere fact that the Nizam is a Rajpramukh, the mere fact that there is no legislature, the mere fact that certain officers have been lent by the Home Ministry to the Nizam for carrying on the administration of the State, would not alter the character of the Hyderabad State being exactly on the same footing as other States in Part B, which is the same thing as being equivalent to States in Part A.”

Dr. Ambedkar also sought to replace an ordinance with the Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Bill. Under the Constitution, Members of Parliament cannot hold an office of profit under the government. However, certain offices were created before the Constitution came into operation and an ordinance was passed to circumvent the disqualification. Through the Bill, the law minister aims to codify these provisions before the ordinance lapses.

The section also includes debates on the Army Bill to consolidate and amend the law regarding the government of the regular army, including but not limited to offences committed by soldiers. Here, Dr. Ambedkar draws the distinction between the regular army and additional forces and remarks, “I hope and trust that a time will come when the States would voluntarily agree to Parliament exercising complete jurisdiction, effecting complete assimilation between the Indian regular Army and the Forces raised by them.”

In discussing a Bill to extend laws in certain Part C States (Vindhya Pradesh, Tripura and Manipur), the law minister brings out the intricacies of governance in regions which do not have local legislatures. He says that the Parliament may provide for local legislative councils in such states but until that point, “the only thing that could be done seems to be to give the Government of India the power to extend certain laws made by Part A States or other Part C States to be applied to Part C States with such modifications as may be necessary by reason of local circumstances and local difficulty.”

The section also covers the introduction and debate on the significant Representation of the People Bill. The primary provisions contained within it are fourfold: allocation of seats among the states to the Lok Sabha; fixing of total seats for the state legislative assemblies; registration of voters; and fixing the composition of the state legislative councils as well as registration of voters for the councils.

Section III - 1st August 1950 to 22nd December 1950

This section covers Dr. Ambedkar’s remarks in a variety of debates in the Parliament including those on Dentists (Amendment) Bill, Administration of Evacuee Property (Amendment) Bill, Coach-Behar (Assimilation of Laws) Bill, Indian Tariff (Fourth Amendment) Bill, Societies Registration (Amendment) Bill, and Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill. It also includes his speeches on remaking of laws by Parliament in the state list and qualifications for elections to Parliament and state legislatures.

When a proposed amendment suggests including certain minimum educational qualifications as a requirement for membership to the Parliament and state legislatures, Dr. Ambedkar notes that while educational qualifications are valuable, they may lead to membership being monopolised by privileged communities. He adds, “In this House there are people who, although they are not educated, are very competent to voice the grievances of the class whom they represent. I am sure about it. A more educated person would not be able to discharge that function, because he does not know and does not have that experience.” He further suggests that the question should be left to the people or the political parties who will run the government.

Section IV - 9th February 1951 to 21st April 1951

This section of the volume contains Dr. Ambedkar's remarks on seven Bills under debate in the Parliament. These include: Dentists (Amendment) Bill, Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, Part B States (Laws) Bill, Supreme Court Advocates (Practice in High Court) Bill, Code of Criminal Procedure (Second Amendment) Bill, Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Bill, and Constitution (First Amendment) Bill.

Introducing the Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, Dr. Ambedkar states its three objectives. Firstly, the Bill aims to establish a pan-India civil procedure code instead of Part B states each having their own separate code. Secondly, it considers matters not covered by the existing code and lastly it aims to set down provisions to “deal with suits by aliens, by or against foreign Rulers, Ambassadors and Envoys”.

A following sub-section contains excerpts in the debate on a bill extending 135 Acts of the government to Part B States over which the Parliament previously did not have jurisdiction. Another bill introduced by the law minister in the House is the Supreme Court Advocates (Practice in High Court) Bill which proposes that Supreme Court lawyers be able to practice in any High Court in the country. To this, Dr. Ambedkar outlines two exceptions: a) a lawyer enrolled in the Supreme Court may not automatically be entitled to practice on the original side but the appellate side in the High Court; b) lawyers who were ex-judges in the High Court may not practice in that court.

The House also discusses a Bill concerning the building of a national memorial for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The members debate on the responsibilities of the trust and the substitution of Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew in place of the late Vallabhbhai Patel as a trustee. Debates on the Constitution (First Amendment) Bill are also presented in this section of the volume. Some of the key amendments concern reservations for backward classes, limitations to the freedom of expression and the State’s acquisition of estates. Dr. Ambedkar brings forward cases where the Supreme Court struck down the decision to provide reservations in educational institutions and argues that it is against Article 29 of the Constitution which protects interests of minorities and ensures that no one can be denied admission into a public educational institution because of their caste.

Regarding freedom of expression, he proposes amending sub clause (2) to add “relations with foreign States, public order and incitement to offense” as grounds for restrictions. He further points out how hate speech could embolden casteist violence.

Section V - 18th April 1951 to 19th May 1951

The Constitution provides representation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in Part A and B States in the House of the People. The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill aimed to extend this to Part C states. Despite it being explained that the constitutional provision did not at the time extent to Part C states, Member of the House J.R Kapoor argues that the bill is unnecessary and an election stunt by Dr. Ambedkar and the government. Chandrika Ram, another Member of the House counters J.R. Kapoor by remarking that the condition of Scheduled Castes and Tribes in Part C States is bad and “there is no representative of theirs in this House. They have always been neglected by the Central Government.”

Another member, Shri Sonavane, brings forth the issue of incomplete caste lists. In response to this Dr. Ambedkar offers including all names and variants in the list.

Section VI - 7th August 1951 to 12th October 1951

Debates in the Parliament on three Bills – Parliament–Prevention of Disqualification Bill, Assam (Alteration of Boundaries) Bill, Notaries Bill – are included in this section. It also contains discussions on a resolution regarding the necessity of an All India Bar, the conduct of Parliament members, Select Committee meetings, and motions regarding delimitations of Constituencies of Order. The section also carries Dr. Ambedkar’s letter of resignation.

The disqualification bill states that Members of Parliament who do not receive an allowance greater than bare expenses prescribed in the office memorandum would not be considered as holding an “office of profit”. Otherwise, disqualifications will be at the President’s discretion.

The House also discusses a bill about altering Assam’s boundaries as a consequence of the cession of a strip of territory to Bhutan. Certain members state that the Parliament has no power pass such a bill. In response, Dr. Ambedkar cites Entries 14 and 15 from List I in the Seventh Schedule which related to war and peace and the making of treaties: “Entry relating to war and peace must necessarily include cession of territory because it cannot be denied that it may sometimes become necessary for a State which is at war with another foreign State, in order to establish peace, to cede a part of its territory as one of the terms and conditions of a treaty of peace.”

On October 6, 1951, as Ambedkar is about to give his statement of resignation, the Deputy Speaker stops him, pushing it to the close of the day instead. When pressed for a reason, the Deputy Speaker insists the Speaker must give prior consent to the Statement. Following a heated discussion between the two, Ambedkar states, “I take it that you do not wish me to make a statement that is how I interpret your ruling. I am no longer a Minister. I am going out. I am not going to submit myself to this kind of dictation.” and walks out. Members Pandit Kunzru and Kamath voice opposition to the censorship of his statement.

Section VII - 19th May 1952 to 6th December 1956

This section covers Dr. Ambedkar’s speeches and remarks over the years he served as a member of the Rajya Sabha.

In the course of these debates, Dr. Ambedkar raises the issue of food shortage, with famines increasing from one every 10-15 years to one almost every month. He also criticizes the government’s decision to reverse subsidies. He censures the lack of relief measures and policies of the food department which give subsidies to farmers to “grow more food” while incentivizing cash crops, their competitors. He argues that the Indian Government is continuing British taxation norms without providing social benefits and suggests that less of the budget be spent on the army.

In discussions on the Andhra State Bill, 1953, Ambedkar questions the lack of safeguards for Scheduled Castes and landless labourers in Karnataka. He suggests that multilingual states should have a Governor and a committee created to protect interests of minorities in the states, and that multi-lingual states should only be divided if this fails.

In the discussion concerning the Report of the Commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes submitted to the President, Ambedkar notes cases of atrocities against SCs are not adequately reported. He also states that the report does not showcase policemen who collude with oppressors. Though there have been improvements regarding education and grants, largely because of Dr. Ambedkar’s efforts in 1942, students belonging to Scheduled Castes had not been sent abroad for higher education post-Independence. Dr. Ambedkar also notes a fall in the number of people from Scheduled Castes in government services.

In debates on the Untouchability Offences Bill, Ambedkar points to Article 13 and Article 372, which authorise the government to adapt existing laws so they conform with the Fundamental Rights. He also suggests amendments to the Bill based on the United States Civil Rights Bill which clearly lays down that all subjects are equal before the law.

On December 6th, 1956, Dr. Ambedkar passed away. This section contains his obituary, written by Jawaharlal Nehru. The Lok Sabha met on December 6 and members paid tribute to him. Renu Chakravarti praised him for the Hindu Code Bill, Asoka Mehta stated that he “brought a new awakening” and Mr. Gadgil praised him for his rebellion against the status quo.

Section VIII – 18th November 1947 to 28th September 1951

This section includes 69 questions asked to Dr. Ambedkar by Members of the Parliament and his answers to these. These include questions concerning appeals from the High Courts in India, constitution of the Federal Court, list of Scheduled Castes, income tax appellate tribunals among others.

Focus by Neelima Mundayur.


Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar

First edition compiled and edited by Vasant Moon


The first edition was published by the Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, in 1997. This is a 2014 reprint by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.


Jan, 2014