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The Constituent Assembly

The drafting of the document called the constitution was done by an assembly of elected representatives called the Constituent Assembly. Elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946. Its first meeting was held in December 1946. Soon after the country was divided into India and Pakistan. The Constituent Assembly was also divided into the Constituent Assembly of India and that of Pakistan. The Constituent Assembly that wrote the Indian constitution had 299 members. The Assembly adopted the Constitution on 26 November 1949 but it came into effect on January 26, 1950.

To mark this day we celebrate January 26 as Republic Day every year. The Constitution does not reflect the views of its members alone. It expresses a broad consensus of its time. Many countries of the world have had to rewrite their Constitution afresh because the basic rules were not accepted to all major social groups or political parties. In some other countries, the Constitution exists as a mere piece of paper. No one actually follows it. The experience of our Constitution is different. Over the last half a century, several groups have questioned some provisions of the Constitution. But no large social group or political party has ever questioned the legitimacy of the Constitution itself. This is an unusual achievement for any constitution.


The second reason for accepting the Constitution is that The Constituent Assembly that wrote the Indian constitution had 299 members. There was no universal adult franchise at that time. So the Constituent Assembly could not have been chosen directly by all the people of India. It was elected mainly by the members of the existing Provincial Legislatures. This ensured a fair geographical share of members from all the regions of the country. The Assembly was dominated by the Indian National Congress, the party that led India’s freedom struggle. But the Congress itself included a variety of political groups and opinions. The Assembly had many members who did not agree with the Congress. In social terms too, the Assembly represented members from different language groups, castes, classes, religions and occupations. Even if the Constituent Assembly were elected by universal adult franchise, its composition would not have been very different.

Finally, the manner in which the Constituent Assembly worked gives sanctity to the Constitution. The Constituent Assembly worked in a systematic, open and consensual manner. First some basic principles were decided and agreed upon. Then a Drafting Committee chaired by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar prepared a draft co nstitution for discussion. Several rounds of thorough discussion took place on the Draft Constitution, clause by clause. More than two thousand amendments were considered. The members deliberated for 114 days spread over three years. Every document presented and every word spoken in the Constituent Assembly has been recorded and preserved. These are called ‘Constituent Assembly Debates’. When printed, these debates are 12 bulky volumes! These debates provide the rationale behind every provision of the Constitution.

 Dr. B. R. Ambedkar


These are used to interpret the meaning of the Constitution. Read the information about all the makers of the Indian Constitution.

1. The Assembly had many members who were not with the Congress


2. The Assembly represented members from different social groups

3. Members of the Assembly believed in different ideologies


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