Asalute of 21 guns and the unfurling of the Indian National flag by Dr. Rajendra Prasad heralded the historic birth of the Indian Republic on January 26, 1950; 894 days after our country became a dominion following withdrawal of British Rule. Since then, every year the day is celebrated with great pride and happiness all over the nation. The transition of India from a British colony to a sovereign, secular, and democratic nation was indeed historical. It was a long journey of around two decades that started with the conceptualisation of the dream in 1930 to its actual realization in 1950. A look into the journey that led to the birth of Indian Republic will make our celebrations more meaningful.
Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress
The seeds of a republican nation were sowed at the Lahore session of the Indian National Congress at the midnight of 31st December 1929. The session was held under the presidency of Pt. Jawarhar Lal Nehru. Those present in the meeting took a pledge to mark January 26 as “Independence Day” in order to march towards realizing the dream of complete independence from the British. The Lahore Session paved way to the Civil Disobedience movement. It was decided that January 26, 1930 would be observed as the Purna Swaraj (complete Independence) Day. Many Indian political parties and Indian revolutionaries from all over the country united to observe the day with honour and pride.
Indian Constituent Assembly Meetings
The Indian Constituent Assembly, which was constituted as a result of the negotiations between the Indian leaders and members of the British Cabinet Mission, had its first meeting on December 9, 1946. The Objective of the Assembly was to give India a constitution, which would serve a lasting purpose and hence appointed a number of committees to thoroughly research the various aspects of the proposed constitution. The recommendations were discussed, debated and revised many times before the Indian Constitution was finalized and officially adopted three years later on November 26, 1949.
Constitution came into force
Though India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it enjoyed the true spirit of Independence on January 26, 1950 when the Constitution of India finally came into force. The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to govern themselves by choosing their own government. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in the Government House and this was followed by the Presidential drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag. Ever since the historic day, January 26 is celebrated with festivities and patriotic fervor all around the country. The day owes its importance to the constitution of India that was adopted on this day.
Constitution of India
The Indian constitution is the Constitutional supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens. It is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 448 articles in 25 parts, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and 98 amendments. Besides the English version, there is an official Hindi translation.
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is widely regarded as the father of the Indian Constitution. The Constitution follows parliamentary system of government and the executive is directly accountable to legislature. Article 74 provides that there shall be a Prime Minister of India as the head of government. It also states that there shall be a President of India and a Vice-President of India under Articles 52 and 63. Unlike the Prime Minister, the President largely performs ceremonial roles. The Constitution of India is federal in nature. Each State and each Union territory of India have their own government. Analogues to President and Prime Minister, the Governor in case of States, Lieutenant Governor for Union territories and the Chief Minister. The 73rd and 74th Amendment Act also introduced the system of Panchayati Raj in rural areas and Municipality in urban areas.
Also, Article 370 of the Constitution gives special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Constitution was adopted by the India Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949, and came into effect on 26 January 1950. The date of 26 January was chosen to commemorate the Purna Swaraj declaration of independence of 1930. With its adoption, the Union of India officially became the modern and contemporary Republic of India and it replaced the Government of India Act 1935 as the country’s fundamental governing document. To ensure constitutional autochthony, the framers of constitution inserted Article 395 in the constitution and by this Article the Indian Independence Act, 1947 was repealed. The Constitution declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty, and endeavors to promote fraternity among them. The words “socialist” and “secular” were added to the definition in 1976 by constitutional amendment (mini constitution). India celebrates the adoption of the constitution on 26 January each year as Republic Day.
The Constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly, which was elected by the elected members of the provincial assemblies. Dr B.R. Ambedkar, Sanjay Phakey, Jawaharlal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Rajendra Prasad, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Kanaiyalal Munshi, Purushottam Mavalankar, Sandipkumar Patel, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Nalini Ranjan Ghosh, and Balwantrai Mehta were some important figures in the Assembly. There were more than 30 members of the scheduled classes. Frank Anthony represented the Anglo- Indian community, and the Parsis were represented by H. P. Modi. The Chairman of the Minorities Committee was Harendra Coomar Mookerjee, a distinguished Christian who represented all Christians other than Anglo-Indians.
Ari Bahadur Gururng represented the Gorkha Community. Prominent jurists like Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, Benegal Narsing Rau and K. M. Munshi, Ganesh Mavlankar were also members of the Assembly. Sarojini Naidu, Hansa Mehta, Durgabai Deshmukh, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Vijayalakshmi Pandit were important women members. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is hailed as the prime architect of the Indian Constitution The first temporary 2-day president of the Constituent Assembly was Dr Sachidanand Sinha. Later, Rajendra Prasad was elected president of the Constituent Assembly. The members of the Constituent Assembly met for the first time on 9 December 1946.
Preamble to the Constitution of India
The preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out the guiding purpose and principles of the document. The preamble-page, along with other pages of the original Constitution of India, was designed and decorated solely by renowned painter Beohar Rammanohar Sinha of Jabalpur who was at Shantiniketan with acharya Nandalal Bose at that time. Nandalal Bose endorsed Beohar Rammanohar Sinha’s artwork without any alteration whatsoever. As such, the page bears Beohar Rammanohar Sinha’s short signature Ram in Devanagari lower-right corner.
The preamble is not an integral part of the Indian constitution was first decided by the Supreme Court of India in BeruBari case therefore it is not enforceable in a court of law. However, Supreme Court of India has, in the Kesavananda case, recognised that the preamble may be used to interpret ambiguous areas of the constitution where differing interpretations present themselves. In the 1995 case of Union Government Vs LIC of India also the Supreme Court has once again held that Preamble is the integral part of the Constitution. As originally enacted the preamble described the state as a “sovereign democratic republic”. In 1976 the Forty-second Amendment changed this to read “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”.