Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
and Defence Minister Baldev Singh at the first
Republic Day parade on January 26, 1950.
Though India obtained its independence on August 15,
1947, it did not yet have a permanent constitution; instead, its laws were
based on the modified colonial Government of India Act 1935, and the country
was a Dominion, with George VI as head of state and Earl Mountbatten as Governor
General. On August 29, 1947, the Drafting Committee was appointed to draft
a permanent constitution, with Dr. Ambedkar as the Chairman. A Draft Constitution
was prepared by the committee and submitted to the Assembly on November 4,
1947. The Assembly met, in sessions open to public, for 166 days, spread over
a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution.
After many deliberations and some modifications, the 308 members of the Assembly
signed two hand-written copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English)
on January 24, 1950. Two days later, the Constitution of India became the
law of all the Indian lands. The Constitution of India came into effect only
on January 26, 1950. Following January 26, 1950, Rajendra Prasad was elected
as the president of India. This was, in fact, a deliberate act, signing the
constitution on 26th January, to mark and respect the freedom fighters who
wanted 26 January as India's initial independence day.
3500 strong contingent of Swayamsevaks
in uniform, with band,
forming a colorful part of the Republic Day Parade, Delhi, 1963.
Granville Austin has described the Indian Constitution drafted
by Dr. Ambedkar as 'first and foremost a social document.' ... 'The majority
of India's constitutional provisions are either directly arrived at furthering
the aim of social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing
conditions necessary for its achievement.'
The amending mechanism was lauded even at the time of introduction
by Dr. Ambedkar in the following words: "We can therefore safely say
that the Indian federation will not suffer from the faults of rigidity or legalism.
Its distinguished feature is that it is a flexible federation." (CAD
VII : 36).
"The three mechanisms of the system derived by the
Assembly, contrary to the predictions, have made the constitution flexible at
the same time protected the rights of the states. They have worked better than
the amending process in any other country where Federalism and the British Parliamentary
system jointly formed the basis of the constitution" -- Granville
Austin, 1966, 321.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
What Sir Anthony Eden, the Prime Minister of Britain (April
1955 to January 1957), said at the time of the emergence of Indian Republic
is relevant in this context. He said, "Of all the experiments in government,
which have been attempted since the beginning of time, I believe that the Indian
venture into parliamentary government is the most exciting. A vast subcontinent
is attempting to apply to its tens and thousands of millions a system of free
democracy... It is a brave thing to try to do so. The Indian venture is not
a pale imitation of our practice at home, but a magnified and multiplied reproduction
on a scale we have never dreamt of. If it succeeds, its influence on Asia is
incalculable for good. Whatever the outcome we must honour those who attempt
Even more meaningful was the opinion expressed by an American
Constitutional authority, Granville Austin, who wrote that what the Indian Constituent
Assembly began was ‘perhaps the greatest political venture since that
originated in Philadelphia in 1787.’
A scene from of the first Republic Day Parade, 1950
"During recent years, it has become fashionable among
some citizens to disparage the founders and their document. These individuals
disappointed by the developments in the country since 1950, have called for
changing the constitution explaining that it has not 'worked'. Such thinking,
in my view, is misguided. Constitutions do not 'work', they are inert, dependent
upon being 'worked' by citizens and elected and appointed leaders" -Granville