The essentials of this scheme were:
(i) Each province and each Indian State or group of States were allotted the total number of seats proportional to their respective population roughly in the ratio of one to a million. The Constituent Assembly thus created had 389 members in all, including 93 representatives of the India States.
(ii) The seats in each province were distributed among the three main communities, Muslim, Sikh and General, in proportion to their respective population.
(iii) Members of each community in the Provincial Legislative Assembly elected their own representatives by the method of proportional representation with single transferable vote.
(iv) The method of selection in the case of representatives of Indian States was to be determined by consultation.
The Constituent Assembly, as established in 1946 according to the Cabinet Mission Plan, was not a sovereign body. Its authority was limited both in respect of the basic principles and procedure. According to the Indian Independence Act of 1947, the Constituent Assembly became a sovereign body and all other limitations imposed upon it under the Cabinet Mission Plan were lifted.
Working of Constituent Assembly
The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly was held on December 9, 1946 under the chairmanship of Dr. Sachidanand Sinha, the eldest member of the Assembly. On December 11, 1946, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected its permanent Chairman. The Muslim League boycotted it. The work of the Constituent Assembly was seriously handicapped.
The situation in the country deteriorated seriously. Communal riots broke out throughout the country and the whole situation culminated in the sad partitioning of the country in accordance with the Mountbatten Plan of June 3, 1947.
The Constituent Assembly minus the Muslim League members re-started the work. The Constituent Assembly of India then consisted of about 300 members, including the representatives of the states acceding to India.
The method which the Constituent Assembly adopted was to lay down first its objectives. This was done in the form of an "Objective Resolution" moved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on December 13, 1946.
The objectives of the Constituent Assembly were :
(i) India was to be an independent sovereign republic in which both British India and the princely states were to be included.
(ii) Each unit was to be given a certain amount of autonomy as well as residuary powers.
(iii) All authority and powers of the States were to be derived from the people who were to be guaranteed freedom of economic and political justice, equality of status, and equality before the law. They were to be guaranteed freedom of thought, vocation, association, expression, belief, faith, worship and action subject to law and morality.
(iv) The minorities and backward and tribal people were to be provided adequate safeguards. Between December 9, 1946 and August 14, 1947, five sessions of the Constituent Assembly were held. In accordance with Indian Independence Act, of 1947, the Constituent Assembly became a sovereign body. It was no longer to confine itself to the limitations laid down by the Cabinet Mission. On August 29, 1947, the Assembly set up a Drafting Committee to consider the draft constitution. The Committee consisted of eminent constitutionalists like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (Chairman), Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, Syed Mohammad Saadullah, T.T. Krishnamachari, K.M. Munshi, and Sir B.L. Mittar who was on 5, December 1947 replaced by N. Madhava Rao Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected President of the Assembly.
Commencement of the Constitution
The Constitution received the signature of the President of the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and was declared as passed. The provisions relating to citizenship, elections, provisional Parliament, temporary and transitional provisions were given immediate effect. The rest of the Constitution came into effect on 26 January 1950 and this date is referred to in the Constitution as the date of its commencement. The original Constitution is a voluminous document containing 395 Articles and eight Schedules. A number of other Articles and Schedules were added by some constitutional amendments made thereto after its promulgation.
Features Adopted From Different Constitutions
The Indian Constitution-makers tried to adopt the best features from the important Constitutions of the world. Mainly, we have adopted features of the Constitutions of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Ireland, etc.
Following are the main influences of these Constitutions:
British Constitution: We have adopted the following features of the Constitution of the United Kingdom:
(i) The office of the President of India is based upon that of the British Queen who is the nominal head of the state.
(ii) The Cabinet system of government in India is based upon the Cabinet system as prevailing in the United Kingdom.
(iii) Our Prime Minister is also a replica of the British Prime Minister.
(iv) Just like the United Kingdom, our Parliament is also bicameral, i.e., it has two Houses, the Lower House and the Upper House.
(v) The Lok Sabha, the Lower House of Parliament of India, is as powerful as the House of Commons.
(vi) As in the United Kingdom, the Council of Ministers is mainly responsible to the Lower House, i.e., the Lok Sabha.
(vii) Like the United Kingdom, the presiding officer of the Lok Sabha is also known as the Speaker. Some of his powers resemble those of the Speaker
of the House of Commons in U.K.
(viii) The privileges of members of Parliament in India are also based upon their counterparts in the United Kingdom.
American Constitution: Following features of our Constitution have been adopted from the American Constitution:
(i) Our Constitution is a written one like that of the United States.
(ii) The federal system of government in India influenced by the American Constitution.
(iii) The fundamental rights in our Constitution are inspired by the American Constitution.
(iv) Like the American head of state our head of state is also known as President.
(v) Like the American Constitution we have also made a provision for a Supreme Court of India.
(vi) Our provinces are known as States after the American State under the Constitution of the United States.
(vii) Just like the Senate of the United States the Rajya Sabha in India also represents the States.
Constitution of Canada: From Canada, we have adopted the scheme of the federation. Influenced by the Constitution of Canada, India is also known as a "Union of States" and not as "United State of India" as is the case with the United States of America.
Constitution of Ireland: From Ireland, we have adopted the concept of Directive Principles of State Policy. Ireland itself had borrowed the principle from the Republican Constitution of Spain.
Fig: Borrowed features of Indian constitutionAlthough our Constitution-makers borrowed these provisions from many foreign Constitutions, they have tried to make the Indian Constitution a document which is most suitable to the Indian conditions and environment. According to Jawaharlal Nehru, "in any event, whatever system of government we may establish here must fit in with the temper of our people and be acceptable to them."