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Constitution of India History, Evolution, Features, Timeline

What is a Constitution?

A Constitution is central to the administration of the country and to the existence and functioning of a country as a politico-legal entity. They are a set of rules and regulations for a state which set out the fundamental principles by which the state is governed.

It describes the main institution of the state (Executive, Legislature & Judiciary) and the relationship between these institutions. It places limits on the exercise of power and set out the rights and duties of the citizens.

Difference Between Constitution & Law

The Constitution of a nation is the supreme law of the land whereas Law is a set of rules to govern social and government institutions, however, there is no precise definition of it.

 Constitution v/s Laws
They are the set of fundamental laws and guidelines that set down how a country should be governed. It is the supreme law of the land. Definition Law is commonly understood as a system of rules that are created and enforced through social or governmental institutions to regulate conduct.
The objective of the constitution is to establish a governance framework based on some fundamental and established core values Objective The objective of the law is to create a system of rules that are upheld by social and governmental institutions to regulate the conduct of society.
It provides for the coverage of the basic political code, framework, mechanism, power and obligation of the public institutions. It also provides fundamental rights, directive principles, fundamental duties etc. Inclusion Law includes the constitution, legal presiding, and related legislative rules and conventions. E.g., Right to Education, Right to Information, CrPC, IPC etc.
There are various types of constitutions as Monarchial, Republic, Parliamentary, Federal, Unitary, Political & Legal Constitution Forms Different types of laws are Criminal law, Contract law, Administrative Law etc.

Read about: Important Articles of Indian Constitution

Purpose of Constitution

Rule of Law: Constitution establishes the doctrine of the Rule of Law at the place of the Rule of man. It is an important feature of a democracy, as in a democracy the power lies with the people.

Doctrine of Limited Government: it ensures that there should be legal constraints on the powers of government authorities, especially with respect to the rights of the people. It checks the arbitrary decisions of the authorities by providing the citizens with Fundamental Rights and an Independent Judiciary for its protection.

Ensure Fundamental Rights to its Citizens:  As Fundamental Rights provided to the citizens ensure rule of law by limiting the arbitrary actions of the government. Hence, it provides political freedom to the citizens.

Doctrine of Separation of Power and Checks & Balance:  It ensures the division of the functions of the three organs of the constitution and each checks and balances the functioning of other organs.

Independent Judiciary: Any constitution that wants to safeguard its citizens’ rights must protect and ensure the independence of the judiciary.

Read about: Preamble of Indian Constitution

Constitution Types

The Constitution helps check the country’s legal, political and social functions in different ways. Below are the types of constitutions:

Type Details
Codified Constitution Almost all constitutions are “codified”, meaning they are written down clearly in a specific document called “the constitution”. 
Uncodified Constitution However, some countries, such as Israel, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have “uncodified” constitutions, which means they are unwritten.
Procedural Constitution Here, the constitution mentions government agencies’ legal and political structures and lays out the legal limits for government power to protect democratic processes and fundamental human rights.
Perspective Constitution It provides a collective vision of what might be considered a good society based on a homogeneous community’s common values and aspirations.

Read about: Constitution Day of India

Constitution Features

There are some important features that are typically contained in the Constitution:

Constitution Features

Constitution of India History

In 1600, the British arrived in India as traders in the form of the East India Company (EIC). Under a Charter granted by Queen Elizabeth I, the company had the exclusive rights to trading in India. Initially, they only engaged in trading and were not motivated by political gains. However, this scenario changed after their victory in the Battle of Buxar in 1764.

The company which until now was only engaged in trade gained Diwani rights (rights over revenue) of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. This marked the rise of EIC as a territorial force. The company went on to administer India till 1858 when the British Crown directly assumed control of India’s affairs in the wake of the ‘Revolt of 1857’. The British government went on to rule India till its independence on August 15, 1947.

India’s independence necessitated a Constitution for the country. In 1946, the Constituent Assembly was formed to draft the constitution. The Indian Constitution came into being on 26th January 1950.

Read about: 42nd Amendment of Indian Constitution

Evolution of Indian Constitution

The evolution of the Constitution of India can be traced back to various acts and policies were undertaken by the Company and the British administration. The constitution of India came into force on January 26, 1950 under Dr BR Ambedkar (Farther of the Constitution of India) and transformed the Dominion of India into the Republic of India. It had been drafted, discussed, and finalised by the Constituent Assembly between 1946 and 1949. The evolution can be studied under two broad timelines:

  1. The Company rule (1773-1858)
  2. The Crown rule (1858-1947)

Evolution Of The Indian Constitution

Constitution of India History – Regulating Act of 1773

Due to the inefficiency of the dual system introduced by Robert Clive in 1765 British parliament considered it important to regulate the affairs of the company and passed the Regulating Act of 1773.

It was the first step by the British parliament to regulate and control the affairs of the East India Company. It laid the foundation of centralised administration in India by making the Governors of Bombay and Madras presidencies subordinate to the Governor-General of Bengal. For the first time ever, the political and administrative functions of the company in India were officially recognised.

Constitution of India History – Pitt’s India Act of 1784

The Pitts India Act 1784 was passed by the British parliament to fix the flaws of the Regulating Act, of 1773.  It was in continuation of the policy of decentralisation of administration which began by enacting the Regulating Act, of 1773.

It introduced the system of double government. A Board of Control was created for managing political affairs and the Court of directors was entrusted with managing only the commercial affairs of the company.

Constitution of India History – Charter Act of 1793

The Charter Act of 1793 was passed by the British Parliament to renew the charter of the East India Company. This act authorised the trade monopoly of the company with India for the next 20 years.

Constitution of India History – Charter Act of 1813

The Charter Act of 1813 was passed to renew the company’s charter for another 20 years. The company’s monopoly to trade in the east was severely opposed by the local British merchants including some parliamentarians. It ended the trade monopoly of the company except for trade in tea and trade with China.

Constitution of India History – Charter Act of 1833

Centralization of the Indian administration reached its zenith after the elevation of the Governor General of Bengal as the Governor-General of India. India’s first Law commission was constituted which was responsible for drafting the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which was enacted later in 1860.

Constitution of India History – Charter Act of 1853

The Charter Act of 1853 was the last charter act passed by the British parliament. It was the first step towards the inclusion of Indians in administration and law-making. The governor-general’s Council’s legislative and executive functions were separated for the first time.

A separate Indian (Central) legislative council was constituted which included 6 members as legislative councillors. The Indian (Central) Legislative Council was like a small Parliament (along the same lines as the British Parliament).

Constitution of India History – Government of India Act, 1858

The Government of India Act, 1858 is also known as the Act of Good Government of India. The act was enacted to transfer the powers of the government, administration, revenue and territories to the British crown. Its objective was to keep the Indian Government in check. However, no substantial changes were brought in the system of Governance which prevailed in India.

Constitution of India History – Indian Councils Act 1861

Indian Councils Act 1861 marked the beginning of representative institutions by associating Indians with the law-making process.  It reversed the policy of centralisation under the Company’s rule which was started by the Regulating Act of 1773 and reached its climax under the Charter Act of 1833.

Constitution of India History – Indian Councils Act 1892

Indian Councils Act 1892: In a very limited sense, it initiated the principle of representation. As a result, the number of Indians increased in the legislative councils. This enabled leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale to enter the councils and enhance political consciousness among the masses.

Constitution of India History – Indian Councils Act 1909

Indian Councils Act 1909: Also called the Minto-Morley reforms Indians were given membership in the Imperial Legislative Council for the first time. This act legalised ‘Communalism’, and Lord Minto came to be known as the Father of Communal Electorate in India.

Constitution of India History – Government of India Act 1919

The Government of India Act of 1919 was based on the recommendations of a report by Edwin Montague, the then Secretary of State for India, and Lord Chelmsford. It led to the seed for the formation of the Indian Constitution.

The Government of India Act intended to bring a completely responsible government to the British Indian provinces. Large-scale elections were also conducted for the first time in all the provinces in 1937 as per the provisions of the Act. Many of the provisions and the framework of the Indian constitution have been taken from this act, and hence, this act is also called theMini Constitution’.

Constitution of India History – Indian Independence Act of 1947

The Mountbatten Plan was accepted by all parties. The INC initially opposed the partition of the country but finally accepted it as an inevitable process. The plan was accepted by both INC and the Muslim League. The proposal was given immediate effect by enacting the Indian Independence Act 1947.

Historical Background of Indian Constitution

India is the largest democracy in the world, living and breathing in the air of sovereignty has been gifted with the lengthiest constitution of the world that consists of 448 Articles (395 originally), 25 Parts (22 originally), 12 Schedules (8 originally), 105 constitutional amendments (first was enacted in 1950).  The Story behind the making of the Indian Constitution receives a significant position in the history of India.

Government of India Act 1919: It announced that in 10 years from 1919, a royal commission will be set up to report on the working of the particular act, though the commission was appointed in 1928, even though it was to be appointed in 1929 as per the 1919 Act.

Indian Statutory Commission: Also came to known as Simon Commission’, was a group of seven Members of the British Parliament under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon. The commission arrived in India in 1928 to study constitutional reform in Britain’s largest and most important dominion. The purpose of this commission was to report on the working of the Indian established under the Government of India Act 1919 and to decide the political future of India.

Indians Response: The Indian National Congress along with the Muslim League boycotted the commission as a result of the protest Lord Birkenhead, the Secretary of State of India challenged Indian leaders to draft a Constitution for India which was accepted by the Indian leaders.

First Major Attempt: A committee was appointed with the task to draft Indian Constitution. The committee was under the leadership of Motilal Nehru with Jawaharlal Nehru as Secretary, Ali Imam, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Mangal Singh, M S Aney, Subhas Chandra Bose, Shuaib Qureshi and G R Pradhan where the other members. The draft of the constitution prepared by the committee was called the Nehru Committee Report or Nehru Report. The report was submitted in the Lucknow session of the all-party conference on August 28, 1928. This was the first major attempt by Indians to draft a constitution for India.

Demand of Constituent Assembly: The seed for the formation of the constituent assembly was sown initially in 1934 by the Pioneer of the Indian Communist Leader Mahendra Nath Roy (M.N Roy). Later, in 1935, the Indian National Congress (INC) officially demanded the setting up of a  for framing the Constitution of India.

British Response: In early 1940, the British responded to the above demand and proposed August Offer this proposal included the establishment of an advisory war council, the inclusion of more Indians in administration, and recognized the right of Indians to frame their own Constitution after the end of the Second World War. The offer was, rejected by both Congress Working Committee and the Muslim League.

Cripps Mission: The Cripps Mission, headed by Sir Stafford Cripps, was sent in March 1942. It was entrusted with drafting a draft proposal on the framing of an independent constitution after the end of World War II. However, it also failed in its objective.

Cabinet Mission: In 1946, the Cabinet Mission came to India with the aim to discuss the transfer of power from the British Government to the Indian leadership, with the aim of preserving India’s unity and granting it independence.

It held discussions with representatives of British India and the Indian States to set up a Constituent body. And, also put forth a scheme for the formation of the Constituent Assembly. Based on the recommendation the Constituent Assembly was formed on December 1946.

Indian Constitution Timeline

Here is the Timeline of the formation of the Indian Constitution:

Constitution Timeline

Indian Constitution Time Taken

Before the Constitution was formed, the legislations that governed the functioning of Indian provinces were the Indian Independence Act of 1947 and the Government of India Act of 1935 which were repealed after the commencement of the Constitution on 26 January 1950.

The constituent assembly was constituted on November 1946 and the first meeting of the constituent assembly was held on December 1946. Under the chairmanship of Dr. BR Ambedkar, the constituent assembly established a drafting committee to come up with a draft of the Constitution for India

It took around 11 sessions and 167 days, precisely 2 years 11 months and 18 days to prepare the final draft of the constitution with a total of 2000 amendments (approx.)

Constitution Makers of India

India under British rule had two types of territories, the British Provinces & the Princely States. The constituent assembly was formed on the basis of the population of a region, hence there was one representative for 10 lakh people.

So, there were 398 representatives from the entire country of which 296 were from the British Province and 93 were from the Princely states. Although the Princely states dint took part in the constituent assembly which left 296 members from the British provinces in the constituent assembly.

The drafting committee of the Constitution had seven members namely Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, N. Gopalaswami, B.R. Ambedkar (Chairman of the drafting committee.), K.M Munshi, Mohammad Saadulla, B.L. Mitter, D.P. Khaitan.

Note: B.L.Mitter resigned due to health issues and he was replaced by N Madhav Rau. D.P. Khaitan died in 1948 and got replaced by TT Krishnamachari.

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What constitution means?

A constitution is the rule book for a state. It sets out the fundamental principles by which the state is governed.

Who is the father of Indian Constitution?

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is known as the father of the Indian Constitution

Which is the smallest Constitution?

The Indonesian Constitution

Who is the mother of Constitution of India ?

Bhikaiji Rustom Cama

Who wrote India's first Constitution?

Prem Behari Narain Raizada was the calligrapher of the Indian Constitution. The original constitution was handwritten by him in a flowing italic style.

What is the meaning of the constitution?

They are rules and regulations on which a country is governed.

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