Constituent Assembly and The Indian Independence Act of 1947

Changes by the Independence Act

The representatives of the princely states, who had stayed away from the Constituent Assembly, gradually joined it. On April 28, 1947, representatives of the six states were part of the Assembly. After the acceptance of the Mountbatten Plan of June 3, 1947, for the partition of the country, the representatives of most of the other princely states took their seats in the Assembly. The members of the Muslim League from the Indian Dominion also entered the Assembly.
The Indian Independence Act of 1947 made the following three changes in the position of the Assembly:

  1. The Assembly was made a fully sovereign body, which could frame any Constitution it pleased. The act empowered the Assembly to abrogate or alter any law made by the British Parliament in relation to India.
  2. The Assembly also became a legislative body. In other words, two separate functions were assigned to the Assembly, that is, making of the Constitution for free India and enacting of ordinary laws for the country. These two tasks were to be performed on separate days. Thus, the Assembly became the first Parliament of free India (Dominion Legislature). Whenever the Assembly met as the Constituent body it was chaired by Dr. Rajendra Prasad and when it met as the legislative body, it was chaired by G.V. Mavlankar. These two functions continued till November 26, 1949, when the task of making the Constitution was over.
  3. The Muslim League members (hailing from the areas included in the Pakistan) withdrew from the Constituent Assembly for India. Consequently, the total strength of the Assembly came down to 299 as against 389 originally fixed in 1946 under the Cabinet Mission Plan. The strength of the Indian provinces (formerly British Provinces) was reduced from 296 to 229 and those of the princely states from 93 to 70.

Other Functions Performed

In addition to the making of the Constitution and enacting of ordinary laws, the Constituent Assembly also performed the following functions:

  1. It ratified the India’s membership of the Commonwealth in May 1949.
  2. It adopted the national flag on July 22, 1947.
  3. It adopted the national anthem on January 24, 1950.
  4. It adopted the national song on January 24, 1950.
  5. It elected Dr. Rajendra Prasad as the first President of India on January 24, 1950.

In all, the Constituent Assembly had 11 sessions over two years, 11 months and 18 days. The Constitution-makers had gone through the Constitutions of about 60 countries, and the Draft Constitution was considered for 114 days. The total expenditure incurred on making the Constitution amounted to ₹64 lakh.

On January 24, 1950, the Constituent Assembly held its final session. It, however, did not end, and continued as the provisional parliament of India from January 26, 1950, till the formation of new Parliament after the first general elections in 1951–52.

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