The Cabinet Mission Plan, 1946 formed the Constituent Assembly which sat for the first time on 9th December 1946. In the backdrop of suspicion and uncertainty due to several factors including partition, the Constituent Assembly had to strongly signal a constitution-making project which aimed at achieving unity and freedom. Jawaharlal Nehru aspired to realize this through the Objectives Resolution (precursor to the Preamble) which he drafted and presented to the Constituent Assembly.
On 13th December 1946, Nehru presented the draft of the Objectives Resolution which laid down the fundamental principles of the constitution-making process in the Constituent Assembly. Introducing the Resolution he said: “The Resolution states that it is our firm and solemn resolve to have a sovereign Indian republic. We have not mentioned the word 'republic' till this time; but you will well understand that a free India can be nothing but a republic.” He pointed out that this resolution did not violate Cabinet Mission Plan and laid down ‘fundamentals’ with which no group, party or individual would disagree.
Defending ‘Republic’ in the Resolution, Nehru went on to say that if India aspired to be an independent and a sovereign nation, it must inevitably be a ‘Republic’. There was no possibility of an external monarchy or local monarchies. Mr Shri Krishna Sinha supporting Nehru argued for a decentralised Republic wherein the sovereignty of the nation was with people.
The Princely Problem:
Nehru, pre-emptively addressed the concern of Princely States being displeased with ‘Republic’ in the Resolution and noted: ‘But I want to make it clear personally and the House knows that I do not believe in the monarchical system anywhere, and that in the world today monarchy is a fast disappearing institution.’ However, he went on to assure the Assembly that nothing would be imposed against the will of the Princely States and the people in those states would decide the form of administration that would govern them.
Several members of the Assembly were against the inclusion of ‘Republic’ in the Resolution. Dr.Jayakar through his amendment argued for postponing sessions until such time the Muslim League and the Princely States joined the Constituent Assembly. He noted that the decision of India becoming a ‘Republic’ was intimately connected to Muslim League and the Princely States.
Frank Anthony supporting Jayakar’s amendment argued that Nehru’s position was riddled with inconsistencies. He noted that on one hand, Nehru claimed that the inclusion of the word ‘Republic’ would indicate a form of governance which was the opposite of a monarchy but on the other hand he advocated for the people in Princely states to choose any form of government including a monarchical head.
Dr.Ambedkar expressed his disappointment with Nehru’s draft arguing that it failed to mandate a socialistic economy which was indispensable to realize social, economic and political justice. He, in fact, voiced support for Jayakar’s amendment of postponing the Assembly’s sessions.
However, Jayakar withdrew his amendment. The objectives resolution was passed on 22nd January 1947 with ‘Republic’ being a part of it.