On 17 October 1949, the Constituent Assembly took up the preamble of the Draft Constitution for discussion – based on the Objectives Resolution introduced by Nehru on 13 December 1946 and passed by the Assembly on 22 January 1947.
Members seem to have anticipated that an amendment related to ‘god’ would be moved by H.V. Kamath. Purnima Banerji seemed quite perturbed by this and appealed to Kamath to not move his amendment – Kamath did not oblige. He proposed that the preamble begin with the words ‘In the name of God’. Members opposed the amendment in two ways.
First, members felt that Kamath’s amendments put the Assembly in a position of ‘embarrassment of having to vote upon god’. Thirumala Rao said:
This is a thing of such vital importance and affects the life of the whole nation, that it should not be subjected to the vote of a House of three hundred people whether India wants God or not
Second, members like Kunzru, felt that Kamath’s amendment forced belief in god on Indians:
…but I do not see why in a matter that vitally concerns every man individually, the collective view should be forced on anybody. Such a course of action is inconsistent with the Preamble which promises liberty to thought, expression, belief, faith and worship to everyone. How can we deal with this question in a narrow spirit? We invoke the name of God, but I make bold to say that while we do so, we are showing a narrow, sectarian spirit, which is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution and which we should try to forget at this time when we have reached the end of a very important stage of our
After moving his amendment, Kamath and went even further and adopted religious idioms in his speech and said: ‘let us consecrate this Constitution by a Solemn dedication to God in the spirit of the Gita’ and recites a few lines of the scripture. He then told members: ‘Whatever our shortcomings, whatever the defects and errors of this Constitution let us pray that God will give us strength, courage and wisdom’
There were some members who supported the amendment. Shibban Lal Saxena came to Kamath’s defence and argued that there were other constitutions that like the Irish one which mentioned god in its preamble. He tried to turn Saxena’s coercion argument on its head and said ‘… but why force others who feel intensely in the matter to eliminate God’s name’
In the end the President of the Assembly put the Kamath’s amendment to vote. A division of votes was demand. 41 members voted against Kamath’s amendment and 68 voted in favour.
Defeated, Kamath remarked: ‘This, Sir, is a black day in our annals. God save India.’.