July 1946 was an eventful month in Indian constitution-making project. First, elections to the Constituent Assembly concluded – the Congress Party emerged as the dominant political force. Second, the Muslim League, who participated in the elections, withdrew acceptance of the Cabinet Mission Plan and declared ‘Direct Action’ as the British refused to set up an interim government quickly. And third, preparations for a Constituent Assembly were underway.
Even before the elections to the Assembly had concluded, the Congress Party had one eye on the Constituent Assembly. The Congress Working Committee on 9 July 1946, appointed an Experts Committee to undertake preliminary constitution-making work. The Committee consisted of Jawaharlal Nehru (Chairman), K.M. Munshi, N Gopalsawmi Ayyangar, K.T. Shah, D.R. Gadgil, Humayun Kabir and K Santhanam. Evidently, the Congress consciously included individuals who were not Congress politicians.
This decision to begin Constituent Assembly work on its own without waiting for elections to conclude was rather odd but was in line with the Party’s objective of diving into the constitution-making head on irrespective of the prevailing political uncertainty viz a viz the British and the League.
The Experts Committee held two settings in July and submitted its recommendations that contained procedures for the election of the Assembly’s top functionaries and the setting up of important committees. But the most significant part of the recommendations was a section titled ‘Declaration of Objectives’ – the very first version of what would later become the Objectives Resolution.
The Declaration proclaimed India as an independent sovereign Republic and laid out the future Constitution’s basic principles. India would be a federated union of British India, the Princely States and other States/territories that were willing to join the union.
It also declared that the Constitution would provide justice, equality of status and freedom of thought to the ‘all people of India by law’ and would include safeguards for minorities and backward classes.
Later in the year, the Congress approved this declaration and Nehru introduced a revised version in the Assembly as the ‘Objectives Resolution’ on 13 December 1946. Six sittings of the Assembly were spent on debating the Resolution and it was finally adopted on 22 January 1947. The Resolution would later form the basis for the Constitution’s Preamble.