On 16 June 1949, the Constituent Assembly took up Draft Article 301 (Article 340, Constitution of India, 1950) for debate. The Draft Article gave the President of India the power to appoint a Commission to investigate the conditions and difficulties faced by backward classes and recommend remedial measures. It directed the President to place the Commission’s report before the Parliament along with a memorandum explaining actions taken by him/her based on the recommendations.
H.V. Kamath, moving an amendment, argued that the Draft Article was wrongly putting the onus on the President to take action on the Commission’s recommendation. Parliament, not the President, was the appropriate authority to take action. He wanted Parliament to deliberate and come up with a plan for the upliftment of the backward classes. He was optimistic that in 10 years the conditions of the backward classes would significantly improve and that there would be no need for the President to appoint a Commission after this period.
Thakur Bhargava felt ‘great happiness’ in supporting the Draft Article and referred to it as the ‘soul of the constitution’. However, he expressed some concerns. He wanted the Commission to clarify and create a registry of communities that would fall under ‘backward classes’; communities after being uplifted to ‘normal standards’ must not remain under the category, he argued. He also wanted that Draft Article to be applicable to even those communities that did not enjoy reservation under the Constitution. Lastly, he proposed that the language of the Article to be amended (‘may’ to ‘shall’) so that the provision made it clear that the President was obliged to appoint a Commission – it was not a choice.
Shibban Lal Saxena too hoped for a clear definition of ‘backward classes’ and supported Kamath’s proposal of putting the onus on the Parliament - not the President- to ‘consider ways and means of removing backwardness of the people’.
After the debate, the proposed amendments were put to vote – all were rejected except the one moved by Ambedkar: ‘Parliament’ was substituted by ‘both houses of Parliament’. The Constituent Assembly adopted the amended Draft Article