To Tide Economic Crisis, Constituent Assembly Made Temporary Exception To India’s Federal Structure
The abrogation of Article 370 has generated some attention over the Part 21 - Temporary, Transitional and Special Provisions – of the Constitution. The framers of this Constitution felt that such a Part was required for India to smoothly transition from a dominion into a Constitutional republic, and to deal with certain political and economic circumstances of the time.
In this post, we take a look at how the framers debated Article 306 of the Draft Constitution 1948. In the late 1940s, India, and indeed the world, was facing an economic crisis – arguably the result of the afterglow of world war II. During the constitution-making process, the framers had decided that India would be a federal republic – the Constitution would clearly define the distinctions between powers of the Union and State governments. However, in light of the economic crisis, the Constitution added Draft Article 306 that made an exception to this federal scheme.
On 7th October 1949, the Constituent Assembly of India took up Draft Article 306 (Article 369, Constitution of India, 1950) for debate. The Draft Article gave the Union government the power to make laws on certain matters that were in the State List for a transitional period of five years from the commencement of the Constitution. These matters included the production of essential items – like cotton, coal, steel etc. – that were critical to the economy.
Brajeshwar Prasad argued that the Drafting Committee had underestimated the scale of the economic crisis and the measures required to face it. He believed that the crisis was ‘…not only of a national character. It has international bearing.’ and identified the emergence of capitalism and the after-effects of the second world war as root causes. Prasad, considering the magnitude of the problem, felt that a transitional period of five years not sufficient – he wanted it had to be increased to fifteen years and then moved an amendment to this effect.