The demand for a Constituent Assembly to draft a constitution for India was a core strand of the anti-colonial freedom movement. The Assembly was created in 1946 by the British Cabinet Mission Plan, which also contained provisions on the Assembly’s functioning and composition.
While Hindus (94.6%) dominated the Assembly, members from other major religious communities also found a place in the Constituent Assembly. These included Christians, Parsees, Sikhs and Muslims represented by individuals like Frank Anthony, Minoo Masani, G Gurmukh Singh, and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. On the gender front, the Assembly was male-dominated; only 15 members were women. Some of the key women Assembly members included Hansa Mehta, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Dakshayani Velayudhan.
We do not have sufficient data to get a sense of the exact caste composition. However, it appears that the Assembly was dominated by upper castes. That is not to say that members from lower-caste backgrounds were not represented. B.R. Ambedkar, who arguably played the most critical role in the Assembly, was a Dalit. Other Dalit members included S. Nagappa and Dakshayani Velayudhan, who incidentally was the only Dalit woman in the Assembly.
229 members of the Assembly came from the 12 British Indian provinces to the Constituent Assembly. The Princely States were represented by 70 individuals. Six members were from the backward tribes. Close to 80% of members were elected on a Congress ticket, but there was great ideological diversity within the party. This can be said of the Constituent Assembly as a whole as well. K.T. Shah was a socialist and came from the left, Syama Prasad Mookerjee, President of the Hindu Mahasabha, was from the right, and so was Thakur Das Bhargava and K.M. Munshi. There were liberals too, like Minoo Masani.
On 9 December 1946, the Constituent Assembly sat for the first time. In the span of 2 years and 11 months, it completed its task of framing the Indian Constitution. During this period the Constituent Assembly had 11 sessions and sat for a total of 166 days.
A major chunk of deliberations of the Constituent Assembly was on the Draft Constitution(s) prepared by the Drafting Committee. Members of the Constituent Assembly proposed amendments which had to be submitted in advance to the Chairman, and these were debated at length. At the end of a debate around an Article of the Draft Constitution, the Constituent Assembly either adopted or rejected amendments. It took decisions through a majority vote.
The Assembly adopted the Constitution of India, 1950 after 166 days of deliberation over the course of 2 years and 11 months. The drafting of the Indian Constitution took place at two levels: committees and plenary. The committees comprised of smaller groups of Assembly members tasked to prepare draft articles, reports and notes, on specific parts of the Constitution. At the plenary level, the Assembly sat in full strength and discussed the reports of various committees. Amendments were moved, debated, dropped and adopted.
- The Framing of India’s Constitution 1966, Vol. 1-5 by B. Shiva Rao
- The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a Nation by Granville Austin