Jagat Narain Lal was born on 21 July 1894 in a small town in Bihar. His family were constantly on the move, shifting from town to town. Lal was tutored at home for the most part, though he joined the formal education system for high school. In 1910, he graduated from Irwin Christian College and subsequently received his post-graduate degree in economics and law from Allahabad University.
In 1918, he began practising law in Patna High Court while also teaching economics at Bihar Vidyapith. He wrote extensively on spirituality and politic. He served as the editor of ‘Mahavir’, a magazine till 1928.
Role in India’s Independence Movement:
Lal was a prominent Indian National Congress leader, particularly well known in Bihar. Much like other leaders of the freedom struggle, he was arrested for participating in the Non-Cooperation, Civil Disobedience and Quit India movements.
Lal was a Hindu Mahasabha member too and became its general secretary in 1926. In 1932, while in prison, Lal wrote a letter to B.S. Moonje, a Mahasabha leader, mulling over his dual membership of the Mahasabha and the Congress,
“Having lived and moved together sufficiently well to be able to understand and appreciate each other's mentality I think you do know and feel that my differences with the Congress and Mahatma Gandhi all along has been mainly on the Hindu Muslim Question. In all other respects my mentality almost fully agrees with his [Mahatma Gandhi] programme.”
He began to veer away from Hindu Mahasabha in the 1930s and completely severed ties in 1937 when he contested the provincial assembly elections in Bihar on a Congress party ticket and defeated a Mahasabha candidate.
He joined the Servants of Hindu Society to continue working on the protection of the Hindu interests.
Contribution to Constitution Making:
Jagat Narain Lal was elected to the Constituent Assembly from Bihar on a Congress party ticket. He intervened on issues such as freedom of press, freedom of religion, reservations and emergency powers of the President.
Jagat Narain Lal was active in politics post-independence as well. In 1957 he was the Minister for law and animal husbandry.
Lal was a member of the Steering Committee and was appointed to the Dar Commission on linguistic reorganisation of states in 1948.
- While discussing legislative powers to regulate newspapers, Lal argued that as an advanced country, India must guarantee full freedom of speech and expression for its citizens.
- Lal observed that the Draft Constitution contained one of the widest clauses in the world guaranteeing freedom of religion which also enshrined the right to propagate religion. He proposed that to safeguard the interests of the majority religions, there was a need to prohibit the conversion of minor children.