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M. R. Masani
1905 - 1998

Early Life:

Minocher Rustom Masani, popularly known as Minoo Masani, was born on 20th November 1905. He attended Cathedral High School and New High School in Bombay. He went on to study at Elphinstone College, London School of Economics and Lincoln’s Inn. After a brief stint at the Bombay Bar, he gave up his law practice to join the freedom movement.

 

Role in India’s Independence Movement:

In 1932, Masani took part in the civil disobedience movement and was imprisoned. In 1933 he was arrested and jailed at Central Prison in Nasik for disregarding the British ban on meetings. During his time in Nasik Prison, he met Jayaprakash Narayan, Achyut Patwardhan, and Yusuf Meherally; the three together formed the Congress Socialist Party, a left-wing group of the Indian National Congress that participated in the freedom movement. He actively took part in the Quit India movement in 1942 for which he was jailed.

 

Contribution to Constitution Making:

Masani was one of the socialists to be elected to the Constituent Assembly on a Congress ticket from Bombay. His interventions in the debates were often informed by socialism. In addition to his interventions on the objectives resolution and the abolition of titles, he also argued for the removal of certain restrictions relating to religion under the Special Marriage Act, arguing that the legislation was ultra vires of the Constitution.
 

Later Contributions:

After independence, he was posted as India’s ambassador to Brazil. For a period of 7 years, between 1963 and 1971, he was a member of the Lok Sabha.

 

He set up several advocacy organizations including the Leslie Sawhny Programme for Training in Democracy, Society for the Right to Die with Dignity and Project for Economic Education.

 

Five years after India’s independence, Masani founded  Freedom First, a liberal monthly magazine. During the emergency, Masani as the editor of Freedom First successfully challenged the censorship order in 1976 in the Bombay High Court.

 

Key Writings:

In addition to his writings in Freedom First,  Masani authored several books: Our India; Bliss Was it in That Dawn: A Political Memoir Up to Independence; Against the Tide; We Indians; Our Growing Human Family; and Prague (Let's Go).

  1. Member, Advisory Committee;
  2. Member, Union Powers Committee; and
  3. Member, Sub-Committee on Fundamental Rights.

  1. During his response to Nehru’s Objectives Resolution, he made observations on the absence of ‘socialism’ and ‘democracy’ in the Resolution.
  2. When the Assembly was debating Article 18, which dealt with the abolition of titles, Masani argued for the abolition of heritable titles. Also, he introduced an amendment to distinguish citizens and persons holding office under the State which allowed diplomats to accept ‘appreciation from foreign Governments’.