On 4th August 1949, the Constituent Assembly took up Draft Article 279 (Article 358, Constitution of India) – one of the emergency provisions in the Draft Constitution – for discussion. This Draft Article suspended provisions of Draft Article 13 (Article 19 of the Constitution of India) during an emergency and gave the State the power to ‘make any law or to take any executive action’ in contravention to the right to freedom of speech and other freedoms under Draft Article 13.
Shibban Lal Saxena and H.V. Kamath opposed Draft Article 279 in two ways. First, they argued that the rights mentioned in Draft Article 13 already had restrictions and these gave the State sufficient room to take actions that curtailed these rights, therefore, Draft Article 279 was not necessary. Kamath further pointed out that Draft Article 279 was redundant on another ground: Draft Article 280 (Article 379, Constitution of India) provided for the suspension of Part III (fundamental rights); since Draft Article 13 was came under this Part, Kamath argued, Draft 279 was not required.
The second concern they had was about which institution should be given the power to abrogate rights contained in Draft Article 13 – they did not want to this to be with the executive, they instead identified parliament as the sole appropriate institution.
Further, Kamath wanted clarity on the meaning of the term ‘state’ in Draft Article 279. He invoked Draft Article 7 (Article 12, Constitution of India) that defined the state as including ‘government and parliament of India, government and legislature of each state government and all local and other authorities…’. He was uncomfortable with giving all these institutions the power to act in contravention of Article 13 and again reiterated that only parliament must have this power.
Deshmukh reminded the Assembly that Draft Article 13, in addition to the right to free speech, also contained the rights to free movement, residence and settling in any part of India, acquisition of property etc. The suspension of these rights he argued is akin to declaring ‘martial law’.
B.R. Ambedkar made the last speech in the debate. On the question of institutions - he clarified that both the central and state governments would have the powers to suspend provisions of Draft Article 13; however, he did not clearly specify the institution (executive or legislature).
On the point raised by Kamath that Draft Article 279 was redundant in light of Draft Article 280, Ambedkar argued that there was a ‘misunderstanding of the whole situation’ and that ‘unless power is given to modify, the suspension has no consequence at all. Therefore article 280 deals with quite separate matter and has nothing to do with this article’. Ambedkar then urged Assembly to accept Draft 279.
The Constituent Assembly adopted the Draft Article with no amendment.