This marked the beginning of the last stage of the Indian constitution-making project. During this ‘third reading’ period, members of the Constituent Assembly made long speeches reflecting on the constitution-making process and expressed their views on different aspects of the Draft Constitution: while most were satisfied, some were critical. Discontent in the Constituent Assembly took two forms: first - on principles/Articles of in the Draft Constitution, and second - the working of the Drafting Committee. In this article, I highlight two instances of the latter.
K. Hanumanthaiya, who would be later become the second Chief Minister of Karnataka, pointed out that members of the Drafting Committee while being learned and skilled for constitution making were not part of the freedom movement. He further doubted if they had any sympathy for the freedom movement. This, according to Hanumanthaiya, along with the Drafting Committee’s legally oriented approach resulted in the Constitution looking foreign rather than indigenous (‘we wanted the music of the Veena or Sitar, but here we have the music of an English band’).
Naziruddin Ahmad argued that the manner in which the Draft Constitution was being revised during the last stages of the constitution-making process was faulty: the Draft Constitution had a ‘number of errors, anomalies, redundancies and repetitions’. He placed the blame for this on the Drafting Committee and further said that the Constituent Assembly has ‘.. taken considerable liberties with English grammar including punctuation and the wording of the Constitution.. ’. This he believed had serious consequences and went on to give some examples of these drafting defects: the ambiguous use of the term ‘State’ and the unnecessary ‘Dominion of India’ instead of just India. Also, at various points in his speech Naziruddin insinuated that the Drafting Committee made last minute changes to the Draft Constitution without the Constituent Assembly being informed or taken onboard.
These examples of the criticism towards the Drafting Committee are interesting in that they bring into question the legitimacy, competence and accountability of the Drafting Committee viz-a-viz the constitution-making process. The majority of the Constituent Assembly, however, did not take this line. Most of the members (including the critics) acknowledged and were grateful for the work put in by the Drafting Committee and supported the adoption of the Draft Constitution.