Best Notes on the Historical Background of Indian Constitution

Historical Background of Indian Constitution – The constitution is the fundamental law of a country which ordains the fundamental principles on which the government (or the governance) of that country is based. It lays down the framework and principal functions of various organs of the government as well as the modalities of the interaction between the government and its citizens.

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Historical Background of Indian Constitution

in the Historical Background of Indian Constitution, we will learn about the Indian constitutional development through different acts and reforms.

Regulating Act Of 1773

  • Governance of the East India Company was put under Parliamentary control.
  • The Governor of Bengal was nominated as Governor General for all the three Presidencies. Warren Hastings was the first such Governor General.
  • A Supreme Court was established in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Sir Elisa Hamppy was the First Chief Justice of this court.
  • The servants of the Company were forbidden to engage in private trade, accept presents or bribes, etc.

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Pitts Act Of 1784

  • A 6-member Board of Controllers was set up, headed by a British government minister. All political responsibilities were given to this board.
  • Trade and commerce-related issues were under the purview of the Court of Directors of the company.

Charter Act Of 1813

  • The company was deprived of its trade monopoly in India except in tea and trade with China. This made the Company more of an administrative body. All Englishmen could trade with India subject to few restrictions.
  • A sum of Rs. 1 lakh earmarked annually for education of Indians.
  • Further, Christian missionaries were also permitted to come to India and preach their religion.

Charter Act Of 1833

  • End of the Company’s monopoly even in tea and trade with China. The company was asked to close its commercial business at the earliest.
  • All restrictions on European immigration into India and the acquisition of land and property in India by them were removed, legalizing European colonization of India.
  • Governor General of Bengal to be Governor General of India; all powers, administrative and financial, were centralized in the hands of the Governor-General-in-Council (1st Governor General of India — Lord William Bentinck).
  • A law member (without power to vote) was added to the Executive Council of the Governor General. Macaulay was the first Law member. This increased the Council’s strength to four. With it began the Indian Legislature.
  • A law commission was constituted for the codification of laws.
  • The Act threw open to all, irrespective of religion, place of birth, descent and colour, services under the Company.
  • The Governor General and his Council were given vast powers. This Council could legislate for the whole of India subject to the approval of the Board of Controllers.

Charter Act Of 1853

  • The number of members of the Court of Directors was reduced from 24 to 18 of which 6 were to be nominated by the Crown.
  • The Law member was made a full member of the Governor-General’s Executive Council
  • Legislative and executive (administrative) functions of the Council were separately identified. The Executive Council could veto a bill of the Legislative Council.
  • Recruitment to Civil Services was based on open annual competition examination (excluding Indians).

Government Of India Act, 1858

  • British Crown decided to assume sovereignty over India from the East India Company in an apparent consequence of the Revolt of 1857
  • System of Dual government ended. Court of Directors and Board of Control abolished and substituted them with a post of Secretary of State (a member of the British cabinet). He was assisted by a 15-member council (called Indian Council). He was to exercise the powers of the Crown.
  • Secretary of State governed India through the Governor General.
  • Governor General received the title of Viceroy.
  • A unitary and highly centralized administrative structure was created. The Provincial Governments had to function under the superintendence, direction and control of the Governor General in all matters.

Indian Council Act, 1861

  • A fifth member, who was to be a jurist, was added to the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
  • 6-12 additional members to be added to the Executive Council for legislation purpose. This implied that Viceroy’s Executive Council, which was so long composed of officials, would now include certain additional non-official members. Some of non-official seats were offered to natives of high ranks. Thus, a minute element of ‘popular’ participation was introduced in the legislative process. The additional members, though, had little powers. The Executive Council was now to be called Central Legislative Council.
  • Viceroy could issue ordinances in case of emergency.
  • This is an important landmark in the constitutional history of India. It enabled the Governor General to associate representatives of the Indian people with the work of legislation by nominating them to his council. It decentralized the legislative powers of Governor General’s council and vested them in the Government of Bombay and Madras.

Indian Council Act, 1892

  • Two improvements in both the Central and the Provincial Legislative Councils were suggested:
  1. Though the majority of the official members was retained, the non-official members were to be nominated by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Provincial Legislative Councils. [The non-official members of the Provincial Councils were to be nominated by certain local bodies such as universities, district boards, municipalities]. Indian leaders like G.K. Gokhale, Ashutosh Mukherjee, Ras Bihari Ghosh and S.N. Banerjee found their way in the Legislative Council.
  2. The Councils were to have the powers to discuss the annual statement of revenue and expenditure (i.e. the budget) and of addressing questions to the Executive. They could also put questions, within certain limits, to the Government on matters of public interest after giving six days’ notice.

Indian Council Act, 1909 Or Morley-Minto Reforms

  • Morley was the Secretary of State, while Minto was the Indian Viceroy.
  • Legislative Councils, both at the Centre and in the Provinces, were expanded.
  • With regard to Central Government, an Indian member was taken in the Executive Council of the Governor General.
  • An element of election was also introduced in the Central Legislative Council, but the official majority was maintained.
  • The maximum number of additional members of the Indian Legislative Council (Governor General’s Council) was raised from 16 (under the Act of 1892) to 60 (excluding the Executive Councillors).
  • The size of the Provincial Legislative Councils were enlarged by including elected non-official members so that the official majority was gone. Their functions were also increased. Now; they could move resolutions on Budget and on some matters of public matters.
  • The most notable and retrograde change introduced was that Muslims were given separate representation. Thus, communal representation was introduced.

Government Of India Act, 1919 Or Montague-Chelmsford Reforms

  • The then Secretary of State for India Mr. E.S. Montague and the Governor General Lord Chelmsford formulated proposals for the Government of India Act, 1919.
  • The Upper House was named the Council of State. This was composed of 60 members of whom 34 were elected.
  • The Lower House was named the Legislative Assembly. This was composed of about 144 members of whom 104 were elected.
  • The Provincial Legislature was to consist of one House only (Legislative Council).
  • The number of Indians in the Governor General’s Executive Council was raised to three in a Council of eight. The Indian members were entrusted with departments such as Law, Education, Labour, Health and Industries.
  • The Centre was now to have a Bicameral Legislature for the first time. It actually happened after the 1935 Act.
  • Responsible Governments in the Provinces were to be introduced, without impairing the responsibility of the Governor through the Governor General.
  • The subjects were to be divided into two categories—Central and Provincial.
  • Central subjects were those which were exclusively kept under the control of the Central Government.
  • The provincial subjects were sub-divided into ‘transferred’ and ‘reserved’ subjects.
  • The ‘transferred subjects’ were to be administered by the Governor with the aid of Ministers responsible to the Legislative Council in which the proportion of elected members was raised to 70 per cent.
  • The ‘reserved subjects’ were to be administered by the Governor and his Executive Council with no responsibility to the Legislature.
  • The previous Central control over the provinces in administrative, legislative and financial matters was relaxed. Sources of revenue were divided into two categories so that the provinces could run the administration with the revenue raised by the provinces themselves.
  • The provinces budget was separated from the central budget.
  • The provinces legislature was empowered to present its own budget and levy its own taxes relating to the provincial sources of revenue.
  • Communal representation extended to Sikhs, Christians, Anglo-Indians, etc.
  • Secretary of State to be henceforth paid salary out of the British revenue.

Simon Commission (1927)

  • This commission headed by Sir John Simon, constituted to inquire into the working of the Act of 1919, reported in 1930. The British Parliament examined the report and the Government of India Bill was drafted in that accordance.

Government Of India Act, 1935

  • The Federal Legislature (Central Legislature) was to have two chambers (bicameral)- the Council of State and the Federal Assembly. The Council of State was to be a permanent body with one-third of its membership being vacated and renewed triennially. The Federal Assembly’s duration was fixed for five years.
  • It made a 3-fold division of powers: Federal (Central) Legislative List, Provincial Legislative List and the Concurrent Legislative List. Residuary legislative powers were subject to the discretion of the Governor General. Even if a bill was passed by the Federal Legislature, the Governor General could veto it, while even Acts assented to by the Governor General could be disallowed by the King-in-Council.
  • Provincial autonomy replaced Dyarchy in Provinces i.e., the distinction between Reserved and Transferred subjects was abolished arid full responsible government was established, subject to certain safeguards. They were granted separate legal identity.
  • The Governor was the head of the Provincial Executive and was expected to be guided by the advice of the popular ministries. However, the Act gave arbitrary powers to the Governors to act in their ‘discretion’ in certain matters.
  • The Act also provided for a Federal Court (which was established in 1937, with original and appellate powers) to interpret the Constitution. A Federal Bank (the Reserve Bank of India 1st April, 1933) was also established. The Indian Council of Secretary of State was abolished.
  • Principle of separate electorate was extended to include Anglo-Indians, Indian Christians and Europeans.
  • Burma (now Myanmar) and Aden were separated from India and two new provinces Orissa and Sind- were created.

Cripps Mission

  • In March 1942, Sir Stafford Crips, a member of The Cabinet came with a draft declaration on the proposals of the British Government.
  • These proposals were to be adopted at the end of the Second World Waded the Congress and the Muslim League accepted them.
  • The Constitution of India was to be framed by an elected Constitute Assembly of the Indian people.
  • The Constitution should give India Dominion Status.

Cabinet Mission

  • Gandhi Jee termed this mission as “Post dated cheque”, someone other added “of the bankrupt bank”.
  • There was three member in this mission, namely P.V. Alexandar (Chairman), Penthic Lowrance and Sir Stafford Crips.
  • The Cabinet Mission rejected the claim for a separate Constituent Assembly and a separate State for the Muslim, yet their scheme involved a virtual acceptance of the principle underlying the claim for a Muslim State.
  • There was to be a Union of India, comprising both British India and the princely States, and having jurisdiction over the subjects of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Communication.
  • The Union was to have an executive and a legislature consisting of representatives of the provinces and the States.

The Mountbatten Plan

  • The plan for transfer of power to the Indians and partition of the country was laid down in the Mountbatten Plan.
  • It was given a formal shape by a statement made by the British Government on 3rd June, 1947.
  • Also known as the “3rd June Plan” and “Dickky Burd Plan”.

The Indian Independence Act of 1947

  • From the 15th of August 1947, India ceased a Dependency and the suzerainty of the British Crown over the Indian States and the treaty relations with Tribal Areas lapsed from that date.
  • The Constituent Assembly itself was to function also as the Central Legislature with complete sovereignty.

Constituent Assembly And Making of The Constitution

  • The Cabinet Mission envisaged the establishment of a Constituent Assembly to frame a Constitution for the country.
  • Members of the Constituent Assembly were elected by the Provincial Legislative Assemblies.
  • Each province was allotted seats in the proportion of its population, roughly in the ratio of one to a million.
  • The seats so ascertained were divided between the main communities in each province in proportion to their population. The main communities recognised were General, Muslim and Sikh.
  • The total memberships of the Constituent Assembly was 389 of whom 93 were representatives from the Indian States and 292 from British India and rest of 4 member were from Chief Commissionary.
  • After the partition of India number of members of the Constituent Assembly came to 299, of whom 284 were actually present on the 26th of November 1949 and signed the finally approved Constitution of India.
  • It took two years, eleven months and eighteen days for the Constituent Assembly to finalise the Constitution.

Functioning of The Constituent Assembly

  • The idea to have Constitution was given by M.N. Roy (A pioneer of the Communist Movement in India).
  • B N Rao was appointed the constitutional advisor of the Assembly.
  • The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly took place on Dec 9, 1946 with Dr. Sachidanand Sinha as its interim President. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as its President on Dec 11, 1946.
  • The principles of the Constitution were outlined by various committees of the Assembly, and there was a general discussion on the reports of these Committees.
  • Drafting Committee, which bore the responsibility of drafting the Constitutional document during the recess of the Constituent Assembly, from July 1947 to Sept 1948, was formed on Aug 29, 1947. Its members were:

Drafting Committee

  • Dr. B. R, Ambedkar-Chairman
  • N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar
  • Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar (a distinguished jurist)
  • K.M. Munshi (a distinguished jurist)
  • Syed Mohd. Saadulla
  • N. Madhav Rao (in place of B.L. Mitra)
  • D.P. Khaitan (T Krishnamachari, after Khaitan’s death in 1948).

The Assembly had 13 committees for framing the constitution. The important ones were:

Union Power CommitteeJ L Nehru
Fundamental Rights and Minority CommitteeV B Patel
Provincial Constitution CommitteeV B Patel
Union Constitution CommitteeJ L Nehru
Drafting CommitteeB R Ambedkar
Flag CommitteeJ B Kripalani
Steering CommitteeK M Munshi

Important Dates under the Historical Background of Indian Constitution

  • The Constituent Assembly, which had been elected for undivided India, held its first meeting on December 9, 1946,
  • Objective Resolution was moved in the first session of the Constituent Assembly (on 13 December 1946) by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and adopted after considerable deliberation and debate in the Assembly on 22 January 1947.
  • The Assembly appointed a drafting committee on August 29, 1947.
  • The third and final reading of the draft was completed on November 26, 1949. On this date, the provisions relating to citizenship, elections and provisional Parliament etc. were implemented with immediate effect, the rest of the provisions came into force on January 26, 1950.
  • National Flag was adopted on 22nd July 1947.
  • National Anthem was adopted on 24th January 1950.
  • National Emblem was adopted on 26th January 1950.

National Emblem

  • The state emblem of India is an adaptation from the Sarnath Lion, capital of Ashoka the Emperor as preserved in the Sarnath Museum.
  • The words, Satyameva Jayate from the Mundaka Upanishad meaning ‘Truth alone triumphs’, are inscribed below the abacus in Devanagari script.

National Flag

  • The National Flag is a horizontal tri-colour of deep saffron (Kesari) at the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom in equal proportion.
  • The ratio of the width of the flag to its length is two to three.
  • In the centre of the white band is a wheel, in navy blue. It has 24 spokes.
  • Its use and display are regulated by a code.

National Anthem

  • Rabindranath Tagore’s song Jana-gana-mana was adopted by the Constituent Assembly as the National Anthem of India on 24th Jan. 1950 and gave Vande Mataram-the national song equal honour.
  • It was first sung on 27th Dec. 1911 at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress.
  • The playing time of the full version of the national anthem is approximately 52 seconds. A shorter version consisting of the first and last lines of the stanza takes 20 seconds to play and it is played only on certain occasions.

National Song

  • The song Vande Mataram, composed by Bahkimchandra Chatterji, has an equal status with Jaria-gana-mana.
  • The first political occasion when it was sung was the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress.
  • English translation of the stanza rendered by Sri Aurobindo Ghosh

Sources of The Indian Constitution

  • Nearly 75 per cent of the Constitution can be said to be a reproduction of the Government of India Act, 1935 with suitable adaptations and modifications. The basic structure of the polity and provisions regulating Union-State relations, declaration of emergency etc. were largely based on the 1935 Act.
  • Besides the indigenous sources, the Constituent Assembly had before it several models of foreign Constitutions.

From U.K.

  1. Nominal Head—President (like Queen)
  2. Cabinet System of ministers
  3. Post of the PM
  4. Parliamentary Type of Government
  5. Bicameral Parliament
  6. The Lower House is more powerful
  7. Council of Ministers responsible to Lower House
  8. Speaker in the Lok Sabha
  9. Single citizenship

From the U.S.

  1. Written Constitution
  2. Executive head of state known as President and his being the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces
  3. Vice — President as the ex-officio Chairman of the Rajya Sabha
  4. Fundamental Rights
  5. Supreme Court
  6. Provision of States.
  7. Independence of Judiciary and judicial review
  8. Preamble
  9. Removal of Supreme Court and High Court judges

From Erstwhile USSR

  1. Fundamental Duties
  2. Five-year planning

From Australia

  1. Concurrent list’
  2. Language of the preamble
  3. Provision regarding trade, commerce, and intercourse

From Japan: Law on which the Supreme Court function
From Weimar Constitution of Germany: Suspension of Fundamental Rights during the emergency
From South Africa: Procedure of Constitutional Amendments

From Canada

  1. Scheme of federation with a strong centre.
  2. Distribution of powers between Centre and the States and placing Residuary Powers with the Centre

From Ireland

  1. Concept of Directive Principles of State Policy. (Ireland borrowed it from Spain).
  2. Method of election of the President
  3. Nomination of members in the Rajya Sabha by the President

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Important Questions on Historical Background of Indian Constitution

Questions 1
In which of the following Acts, the provision was made for the establishment of Supreme Court at Calcutta? [UPPCS (Mains) 2010]
(A) Regulating Act, 1773
(B) Pitt’s India Act, 1784
(C) Charter Act, 1813
(D) Charter Act, 1833

Questions 2
By which one of the following Acts was the Federal Court in India created? [UPPCS (Pre) 2014]
(A) Indian Council Act, 1861
(B) Government of India Act, 1909
(C) Government of India Act, 1919
(D) Government of India Act, 1935

Questions 3
By which of the following Act, Legislative Council of India received the power to discuss the budget? [UPPCS (Pre) 2003]
(A) Indian Council Act, 1861
(B) Indian Council Act, 1892
(C) Indian Council Act, 1909
(D) Indian Council Act, 1919

Questions 4
The Federal Court of India was established in which of the following year? [UPPCS (Mains) 2015]
(A) 1935
(B) 1937
(C) 1946
(D) 1947

Questions 5
Under which of the following Acts, Dyarchy was introduced at Central level? [UPPCS (Pre) 2008]
(A) Act of 1909
(B) Government of India Act, 1919
(C) Government of India Act, 1935
(D) Indian Independence Act, 1947

FAQs on Historical Background of Indian Constitution

Which Act of British Parliament abolished the East India Company monopoly over trade in India?

The Charter Act of 1813 abolished the East India Company monopoly over trade in India.

In the context of Indian history, the principle of ‘Dyarchy (diarchy)’ refers to?

In Indian history, the principle of ‘Dyarchy (diarchy)’ refers to the Division of the subjects delegated to the provinces into two categories.

The Act of 1909 was associated with ___

The Act of 1909 was associated with the Introduction of separate electorate.

Which Act introduced the ‘Principle of Constitutional Autocracy’?

The Government of India Act of 1935 introduced the ‘Principle of Constitutional Autocracy’.

The Indian Legislature was made bi-cameral for the first time by?

The Indian Legislature was made bi-cameral for the first time by The Government of India Act of 1919.

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Last updated: August 17, 2023 Updated on 9:58 AM