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Ambedkar’s Words on Initial Legislative Business

It was a after independence Constituent Assembly discussed modalities of its functioning

Policy Pulse
Publish Date: Apr 25 2016 5:58PM | Updated Date: Apr 25 2016 5:58PM

Ambedkar’s Words on Initial Legislative Business

Though Constituent Assembly had begun its deliberations from December 9 1946, it was a couple of weeks after independence that the Assembly discussed in detail the modalities of its functioning as also that of the Central and State Legislatures in view of a motion moved by KM Munshi. Dr BR Ambedkar spoke at length about this on August 29, 1947 as Dr Rajendra Prasad presided over. Pulse Research Bureau reproduces here excerpts from Dr Ambedkar’s speech on the day  

 
The Honourable Dr. B. R. Ambedkar (Bombay: General) : Mr. President, I beg to move that this Assembly do proceed to take into consideration the Report on the functions of the Constituent Assembly under the Indian Independence Act, 1947, submitted by the Committee appointed by the President in pursuance of the decisions of the Assembly on the 20th August 1947.
 
Sir, the Report of the Committee has already been circulated to the Members of the House and, I do not think that at this stage, when the Report has been in the, hands of the Members at least for the last two days, I need expatiate at great length upon the work of this Committee. I think it would be enough if I, in the first instance, draw attention to the recommendations of the Committee.
 
All together the Committee has made five recommendations. Its first recommendation is that, it is open to the Constituent Assembly to function as Legislature and that it should function as such; (2) that while functioning as Legislature it should adopt the rules of the Legislative Assembly as far as possible with necessary amendments; (3) the necessary amendments should be made under the orders of the Please dent of the Constituent Assembly; (4) the work of the Constituent Assembly as a Constitution-making body and as an ordinary legislature should be separated and should be conducted in separate sessions to be held on separate days; (5) the power of prorogation should vest in the President and not in the Governor-General as found in the Adaptation of the Government of India Act. After having made these recommendations, the Committee considered whether there were any difficulties which would stand in the way of giving effect to their recommendations and found three which they had to resolve in order to give effect to their recommendations.
 
The first was whether one and the same person should preside over both the bodies, the Constituent Assembly and the Legislature. This difficulty arose because section 22 of the Government of India Act, which related to the office of the Speaker, has been dropped by the Adaptations which have been carried out under the Indian Independence Act with the result that the President is the one person who has to preside over both, the Constitution-making body as well as the Legislature. 
Ordinarily speaking, this should not create any difficulty, but in the circumstance where for instance the President is a Minister of the State, this difficulty may arise. For instance, it would be an anomalous thing if the President who is a Minister of State also were to preside over the Constituent 'Assembly when it was functioning as a lawmaking body. Consequently, the Committee thought that either of two courses has to be adopted; either the President should cease to be a Minister, or, if he continues to be a Minister, the Assembly should elect another officer to be called the Speaker or Deputy President whose functions it would be to preside over the Constituent Assembly when it is in session for the purpose of making laws.
 
The second difficulty which the Committee came across was will regard to the representatives of the States. The House will remember that the Constituent Assembly, when it will be meeting for the purposes of law making, would be operating upon the whole field which has been included in List No. 1 of the Seventh Schedule to the Government of India Act. The House also will recall that the States at the present, moment have joined the Constituent Assembly.  On a basis of what is called the Instrument of Accession which does not altogether tally with the subjects included in, List No. 1. In fact the subjects included in the Instrument of Accession fall considerably short of the subjects included in List No. 1. The question, therefore, that arises is this, whether a body of people, who are Members of the Constituent Assembly and who are bound by the Instrument of Accession and have responsibility for a shorter number of items, should be permitted to: take part in motions-and in debates relating to certain Other subjects which were not included in the list contained in the Instrument of Accession. There were of course two ways of dealing with this matter. One way of dealing with this matter was to adopt the procedure of what is called 'in and out', that they should sit in the Assembly and vote when an item which was being debated was common to both' the Instrument of Accession as well as List No.. 1, and when an item was being discussed in the House which did not form part of the Instrument of Accession, they should not be permitted to participate. The Committee came to the conclusion that although theoretically the second course was more logical, from a practical point of view such a distinction need not be made in the circumstances in which we stand and, therefore, the Committee made the recommendation that notwithstanding the subjects contained in List No. 1 and the Instrument of Accession, the representatives of the Indian States should continue to take part in all motions that may relate to all subjects irrespective of the distinction between the two lists.
 
The third question which the Committee felt they had to deal with was the position of the Ministers. As the House knows, there are certain Ministers who are at present not Members of the Constituent Assembly. They are five in all who fall in that category. The question therefore arises for consideration whether the Ministers who are Members of the Constituent Assembly should take part in the proceeding of the Constituent Assembly and also in the Legislature. So far as their participation in the work of the Legislature is concerned, the position is safeguarded by reason of the fact that Section 2 sub-clause (2) of the Government of India Act is retained by the Adaptation and Members of the House know under the provisions contained in Section 10 sub-clause (2) a person, notwithstanding the fact that he is not a Member of the Legislature, may still continue to participate in the work of the Legislature and be a Minister. Under that, therefore, the Ministers who are not Members of the Constituent Assembly will be eligible to sit in the Constituent assembly when its functions as a Legislature, without ceasing, to be Minister of State.
The question that remains is what is to happen with regard to their relationship to the Constituent Assembly. At present, as they are not Members of the Constituent Assembly, they are not entitled to participate in the work of the Constituent Assembly so far as it relates to the making of the Constitution. The Committee came to the conclusion that it was necessary that their guarantee should be available to the Constituent Assembly in the matter of constitution-making and therefore just as Section 10 sub-clause (2) permits them to participate in the work of the Legislature so also the Constituent Assembly should make a provision which would permit Members of Government who are not Members of the Constituent Assembly also to participate in the work of the Constituent Assembly.
 
Sir, there are two other matters about which the Committee has made no recommendation and it is necessary that I should refer to them. The first matter is the question of double membership. As the House knows there are certain Members of the Constituent Assembly who are also Members of the Provincial Legislature. So far there is no anomaly, because the Constituent Assembly is not a Legislature. But when the Constituent Assembly begins to function as a Legislative Body, this conflict due to double membership will undoubtedly arise. I might also draw attention to the provision contained in Section 68 (2) of the Government of India Act which deals with this matter. Section 68 (2) did not permit a member to hold double membership of two Legislatures, the Central or Provincial. But this provision has now been dropped by the adaptation. Consequently, it is permissible for Members of the Constituent Assembly when they are functioning as Members of the Legislature also to be Members of another Legislative Body. The anomaly, of course, purely and from a strictly constitutional point of view does remain. It is for the Constituent Assembly to decide whether they will accept the principle embodied in the omission of Section 68 (2) and permit double membership or whether notwithstanding the dropping of Section 68 (2) they will take such suitable action as to prevent double membership.
 
The second question about which the Committee has made no recommendation is relating to the administrative- organisation of the Assembly. As the administrative organisation in the Assembly is a single unified organisation it is under the exclusive control of the President of the Constituent Assembly. So long as the Constituent Assembly had only this single and solitary function to perform, namely, to prepare the constitution, there was no difficulty, in this matter. But when the Constituent Assembly will function in its double capacity, once as the constitution-making body and another time as a law-making body with another person at the head of it, namely, the Speaker or the Deputy Speaker, questions with regard to the adjustment of the staff may arise. But the Committee thought that they were not entitled under the terms of reference to deal with this matter and therefore did not make any reference to it at all.
 
Sir, I do not think it is necessary for me to take the time of the House any more than I have done. I think what I have said will sufficiently remind Members of what the Committee has done and will enable them to proceed to deal with the report in the best way they like.