‘Bhartiya Samvidhan Unkahi Kahani’ by the journalist Ram Bahadur Rai is a highly informative book on the making of India‘s Constitution in a very lucid and anecdotal style. What prompted Shri Rai to go for this book has been elucidated in the preamble of his book. It must be mentioned here that the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly for the framing of the Constitution took place on 9th December 1946, more than nine months before the country achieved independence on 15th August 1947. Obviously, this Constituent Assembly was not elected by the people, yet its legitimacy was beyond any reproach. Initially, there were 389 members of this Assembly out of it, 292 were elected through the Provincial Legislative Assemblies: 93 were the representatives of the Indian Princely States, and four members represented the Chief Commissioners of Provinces. However, as a result of partition under the Mountbatten Plan of 3rd June 1947, a separate Constituent Assembly was set up for Pakistan and representatives of some provinces ceased to be the members of the Assembly reducing the strength of the Constituent Assembly to 299.
Making India’s Constitution had, no doubt, been a marathon exercise and it was prepared by the best brains of that time, most of them had undergone and endured the fire of the freedom struggle. Each and every article was debated threadbare by the Constituent Assembly, mainly without any personal rancour by any one of its members. The flexibility of the Constitution can be gauged from the fact that it has been amended more than a hundred times to conform to the wishes and aspirations of the people. Many treatises have been written on it by scholars, researchers and other luminaries and yet we feel that some issues are still unresolved, which require to be settled by the Apex Court of the country. The main source of Ram Bahadur Rai’s book has been the copious volumes of the Constituent Assembly debates but what was needed was the ‘Vision’ to look at them to unfold stories that were hitherto unknown to many of us. Making India’s Constitution was no less than a Herculean task and it has been corroborated by the scholar Granville Austin, who himself had written his celebrated magnum opus: ‘The Indian Constitution: Cornerstone of a nation’.
Another important role in the making of India’s Constitution cannot be forgotten was that of Shri BN Rau, who was a constitutional advisor to the Constituent Assembly. He was an ICS officer and had also served as the Judge of the Calcutta High Court. and Shri Rai has also rightly mentioned his name in a laudatory manner. There were seventeen committees, which were formed by the Constituent Assembly. Four were headed by Babu Rajendra Prasad, three by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and one each by Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, Pattabhi Sitaramayya, K M Munshi, GV Mavlankar, Vallabhbhai Patel, HC Mookerjee, JB Kripalani, Gopinath Bardoloi, A V Thakkar and Dr BR Ambedkar. The most important among all the committees was, undoubtedly the Drafting Committee, which was headed by Dr Ambedkar but the role of all the members of the Constituent Assembly was praiseworthy because everybody was immersed in debates head over shoulders. The sterling contributions of Alagu Rai Shastri, Pandit Kamla Pati Tripathi, Seth Govind Das, Purushottam Das Tandon and Shibban Lal Saxena of the Hindi belt were praiseworthy. The writer Ram Bahadur has done well to recall their contributions in his book otherwise, the new generation thinks that the credit for the making of the constitution is solely reserved to Dr Ambedkar, who was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee.
In the last few chapters of his book, Shri Rai has reproduced the summary of the speeches of some of the members, which reveal the thinking of those leaders, whose hearts were pulsating for India and its people. At a time, when a lot of churning going on across the world in the aftermath of the Second world war, the country was faced with imminent partition, Lakhs of refugees had already started pouring in from the other side of the border. and almost all parts of the country were raging with communal inferno, one wonders how our great leaders were able to concentrate on giving a masterly document, which provides equality, liberty and the best possible human rights to the citizens of India.
Having said it all, there is no gainsaying that the present Constitution has largely guided the country. It is an organic constitution and therefore certain restrictions, which have been drawn by the Supreme Court through cases like Kesavanand Bharti needs to be relooked at. In the platinum jubilee year of our independence, it will be highly becoming of our lawmakers to take such steps to frame a new constitution as the same could encompass technological and scientific developments. The rigidity of the American Constitution is of no good to our country. At the same time, the country cannot afford to run the country only on the basis of the conventions and traditions because there will be fair chances of breaking by those in power for laying down their own set of conventions if the clear-cut boundaries of checks and balances are not well-defined and demarcated in the Constitution itself.
Ram Bahadur Rai’s book throws light on the mental makeup of the constitution makers, which was by all means, revolutionary. The book deserves to be read by all, particularly by lawyers, law students, teachers, researchers, historians, social scientists, and activists.
Parmanand Pandey
Advocate on Record
Supreme Court of India


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