Sardar Patel was the real architect of the Constitution
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played a decisive role in the Constituent
Assembly and remained the moving spirit behind some of the landmark
provisions of Indian principles.
Patel, a man of action, spoke only when necessary in the Constituent
Assembly, yet his impact on the Constitution was much wider than
his intervention in the debates.
He played an important role in the selection of members of the drafting committee.
He took a strong stand for or against
Jawaharlal Nehru on key issues such as fundamental rights, the position
of the prime minister, the election procedure of the President
and the status of Kashmir. "The Iron Man so dominated the assembly
that the Constitution which emerged from it bore
his stamp and could be aptly called the Patel Constitution,"
says Dr P M Chopra, chief editor of the Collected Works
of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Volume XI.
This special volume of the 15-part series portrays Patel as
the maker of the Indian Constitution. Some of the basic tenets of
the Constitution, particularly the balancing of fundamental rights
with the maintenance of law and order in the state, and the
reservation of a whole set of citizens rights as non-justiciable
directives of the state were evolved by Patel.
Dr Chopra says Patel's predilection for a strong Centre and his anxiety to guarantee
the privileges of the princes is reflected in
the Constitution. He also dispensed with separate electorates
and seat reservations for the minorities with the unanimous consent
of their leaders.
Just as Manu, a brahmin gave the Hindus their first code, Vallabhbhai
ensured that Dr B R Ambedkar, a harijan, piloted the basic law
of new India. He was also instrumental for the entry of eminent
jurists like B N Rau, K M Munshi, Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar and
Gopalaswami Ayyangar into the Assembly. "Not only did Patel
see that Ambedkar was appointed law minister but ensured
that he completed his tenure despite Nehru's wish to drop him at
one point," points out Dr Chopra.
After adopting the 'Objectives Resolution', moved by Nehru, the
Constituent Assembly appointed an advisory committee under
Patel on January 24, 1947. The committee dealt with the
rights of citizens, minorities, tribal and excluded areas. Patel presented
the committee's recommendations on political safeguards for minorities
sans separate electorates on August 27. The recommendations were
accepted in the Assembly the following day.
Dr Chopra points out that the Sardar's interventions in the
Constituent Assembly during the debates were few, but forceful.
On October 10, 1949, Patel defended the inclusion of Article 283-A
(incorporated in the Constitution as Article 314) which gave constitutional
guarantee to the terms and privileges granted to ICS officers
opting for service in Independent India. Two days later, during
a debate on Article 211A (which was renumbered 238 only to be repealed
later), Patel outlined a concept of people's polity which replaced the
rulers polity in states acceding to the Union and defended privy
On October 14, he denied any breach of promise about reservations in
services to the Sikhs in a debate on Article 296 (renumbered
335), which accommodated scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in the services.
A month later, Patel explained the division of the Sirohi
state between Bombay and Rajasthan on the basis of the
schedule listing of states and territories.
The author says, subsequently, Patel only spoke twice--on November
26 to announce the acceptance of the Constitution by the states,
and on January 24, 1950, to felicitate Dr Rajendra Prasad on being
election as the first President of India.
In an Assembly debate on the interim report on fundamental
rights moved by Patel on April 29, 1947, H N Kunzru and Somnath
Lahiri said it was difficult to make a fine distinction on
justiciable rights and rights that did not fall in that category.
"Indians had found that a government which does not depend
on the people and rules the country by means of force, detaining
people without trial, without a judicial process," commented Lahiri.
He added that these were fundamental rights from a police
constable's view and not that of a
free and fighting nation.
Professor N G Ranga, however, complimented the 'charter of fundamental
rights' saying the clauses were intended to see that those
who believed in liberalism at one end and Communism at the other
could not take advantage of the rights to pave way for totalitarianism.
In his reply, the Sardar said there were two schools of thought -- one
advocating the inclusion of as many rights as possible in the
report and the other seeking to restrict it to only those considered as fundamental.
"Between the two schools, finally a mean
was drawn," says Dr Chopra.
Patel piloted a model Constitution for the provinces in the Assembly
on July 15, 1947 which contained the limited powers of
governor, instructing him to report to the President about any grave situation
arising in the province.
Patel clarified it was not the intention to let the governor
exercise that power which could bring the provincial ministry
in conflict with the governor's office.
Enumerating the other special features of the model Constitution,
he said one such aspect was the many checks provided to ensure
fair appointments in the high court. The judges were to be appointed
by the President in consultation with the chief justice of the
Supreme Court, the chief justice of the provincial high court and the
governor with the advice of the provincial ministry.
On August 30, Patel presented the directive principles of
state policy at the Assembly. Though not cognisable by any
court of law, the directive principles were fundamental in the governance of the country.
On October 12, 1949, he outlined the concept of people's polity
to replace the rulers polity in states acceding to the Indian Union;
and a special status for Jammu and Kashmir.
About a month later, the Sardar announced in the
House, "All the nine states, specified in part B of the first
schedule of the Constitution, including the state of Hyderabad,
have signified their acceptance of the Constitution."
The Constitution came into force from January 26, 1950.