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Women In Constituent Assembly : Wide Ranging Interventions of Begum Aizaz Rasul

Surbhi Karwa
21 March 2021 6:23 AM GMT
Women In Constituent Assembly : Wide Ranging Interventions of Begum Aizaz Rasul
'Women In Constituent Assembly' series will discuss the role played by women in the Constituent Assembly of India. This is the fifth article of the series.

In the last article, we discussed about Begum Aizaz Rasul's position on women's rights and minority rights in the Constitution.In this piece, we discuss her proposals and positions on various other issues, including a proposal to name Indian parliament, 'Indian National Congress'.

Agency for Implementation of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State of Policy-

One of her most interesting proposal was the establishment of an agency to ensure that the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles are being observed in all Provinces in the letter and in the spirit. The function of the agency, she recommended, was to bring to the notice of the Government the cases where the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles are not being followed properly.

Begum Rasul recognized fundamental rights as necessary for free and full development of a citizen's personality and criticized various provisos and exceptions in fundamental rights. She famously remarked what has been given with one hand has been taken away by the other. She warned that such provisos and exceptions may make it easy for future legislatures to take away the fundamental rights and commented-

"It is essential that some at least of the civil liberties of the citizen should be preserved by the Constitution and it should not be easy for the legislature to take them away. Instead of this, we find the provision relating to these Rights full of provisos and exceptions. This means that what has been given today could easily be changed tomorrow by an Act of the legislature."

On Borrowing from other Constitutions-

The Constitutions of India has been criticized by some as a document 'copied' and 'borrowed' from the other Constitutions. Within Constituent Assembly, similar voices were raised; however Begum Aizaz Rasul was opposed to this criticism. She argued that given the centuries of British rule, changing the whole structure of government can lead to chaos for India, a new recruit to democratic form of government. She further commented that ultimate power lies with the people of the country-

"Much has been said about the fact that most of the provisions have been borrowed from the Constitutions of the U.S.A., England, Australia, Canada, Switzerland, etc. Sir, I for my part see nothing wrong in so borrowing as long as the higher interests of the nation and the well-being and prosperity of the country are kept in mind. ……The important thing is that power is derived from the people and it is the people who will make or mar the destiny of India."

Naming the parliament 'Indian National Congress'-

On 3rd January 1949, Begum Aizaz Rasul proposed that the legislature of the union shall be named 'Indian National Congress'. She argued that the name parliament should be substituted by a name which will convey to the people of India and to the world the name of the party that instituted the struggle for freedom of the country. She argued that by naming the parliament, Indian National Congress, the role of Congress in the freedom struggle will be permanently commemorated.

Other Interventions-

On question of language, she supported, Hindusthani of Gandhian solution to language question, rather than a Sankritised Hindi which she pointed out is limited to only a small section of society.

On village panchayats, she supported Dr. Ambedkar in his criticism of Indian villages, commenting that village panchayats can be very autocratic.

On autonomy to Minister from Party Affiliations, arguing that ministries should be strong and stable and should not be subject to whims and fancies of party affiliations, she proposed that ministers shall hold office during the life of assembly. She argued that ministers should be allowed to initiate long range policies without being influenced daily by party repercussions. She believed that such a proposal would be a via media between American English systems of ministries.

On membership of the Commonwealth, the motion of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on joining the commonwealth was heavily debated in the assembly with many members heavily criticizing and questioning the advantage of such a membership. Begum Aizaz Rasul, however supported the proposal arguing that there are many things and systems in India akin to Britain, and India will progress on lines of prosperity and peace through such a proposal.

On powers of the President, she argued that it should be clarified in the Constitution that the President can return a bill passed by parliament only once with his suggestions. If the parliament does not agree with his suggestions and returns the bill, then the President cannot return the bill second time for reconsideration by the parliament.

She had a range of other interventions including on right to property, proportional representation etc. In her final speech on the Constitution, she recognized the Constitution as embodiment of hopes and aspirations of the Indian people. She argued that the Constitution provides for all citizens, collectively and individually, the best fruits of democracy and ensures the citizens those basic conditions and freedoms which alone make life secure, significant and productive. She argued that ultimate aim of all Constitutions is to increase human happiness, human well being.

(Surbhi Karwa is alumnus of NLU-Lucknow and NLU-Delhi.She can be reached at tweets at @surbhi_karwa)

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