BN Rau: The forgotten architect of Indian Constitution

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BN Rau: The forgotten architect of Indian Constitution

Thursday, 26 January 2017 | BISWARAJ PATNAIK

India became a democratic Republic on this day in 1950 after attaining independence from the British in 19 47. Democracy means ruling by the choice of the majority; republic is more meaningful: rule by ordinary people, not by hereditary monarchs, feudal lords or any other privileged class. A nation state is considered full-fledged and sovereign only when, apart from its geographical boundary and people living within it, it has its own Constitution based on which laws of the land are made and rules of conduct by public and more importantly the public servants are specified in terms of right and wrong and corresponding punishment for violation. Essentially, a Constitution is the ‘will’ of the state. It is a sociopolitical and legal document which is drafted by experts and debated and voted by a Constituent Assembly or a similar body.

The Indian Constitution was drafted by a core committee of seven experts headed by Dr BR Ambedkar. All were legal experts or administrative luminaries including Sir BN Rau,  KM Munshi, N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar, Syed Mohammad Saadullah, N Madhava Rau who was Diwan (Prime Minister) of Mysore and replaced Bl Mitter who had resigned due to ill health. NMR had vehemently opposed Hindi as the national language. The draft was debated, altered and finally approved by the Constituent Assembly after a couple of years.  DP Khaitan  was also inducted, but he died in 1948 to be replaced by TT Krishnamachari, who became a Minister for two times in the  Nehru Cabinet.

Ambedkar was chosen the head because he had already served in various sub-committees like the Advisory Committee, Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee and Minorities Sub-Committee of the Constitutional Assembly. He submitted a memorandum with very valid suggestions to the Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee. This memorandum was later published for wider circulation under the title ‘States and minorities, their rights and how to secure them in the Constitution of free India’. That is why the Congress party was convinced that legislation and solidification of freedom would not be easy without the services of Dr Ambedkar. Incidentally, the Congress had earlier opposed tooth and nail Ambedkar’s entry into the Constituent Assembly. In his letter of 30th June 1947, Dr Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, had requested BG Kher, the then Prime Minister of Bombay, to elect Dr Ambedkar immediately.

The Constitution of India is the most voluminous in the world, consisting of 448 articles, 25 parts, 12 schedules, 5 appendices and over 98 amendments.

Mahatma Gandhi was not really sidelined from the constitution making exercise. He chose to keep away because he was keen that the Congress be dissolved before any critical state activity was undertaken. Gandhi also did not attend the gathering where Nehru made his first speech to the Constituent Assembly. Gandhi was a mass leader not a politician. The Constitution drafting required patience, negotiating skills and a flexibility to accommodate diverse opinions. Gandhi believed he was not really cut out to be part of such activity. The committee had other brilliant people from nearly all walks of life including some of those who opposed the Congress like Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee. Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Maulana Azad were very seriously involved in the Constitution making process. But Gandhi had made his desire clear which was duly given place by the expert team. The Mahatma’s focus on villages, agriculture, self-reliance, etc., were given high importance in the Constitution. So, Gandhi around this time remained busy touring across India trying to douse communal fires that were burning incessantly at most places.

The smartest card played by shrewd Nehru was putting Ambedkar at the top, thereby sending out a strong political message that the untouchables would not face discrimination ever. History shows this one act has done more for ‘dalit empowerment’ than any other step.

There is much talk about who really was the biggest brain behind making the Constitution as knowledgeable people believe Ambedkar couldn’t have been the guy. Oldies with wisdom, who knew the India of those days, have said univocally that BN Rau who was appointed as the adviser to the Constituent Assembly was the expert who did the most job and worked out the democratic framework of the Constitution. He singlehandedly prepared the initial draft by February 1948, to be debated, revised and finally adopted by the team on November 26, 1949. The Drafting Committee, under the chairmanship of Ambedkar, declared that the ‘Draft Constitution’ was being scrutinised thoroughly by adviser BN Rau for making it one of the world’s best Constitutions.

President of Constituent Assembly Rajendra Prasad, just before signing the Constitution on November 26, 1949, thanked Rau profusely for having “worked honorarily” assisting the assembly not only with his knowledge and erudition but enabling the other members to perform their duties with thorough prudence. Rau was not a member of the Constitutional Assembly but was the most important expert who did the primary thinking and writing. He has been religiously ignored by frontline politicians who never gave him his due space in history. Rau is the principal framer of the Indian Constitution; others only did the cosmetic jobs here and there. like they have forgotten VP Menon, Secretary of States, who drafted the ‘instrument of accession’ to force the 564 Princely States to merge with the Union of India, Rau is not remembered by the political bosses of today. Most of them do not even know who he is by name.

Sir Benegal Narsing Rau, an illustrious Kannada, born on February 26, 1887, lived till November 30, 1953. He served as an Indian Civil Service officer, a jurist, a diplomat and a statesman of great repute. He was also India’s Representative to the United Nations Security Council between 1950 and 1952. His brothers were equally illustrious: Benegal Rama Rau was Governor of the Reserve Bank of India and B Shiva Rao an eminent journalist-politician. One of the foremost Indian jurists of his time, Sir Rau, had also helped draft the Constitution of Burma in 1947. As India’s Representative at the UN Security Council, he served as president of the council and recommended armed assistance to South Korea. later, he became a member at the Korean War post ‘Armistice’ of the UN Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC). A graduate of the Universities of Madras and Cambridge, Rau entered the ICS in 1910. After revising the entire Indian statutory code (1935-37), he was Knighted in 1938 and made judge of the Bengal High Court in 1939. His writings on Indian law include a study on Constitutional precedents as well as articles on human rights in India. He briefly served during 1944-45 as Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. From February 1952 until his death, he was a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice, The Hague. Before his election to the court, he was regarded as a candidate for UN Secretary-General.

Rau does not live in the hearts of Indians as the maker of the great Constitution of India. Ambedkar, who was placed as the team leader by Nehru, is projected as the supreme brain who gave the Constitution. Just one month later on February 26, no big leader or self-proclaimed statesman will remember Rau on his 130th birthday.

m Coming to Odisha matters, it is evident that the Central Government has not done justice to the State on the Mahanadi water dispute issue by constituting a meaningless mutual negotiation body, which is not in keeping with law. Talks are bound to fail, as always. A tribunal was the demand, which the Centre has ignored. The objective is to let Chhattisgarh gain time to finish projects. The Centre’s flawed move on purpose will have adverse repercussions for the BJP in all future elections.

m lastly, this hero called Shah Rukh Khan, who talks too much and makes wagon-loads of money by monkeying around before cameras with grease-n-paint on face, to deceive innocent people as fans, must be brought to book along with a few glamour-struck railway officials. The movie publicity on train is criminal activity, and one is already dead. Shockingly, this outwardly patriotic fellow never utters the expression ‘Bharat’ once anywhere. He feels greatly comfortable with ‘Hindustan’ which is fine. So heartless is he that he only prayed to God and expressed lip condolence to the family of the fan who died of suffocation and stampede due to the billionaire’s mad train appearance. Shah

Rukh must dish out a couple of millions to the bereaved family or land in trouble as per law.


(The writer is a core member of Transparency International, Odisha) 

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