The Government has declared November 26 as Constitution Day. This is because this was the day in 1949 when the Constituent Assembly accepted the draft. The Government is linking it with DR BR Ambedkar’s 125 birth year. While not in any way denying the contribution of Babasaheb, which was immense, I would like to only quote what James Madison said when he was referred to as the father of the US Constitution – “It is not, like the fabled Goddess of wisdom, the offspring of a single brain. It ought to be regarded as the work of many heads and many hands.”
The Constituent Assembly first met on December 9, 1946. The man designated Constitutional Advisor was Sir BN Rau ICS, a man from Madras who was then a Judge of the Calcutta High Court and who would later become a Judge in the International Court of Justice. Of the 296 seats in the Assembly, the representation from Madras Presidency was considerable (see list) and several played an important role. But the most stellar was that of Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar, the eminent jurist. This was despite his chronic ill-health.
Alladi’s was a rags to riches story. At an early age he had made his mark at the Madras Bar and by 1929 he had become Advocate General, one of the youngest to occupy the post. He held it till 1943- for a record 15 years. In the Constituent Assembly, Sir Alladi made it to the drafting committee, other members of which were BR Ambedkar, Sir Brij Lal Mitter, Sir N Gopalaswami Aiyangar, KM Munshi, Md Saadullah, V Madhav Rao and DP Khaitan. When BL MItter died in 1948, his position was filled in by TT Krishnamachari. Though Ambedkar was elected Chairman, he expressed his surprise at this and in his speech while presenting the draft said that the post ought to have been Sir Alladi’s.
In the final document that emerged, it is accepted that Alladi’s imprint can be seen in the following topics – citizenship, fundamental rights, directive principles, judiciary in the Union and the States, distribution of legislative powers, articles dealing with the powers of the President and the Governor, and adult suffrage. Two others who made significant contributions were Munshi and Gopalaswami Aiyangar. It was said the trio were the Three Musketeers with Ambedkar being D’Artagnan.
The Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950. Sir Alladi passed away in October 1953. His palatial house, Ekamra Niwas still stands on Luz Church Road though it is no longer visible, the beautiful lawn long having made way for development. It is a historic property, for one part of it encompasses what was once Norton Lodge, the residence of the Norton family, which too played an important role in the judicial history of Madras.
This article borrows heavily from the book A Statesman Among Jurists, A biography of Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Aiyar, by his son Alladi Kuppuswami, former Chief Justice of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh (published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1993).
Other Madras Presidency members of the Constituent Assembly:
OV Alagesan, Ammu Swaminadhan, M Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, Moturi Satyanarayana, Dakshayani Velayudhan, Durgabai Deshmukh, Kala Venkatarao, Sir N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, D Govinda Das, Rev. Jerome D’Souza, P Kakkan, K Kamaraj, VC Kesava Rao, TT Krishnamachari, L Krishnaswami Bharathi, P Kunhiraman, M Thirumula Rao, VI Muniswamy Pillay, Raja Sir MA Muthiah Chettiyar, Nadimuthu Pillai S Nagappa, PL Narasimha Raju, B Pattabhi Sitaramayya, C Perumalswamy Reddy, T Prakasam, SH Prater, Raja Sir Swetachalapati Ramakrishna Ranga Rao of Bobbili, Sir RK Shanmukham Chetti, TA Ramalingam Chettiyyar, Ramanath Goenka, OP Ramaswamy Reddiyar, NG Ranga, N Sanjeeva Reddy, K Santhanam, B Shiva Rao, Kallur Subba Rao, U Srinivasa Mallayya, Dr P Subbarayan, C Subramaniam, V Subramaniam, MC Veerabahu, PM Velayudapani, AK Menon, TJM Wilson, Mohamed Ismail Sahib, KTM Ahmed Ibrahim, Mahboob Ali Baig Sahib Bahadur, B Pocker Sahib Bahadur
Names taken from the Indian Parliamentary Debates records – http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/members.htm