The development of such constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights in India was inspired by historical examples such as England’s Bill of Rights (1689), the United States Bill of Rights (approved on 17 September 1787, final ratification on 15 December 1791) and France’s Declaration of the Rights of Man (created during the revolution of 1789, and ratified on 26 August 1789).
In 1919, the Rowlatt Act gave extensive powers to the British government and police and allowed indefinite arrest and detention of individuals, warrantless searches and seizures, restrictions on public gatherings, and intensive censorship of media and publications. The public opposition to this act eventually led to mass campaigns of nonviolent civil disobedience throughout the country demanding guaranteed civil freedoms, and limitations on government power. Indians, who were seeking independence and their own government, were particularly influenced by the independence of Ireland and the development of the Irish constitution. Also, the directive principles of state policy in Irish constitution were looked upon by the people of India as an inspiration for independent India’s government to comprehensively tackle complex social and economic challenges across a vast, diverse nation and population.
In 1928, the Nehru Commission composed of representatives of Indian political parties proposed constitutional reforms for India that apart from calling for dominion status for India and elections under universal suffrage, would guarantee rights deemed fundamental, representation for religious and ethnic minorities, and limit the powers of the government. In 1931, the Indian National Congress (the largest Indian political party of the time) adopted resolutions committing itself to the defence of fundamental civil rights, as well as socio-economic rights such as the minimum wage and the abolition of untouchability and serfdom.Committing themselves to socialism in 1936, the Congress leaders took examples from the Constitution of the Soviet Union, which inspired the fundamental duties of citizens as a means of collective patriotic responsibility for national interests and challenges.
The task of developing a constitution for the nation was undertaken by the Constituent Assembly of India, composed of elected representatives. The Constituent Assembly first met on 9 December 1946 under the presidency of Dr. Sachidanand. Later, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was made its president. While members of Congress composed of a large majority, Congress leaders appointed persons from diverse political backgrounds to responsibilities of developing the constitution and national laws.Notably, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar became the chairperson of the drafting committee, while Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became chairpersons of committees and subcommittees responsible for different subjects. A notable development during that period having significant effect on the Indian constitution took place on 10 December 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and called upon all member states to adopt these rights in their respective constitutions.
The fundamental rights were included in the First Draft Constitution (February 1948), the Second Draft Constitution (17 October 1948) and final Third Draft Constitution (26 November 1949), prepared by the Drafting Committee.
As per Article 19 of Part III of the Indian constitution, the fundamental rights of people such as freedom of speech and expression, gathering peaceably without arms and forming associations or unions shall not affect the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India but not unity of India. The words sovereignty and integrity are the qualities to be cultivated/emulated by Indian people as urged by the Indian constitution but not used related to the territory of India. Article 1 of Part 1 of the Indian constitution, defines India (Bharat) as a union of states. In nutshell, India is its people not its land as enshrined in its constitution.
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