RASHMI OBEROI | 21 FEBRUARY, 2020
Sir Alladi, And the Constitution Drafting Committee
On August 29, 1947 the Constituent Assembly through a resolution appointed a Drafting Committee to “Scrutinise the draft of the text of the Constitution of India prepared by Constitutional Adviser, giving effect to the decisions already taken in the Assembly and including all matters which are ancillary thereto or which have to be provided in such a Constitution, and to submit to the Assembly for consideration the text of the draft constitution as revised by the committee.”
It has been my luck and honour to personally know the grandson of one of the brains behind the Indian Constitution’ – a matter of pride for me and the information and history shared by him has been an awakening. V.S. Ravi (Former DGP), one of the most distinguished police officers is the grandson of Late Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, one of the Architects of the Constitution of India. He joined the Indian Police Service in 1963 and after a brilliant and unblemished record of Service spanning 35 years; he retired in 1998 as the Principal Secretary to the Government, Home Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh. One of the greatest authorities on Shakespeare, he skilfully ventured into scientific journalism and went on to publish five books on Science.
Though a Police officer by profession he has been balancing his talents as writer, publisher and speaker.
On August 29,1947 the Drafting Committee was appointed, with Dr B. R. Ambedkar as the Chairman along with six other members assisted by a constitutional advisor. These members were Pandit Govind Ballabh Pant, Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi (K M Munshi, Ex- Home Minister, Bombay), Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer (Ex- Advocate General, Madras State), N Gopalaswami Ayengar (Ex-Prime Minister, J&K and later member of Nehru Cabinet), B L Mitter (Ex-Advocate General, India), Md. Saadullah (Ex- Chief Minister of Assam, Muslim League member) and D P Khaitan (Scion of Khaitan Business family and a renowned lawyer).
The Constitutional advisor was Sir Benegal Narsing Rau (who became First Indian Judge in International Court of Justice, 1950–54). Later B L Mitter resigned and was replaced by Madhav Rao (Legal Advisor of Maharaja of Vadodara). On D P Khaitan's death, T T Krishnamachari was included in the drafting committee. A draft Constitution was prepared by the committee and submitted to the Assembly on 4 November 1947, which was debated and over 2000 amendments were moved over a period of two years.
Finally on November 26, 1949 the process was completed and the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution. 284 members signed the document and the process of constitution making was complete. This day is celebrated as National Law Day or Constitution Day.
The assembly met in sessions open to the public, for 166 days, spread over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution, the 308 members of the assembly signed two copies of the document (one each in Hindi and English) on 24 January 1950.
The original Constitution of India is hand-written with beautiful calligraphy, each page beautified and decorated by artists from Shantiniketan including Beohar Rammanohar Sinha and Nandalal Bose. The illustrations on the cover and pages represent styles from the different civilisations of the subcontinent, ranging from the prehistoric Mohenjodaro civilisation, in the Indus Valley, to the present. The calligraphy in the book was done by Prem Behari Narain Raizda.
It was published in Dehra Dun, and photolithographed at the offices of Survey of India. The entire exercise to produce the original took nearly five years. Two days later, on 26 January 1950, the Constitution of India became the law of all the States and territories of India. Rs. 1,00,00,000 was the official estimate of expenditure on the constituent assembly. It has undergone many amendments since its enactment.
The original 1950 Constitution of India is preserved in helium cases in the Parliament house, New Delhi. There are two original versions of this – one in Hindi and the other in English.
A Statesman among Jurists and A Jurist among Statesmen perfectly sums up Late Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer. A book called "Legal Legends"(consisting of the biographies, of the forty two greatest lawyers our country has ever produced) written by Sudhish Pai, an eminent lawyer from Karnataka, who had distinguished himself in several important organizations/ departments in various capacities in the legal field in the Karnataka Government as well as in New Delhi features Sir Alladi, and the picture of the cover of the book also displays his picture with seven other lawyers.
Pai's biography spells out, in no uncertain manner, Sir Alladi’s genius, his unrivalled stature as an advocate and his massive contribution to the drafting of the constitution - similar to the views expressed by Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar himself during the deliberations of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949.
A quote from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s speech: “I was more than surprised when the Drafting Committee elected me to be its Chairman. There were in the Drafting Committee men BIGGER, BETTER AND MORE COMPETENT THAN MYSELF, such as my friend Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer."
Sir Alladi was a legal colossus whose life and achievements offer a study of one born on the lap of adversity and rising to the heights of professional success and prosperity. He is indeed one of the makers of Indian law who by his erudition, expertise and professional performance contributed in ample measure to the development and moulding of the law and was also one of the principal architects of the Constitution.
Sir Alladi typifies the self-made man who by his sterling worth built up his own life and career and attained the peak which he occupied with distinction. Born in poverty on 14 May, 1883, educated and brought up on charity, he was a student of first rate calibre both in his school and college years. He studied for his B.A. at the Madras Christian College and at the Madras Law College for his B.L. He joined the Bar in 1906-07 and was an apprentice under P.R. Sundara Ayyar who was an eminent advocate and also a kind senior. Sundara Ayyar's office was regarded by Alladi as a Gurukula where a large number of young lawyers received regular instruction in the art of advocacy.
Sir Alladi had a remarkably retentive and accurate memory for everything he read, so much so, that even after a single reading, he would quote from memory well expressed passages from the decisions in which the principles underlying them are stated. His intellect was razor-like in keenness and was analytical, for everything he read was stored, each in its place.
What was therefore remarkable about his memory was its selectiveness. He remembered just the essential facts in detail for appreciating the principles enunciated. His grip of first principles was so firm that he could with unnerving precision, draw subtle distinctions between case and case dealing with the same point.
The late Justice Rajagopala Ayyangar has paid him this tribute, “At the start of his life Sri Alladi had to struggle against poverty and it had left an indelible impress on his character. Gratitude for any Kindness shown to him when he was not well off was an essential part of his nature and the persons whom he treated with the greatest affection all through his life were those who had been of help to him in his early days. He was generous and he could not bear to see misery, arising from poverty and his charity was particularly directed to affording assistance to hundreds of poor students to complete their studies.”
Chief Justice Rajamannar in a matchless obituary reference said “Alladi Krishnaswamy lyer was supreme as an advocate. His advocacy was of the very highest order – powerful selective and vivid. He was never long-winded He never over-stated a case. But he was so powerful in his advocacy that if he had a strong point he presented it in such a way that the judges would feel that their reputation would be at stake if they decided against him. His intellect was keen penetrating and resilient and his memory was something phenomenal”
The irrepressible, Sir Alladi has addressed national issues, such as the separation of the judiciary from the executive the lawyers duty to the country, law as an instrument of social progress and the constitutional position of the president in the Cabinet system of Government. His speeches in the constituent Assembly on the various articles which raised controversies reflect not merely deep learning but wide vision. That is why he is known as a Statesman among Jurists, a patriot among legal pundits, and above all a person of light and learning, who selflessly dedicated himself to the democracy of our polity.
This quote by Justice Krishna Iyer sums up Sir Alladi beautifully - “Learning at its highest, lucidity at its finest logic and intellect at its best, case-law in its ceaseless flow and advocacy at its sharpest blended in the phenomenal brain of this renowned lawyer. His memory was a marvel of jural chemistry. The scholarship this human wonder stored in his head, even when but a young lawyer, reminds one of Goldsmith’s lines: And still they gazed, and still the wander grew, that one small head could carry all he know.”