In an interview, Pragya Thakur, a Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, claimed that former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was the first person to sign the Constitution of India, sidelining former President Rajendra Prasad and leaving little to no space for Prasad’s signature.
What did Pragya Thakur say?: In an interview published on Aaj Tak’s YouTube channel on 15 September, Thakur said:
“Jawaharlal Nehru was so eager to sign the Constitution as soon as possible. When the Constitution was made, it was to be signed. The President’s signature comes first. But he (Nehru) signed and left no space for others. The President had to sign on the side later.”
Pragya Thakur’s statement can be heard at the 31:45 mark in the interview.
She goes on to say, “Just imagine, a person who doesn’t know his duty of where to sign, that person signed before the President. But our humble former President signed on the side, a little lower (than Nehru’s signature). This is a matter of great shame for us.”
Is this what really happened?: No, Pragya Thakur’s statement is not factual. Though it is true that former PM Nehru was the first person to put his signature on the Constitution, the incident that Thakur narrated is not.
Former President Rajendra Prasad was not sidelined by Nehru.
The President invited all members of the Constituent Assembly to sign the Constitution before signing it himself. Since Nehru was the Prime Minister, he was the first member to be invited.
Thakur’s claim that Prasad had to sign the document on the side because of lack of space is also not true. In the original copy of the Constitution, Prasad’s signature is seen on the top.
How did we find out?: We started by looking for the original copy of the Constitution, which carries the signatures of all members of the Constituent Assembly.
This copy was available on the Government of India’s website, amritmahotsav.in. Here, one can see that former President Prasad’s signature on top, above Nehru’s and other members’ signatures.
This disproves Pragya Thakur’s statement about Prasad’s signature being placed below Nehru’s and to the side of the page. But the question remains.
Did Prasad have to sign in leftover space after Nehru signed first? To get more information about this, we went through the records of the Constituent Assembly’s debates. But, what was the Constituent Assembly?
The Constituent Assembly: On 15 August 1947, after India got her independence, it was time for India to have a Constitution. For this purpose, a Constituent Assembly was formed. The members of this Assembly were selected by election, voting for which was held in July 1949.
The Assembly’s first meeting was held on 9 December 1949 and the last one was on 24 January 1950. The Constitution of India was ready in the last meeting, when it was signed by the Assembly’s members.
Records of the last meeting are available on the Lok Sabha’s official website. Here, we found all details, from the announcement of the new President of the country to the appointment of the Assembly’s members.
So, what did the President (Rajendra Prasad) say about signing the Constitution?
Prasad said, “The only thing that now remains is the signing of the copy of the Constitution by the Members. There are three copies ready. One is in English completely hand-written and illuminated by artists. The second copy is in print in English. The third copy is also hand-written in Hindi. All the three copies are laid on the table and Members will be requested one by one to come and sign the copies. The idea is to call them in the order in which they are sitting in the House now. But, as the Honourable the Prime Minister has to go on public duty, I will request him first to sign them.”
Historian Saquib Saleem also refuted this claim that Nehru had decided to sign the Constitution before the President.
“To the best of my knowledge, there are no historical reports or records which suggest that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rushed to sign the Constitution before the President could. The Constituent Assembly’s records prove that Nehru only signed the document only after the President invited him to sign it.”Saquib Saleem, Historian
We have reached out to BJP MP and leader Pragya Thakur for her inputs regarding this claim. The article will be updated as and when a response is received.
Conclusion: Clearly, Pragya Thakur’s claim about Nehru rushing to sign the Constitution before the President could do it is false. The President, Rajendra Prasad had himself invited PM Nehru to be the first to sign it.
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