Historical Development of Constitution


The foundation of British authority in India was laid in down through the
establishment of East India Company in England under a Charter of the British Queen Elizabeth. Under the Charter the Company was given an exclusive right of trading with India. In the beginning the Company was purely a trading organization, but later on due to political circumstances, it acquired territorial power.
Regulating Act of 1773
With the expansion of political power of the Company, it was felt in England
that the affairs of the Company needed some regulation. As a result, the
Regulating Act of 1773 came into being. Some of the salient features of
the Act were as follows –
(i) it set up a government in Calcutta Presidency consisting of a Governor- General and a Council of four members who exercised their authority jointly,
(ii) the governments of the Presidencies of Bombay and Madras were subordinated to the government in Calcutta and
(iii) it empowered the British Crown to establish a Supreme Court in Bengal with jurisdiction over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
The Regulating Act 1773 subjected the legislative authority of the Governor-General and Council to certain limitations. They are as follow:
(i) the rules and regulations made by them were not to be repugnant to the laws of England,
(ii) they required registration by the Supreme Court which was given the power to veto them,
(iii) there could be an appeal against them to the British Government and
(iv) the Governor- General and the Council were under the duty to forward all such rules and regulations to England and the King-in- Council was competent to disapprove them at any time within two years.
Pitt'S India Act, 1784

Pitt’s lndia Act of 1784 brought about two important changes in the constitution of the company, first, it constituted a department of state in England known as Board of Control, whose special function was to control the policy of the Court of Directors. Secondly, the Act reduced the number of members of the Executive council to three. It also modified the councils of Madras and Bombay on the pattern of Bengal.
Main Provisions-
ln the first instance, a Board of six commissioners was set up, which was popularly known as the Board of control. The Board consisted of the Chancellor of Exchequer, one of the secretaries of state and four privy councilors to be appointed by the crown. The Board was given the power to superintend, direct and control all civil, military and revenue affairs of the company. Thus, the controlling authority of this Board over the Directors was specialty laid down. The Act created a separate department of the British Government in England whose only function was to exercise control over the Directors of the company and the lndian administration. As time passed, the Chancellor of Exchequer, the -Secretary of State and the three ordinary councilors stopped attending the meeting of the Board altogether and the president of the Board became all in all. He was invariably, a member of the British cabinet. This system of Government introduced by the Pitt's lndia Act is often described as the system of Double Government in England. Two sets of functionaries were recognized for controlling the Indian administration from England. On the one hand, there was the Board of Directors which
was in immediate charge of the Indian administration. Patronage or appointments as well as the trading activities of the company remained in the hands of the Directors. on the other hand, there were three representatives of the crown i.e., the Board of control, which was to exercise control on a, matters of poricy over the directors and the Indian administration' The Directors' no doubt, retained their previous status but they were low made subject to the indirect control of the Government of Great Britain. The Board of control was' in a way, an annexed of the Ministry of the day. Its president changed with the change of the cabinet in England.
Secondly, a committee of secrecy of not more than three members was appointed out of the twenty-four directors. All secret orders of the Board were to be transmitted to India through this small body. The other members of the court of Directors could thus be ignored in important matters.
Thirdly, the number of councilors of the Governor-General was reduced to three, including the commander in chief. This was done to increase effectiveness of the casting vote of the Governor-General. In a body of four, the Governor-General courd have his way by getting only one member on his side. The difficulties experienced by warren Hastings in his council were thus sought to be approved' The councilors, henceforth, were to be appointed from the senior servants of the company .
Fourthly, the presidencies of Madras and Bombay were also given the form of Government. A Governor and three councilors, including a commander-in chief was appointed in each of the two presidencies.
Fifthly, the power of the Bengal Government to "superintend, direct and control" the affairs of the subordinate presidencies was made more definite and real .
Lastly, the court of proprietors were deprived of their control over the Directors who were thus free from the sinister influence of persons, whose only interest was to get huge dividends.
The Charter Act of 1833
Features of the Act
1. It made the Governor-General of Bengal as the Governor-General of India and vested in him
all civil and military powers. Thus, the act created, for the first time, a Government of India
having authority over the entire territorial area possessed by the British in India. Lord
William Bentick was the first governor-general of India.
2. It deprived the governor of Bombay and Madras of their legislative powers. The Governor-
General of India was given exclusive legislative powers for the entire British India. The laws
made under the previous acts were called as Regulations while laws made under this act
were called as Acts.
3. It ended the activities of the East India Company as a commercial body, which became a
purely administrative body. It provided that the company’s territories in India were held by it
‘in trust for His Majesty, His heirs and successors’.
4. The Charter Act of 1833 attempted to introduce a system of open competition for selection of
civil servants, and stated that the Indians should not be debarred from holding any place,
office and employment under the Company. However, this provision was negated after
opposition from the Court of Directors.
5.To make the legislative functions of the government distinct, the British
Government enacted the Charter Act of 1833. It made substantial changes in
the constitutional set up of India. The sole legislative power in India was
vested in the Governor-General-in- Council.
The Council was to consist of
four members, of whom one was to be a Law Member, who could attend the
Council meetings, as a matter of right, only when it was to perform legislative
functions. The Council’s functions were, thus, divided into two categories. When it performed executive functions, it consisted of the Governor-General
and three members only. But, when it performed legislative functions, it consisted of the Governor-General and the four members. In this way, the
Act laid the foundation of the future Central Legislature, also called Imperial
Legislative Council.
The Charter Act of 1853
In order to strengthen the legislative machinery the Charter Act of 1853 was
enacted. The Act further extended the machinery of legislation. Under the new
Act, the Governor-General’s Council, when acting in its legislative capacity,
was enlarged by the addition of six new members. Among these six members,
one was to be an official representative from each of the four Provinces viz., Madras, Bombay, Bengal and North Western Provinces, and the Chief Justice and a puisne judge of the Supreme Court. Besides, the Commander-in-Chief was also given an extraordinary membership. Thus, the strength of the Legislative Council became twelve.
(1) The Charter of the Company wat renewed again in 1853. According to the new Act, the Law Member was made a full member of Executive Council of the Governor General.
(2) Provinces were allowed to send one representative each to the Central Legislative Council. No measure concerning any province was to lie considered unless the representative from that province
was present .The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Calcutta was to be an ex officio member of the Council .
The Council in its legislative capacity was to consist of 12 members. These were the Governor-General, Commundei in-Chief, 1 members of the (ouncil. and 0 legislative members. Out of these 0 members, 1 was the Representatives from the provinces and the other two were the Chief Justice and a puisne judge.
(3) Provision was made for the appointment of a separate Governor for the Presidency of Bengal.
(4) Power was given to the Court of Directors to constitute a new Presidency.
(5) The patronage of the Court of Directors was taken away In future, vacancies were to be filled up by competitive examination. A committee was appointed in 1851 with Lord Macaulay as President for that purpose.
(6) The number of the Directors was reduced to 18 and 0 were to be nominated by the Crown.
(7) The Act authorised the Crown to appoint a Law Commission in England. This Law Commission
was required to examine and put into shape the mass of reports and drafts of the Act left by the Indian Law-Commission and to recommend what legislation was necessary.
(8) The Charter Act. of 1853 renewed the powers of the Company and allowed it to retain possession of the Indian territories "in trust for Her Majesty, her heirs and successors" until Parliament shall otherwise provide.
The Act of 1858
The First War of Independence of 1857 brought the era of the East India
Company to an end. In 1858 the British Crown took over the rights of the Company’s Government in India in its own hands. The Act brought substantial changes in the constitutional set-up. Some of the important changes were:
(i) it abolished the Board of Directors and the court of Control and vested their powers in one of Her Majesty’s Secretary (a Minister in the British Cabinet),
(ii) he was designated as the Secretary of State for India and was empowered to superintend, direct and control all the governmental affairs in India,
(iii) the Secretary of State was to be assisted by a Council of India,
(iv) the Governor- General and Governors of the Presidencies were to be appointed by the Crown and the members of their Councils by the Secretary of State-in- Council,
(v) Lieutenant Governors were to be appointed by the Governor- General, subject to the approval of Her Majesty and appointments to the covenanted civil service were to be made through open competition with the assistance of the Civil Service Commission.
Indian Councils Act of 1861
In 1861 the British Government decided to expand the legislative Councils. This was done through the Indian Councils Act of 1861.
The main provisions of the Act were as follows –
(i) the Governor-General’s Council was expanded for legislative purposes by
adding 6-12 new members, to be nominated for two years
(ii) prior sanction of the Governor-General was essential for introducing some
(iii) every Act passed by the Legislature in India was subject to
approval of Her Majesty acting through the Secretary of State-in-Council,
(iv) the Governor-General was authorised to exercise a veto and issue ordinances in an emergency and
(v) the strength of the Governor-General’s Council for executive purposes was raised to five by addition of one more member.
Indian Councils Act of 1892
In 1892 another Act was passed to further expand and strengthen the legislative councils. The main features of the Act were as follows –
(i) the strength of the central and provincial legislative councils was expanded
by adding 8–20 new members,
(ii) two-fifth of these new additional members were to be non-officials,
(iii) the Governor-General-in-Council was authorized to make rules subject to the sanction of the Secretary of State-in- Council, for discussion of annual
financial statements and for asking questions.
Indian Councils Act of 1909
During the beginning of the twentieth century, the British Government was
confronted with three types of pressures. While on the one hand the
moderates were appealing for more reforms and the extremists were
agitating for getting Swarajya, the revolutionaries, on the other hand, were
resorting to terrorist activities to achieve their goal, i.e. end of the alien rule. In
order to mollify the discontent, to some extent, the government enacted the

The salient features of the Act were as follows –
(a) The Act provided for the expansion of the Legislative Councils at both
the levels, Central as well as Provincial.
(b) It maintained the majority of official members in the Central Legislative
Council. There were four categories of members i.e. ex-officio members,
nominated officials, nominated non-officials and elected members.
(c) It provided for non-official majority in the Provincial Legislatures But
then, the combined strength of official and nominated non-official members out-numbered the elected members.
(d) The Act enlarged the functions of the Legislative Councils. This Act
(i) empowered the members to discuss the budget and move resolutions before it was finally approved,
(ii) they were allowed to ask supplementary questions, to move resolutions on matters relating to loans to local bodies, additional grants and new taxes
(iii) it also extended to the members the right to discuss matters of public interest, adopt resolutions or demand a division on them, but the resolutions adopted by the House were not binding on the government.
(e) One of the most important and unfortunate feature of this Act was the introduction of separate and discriminatory electorate. The electorate for returning the representatives to the councils was divided on the basis of class,
community and interests. For the provincial councils the electorate provided for three categories, viz., general, special and class (such as land owners and chambers of commerce). For the Central Council one more category viz. Muslim was added to it. The qualification of the electorate based on income, property and education differed from community to community and region to region.
The Government of India Act of 1919
During the First World War, Gandhiji had requested the nation to help the
allies in their war efforts because they were fighting for the cause of democracy. After the war was over, the people were feeling that they would also get democratic reforms. The Government of India Act of 1919 was enacted
to satisfy the people of India to some extent.
The salient features of the Act were as follows :
(a) Preamble: The Act provided for a Preamble that laid down the basic principles and policies upon which it was based. According to it the policy of the British Parliament was –
(i) to provide for the increasing association of Indians in every branch
of Indian administration,
(ii) to develop self governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in British India as an integral part of the empire;
(iii) the time and manner of gradual advance towards this goal was to be
decided by the British Parliament and
(iv) accordingly, the Preamble suggested for a decentralised unitary
form of government.
(b) Distribution of Functions: The Act divided the functions of government in
two categories: central and provincial. The provincial subjects were further
subdivided into transferred and reserved. In the transferred subjects the Governors were to be assisted by the ministers responsible to the
legislature while in the reserved subjects the Governors were to be
advised by the councillors who were not accountable to the legislature. Thus, in
the provinces a new form of government, dyarchy, was introduced. Dyarchy
means dual set of governments, e.g. accountable and non-accountable.
(c) Categories of Members: The Act provided for three categories of
members: elected, nominated officials and nominated non-officials. The first
category had about 70% members, the second had about 10% and the third
category had about 20%. There was majority of elected members.
(d) The constituencies and franchise: The Act provided for restricted
franchise and communal electorate. The voting qualification varied from
province to province and within the same province it differed from rural to
urban areas. The constituencies were divided into two categories: general and
special. The general constituencies were demarcated to return Hindus, Muslims,
Christians, Anglo-Indians, Sikhs etc. Special constituencies were devised to
give representation to land holders, universities, chambers of commerce etc.
(e) Strength of Central Legislature: The Act introduced bicameral legislature at the centre comprising the Council of States and the Central Legislative Assembly. The former had 60 members, of whom 33 were to be elected and 27 to be nominated. The latter consisted of 145 members, of whom 104 were to be elected and 41 to be nominated, eligible for appointment as the Law member.
(i) Secretary of State for India: The control of the Secretary of State for
India over the central and provincial administration was reduced.
The Government of India Act of 1935
The three Round Table Conferences convened in London during 1930-32
had made a number of recommendations regarding constitutional reforms in India. The Government of India Act, 1935 was the result of these recommendations. Main features of the Act were as follows:
(a) It was a comprehensive and detailed document. It consisted of 321 Sections and 10 Schedules. It described, in detail, not only the machinery of the centre but also of the units.
(b) It, for the first time, introduced a federal form of polity in India. The
units of federation fall into two categories: the (British) Indian provinces and the princely states (also known as native states).
(c ) The Act divided the functions of the government in three categories. The
federal list contained 59 subjects, the provincial list had 54 subjects, while the concurrent list comprised of 36 subjects. While the federal and provincial governments had exclusive jurisdiction on the subjects in the federal and
provincial lists respectively, both the federal and the provincial governments
could legislate on the subjects in the concurrent list. It is interesting to note that the jurisdiction of the federal legislature did not extend to all the subjects
mentioned in the federal list in the native states. According to the Act, the ruler of every state was required to sign an Instrument of Accession mentioning therein the extent to which it consented to surrender its authority to the federal government.
(d) The Act also provided that such a federation could come into existence only if as many princely states (which were given the option to join or not to join the federation) would accept to join it as were entitled to one-half of the states’ seats in the upper house of the federal legislature and having one-half of  the total states’ population.
(e) The proposed federal polity was to have a bicameral legislature at the
centre. The upper house was to be called the Council of States. It was
to consist of 260 members, of whom 156 were to represent the provinces
and 104 the native states. Out of these 156 representatives of the
provinces 150 were to be elected on communal lines. While the seats
fixed for Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were to be filled by direct elections, the seats reserved for Europeans, Anglo-Indian Community and Indian Christians
were to be filled by an indirect method through an electoral college consisting of the members of their community in the provincial legislatures. The remaining six members were to be nominated by the Governor-General. It is interesting to note that the number of seats allotted to a state depended not on the strength of its population but on the relative rank and importance of that state. The Council of States was to be a permanent house. One-third of its members were to retire every third year.
The lower house was to be called the Federal Assembly. It was to consist of
375 members, out of which 250 were to represent the provinces and 125 to
represent the princely states. While the representatives of the princely states
were to be nominated by their rulers, those representing the provinces were
to be elected indirectly by the provincial legislative councils on communal lines.
It is interesting to note that the seats allotted to the princely states were
disproportionate to their population. Similarly, the seats allotted to the various communities in the provinces were also disproportionate to their population. The term of the Assembly was five years but it could be dissolved earlier also.
(f) The federal legislature could make laws on all the subjects included in
the federal and the concurrent list. It was also empowered to legislate
on provincial list in an emergency or when two or more provinces requested it to do so. However, its authority over princely states extended to those subjects only which were mentioned in their Instrument of Accession.
No Bill could become an Act unless both the houses passed it and also
approved by the Governor-General. In case of differences between the two
houses, provision for a joint session of both the houses was made. The
Governor- General had the authority to approve or disapprove any Bill passed
by the federal legislature. Though both the houses exercised some control over
the executive, by putting questions and passing adjournment motions and
other resolutions, the Assembly alone could pass a vote of no confidence
against the ministers.
Both the houses possessed almost equal financial powers excepting that
the Money Bill could be introduced only in the Assembly. But, the Act granted
only limited financial powers to the federal legislature. The Act divided the
budget into two parts. The first part covered 80% of the expenditure that
was beyond the control of the federal legislature. The remaining 20%
required the sanction of the legislature, but, the Governor-General was
empowered to restore the reductions or sanction any amount rejected by the
(g) The Act introduced dyarchy at the federal level. The federal subjects
were divided into two categories: the reserved and the transferred. The reserved subjects included Defence; External Affairs; Ecclesiastical Affairs and Tribal
Areas. In these matters the Governor General possessed discretionary powers i.e., he acted on the advice of the councillors to be appointed by him. He was not even required to consult the council of ministers in these matters. Subjects not included in the above list comprised the transferred subjects. These subjects were under the charge of ministers responsible to the federal legislature. But, there were certain matters wherein the Governor- General possessed the powers relating to individual judgement. These were the powers wherein the Governor-General was required to consult the council of ministers but was not bound by their advice.
(h) The Act also provided for a Federal Court that was to consist of a Chief
Justice and not more than six other judges. They were to be appointed
by His Majesty and retired at the age of 65. They could be removed earlier also on charges of misbehaviour or infirmity of mind or body by King of England on the recommendation of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The Court had Original, Appellate and Advisory jurisdictions. It was also a Court of Record. But, the Court was not the highest Court of Appeal. Appeal could be filed against its judgments to the Privy Council of England.
(i) The Act did away with the diarchy introduced by the Government of India Act, 1919 and introduced provincial autonomy in the provinces. Accordingly, the
Governors were required ordinarily to act on the advice of council of ministers responsible to the provincial legislature excepting when they exercised their
discretionary powers or powers of individual judgment.
It is interesting to note that the Act did not enumerate the discretionary
powers of the Governor. The Governor, at his discretion, decided as to what
were his discretionary powers. Thus, the Governor could misuse his
authority and make the provincial autonomy a mockery.
(j) The Act provided for bicameral legislatures in six provinces and
unicameral in five provinces. The lower house was to be called
Legislative Assembly and the upper house, Legislative Council. The
strength of the upper and lower houses varied from province to
While the Act completely abolished the categories of the nominated members from Assemblies, it continued to have a few nominated members in the Councils. The Act suggested direct elections for both the houses. The basis of the allotment of the seats to various communities was on the notorious
communal award, given by Ramsay Macdonald, as amended by Poona Pact.
The basic principle of the scheme was that the seats reserved for a community
were to be contested only by persons belonging to that community and they
were to be elected by members of that community alone.
(k) The provincial legislatures were empowered to legislate not only on the subjects included in the provincial list but also on those included in the concurrent list. But a provincial law on a concurrent subject held good in so far as it did not go against a federal law on the subject. In case of a conflict, the federal law was to prevail. There were certain limitations on the legislative powers of the provincial legislatures. In some cases prior permission of the Governor-General was needed before a Bill could be introduced in a legislature. Bills relating to an Act of the British Parliament or that of the Governor -General or Governor or affecting the discretionary powers of the Governor fall in this category.
Both the houses could exercise some control over the executive of the
province by putting questions, supplementary questions or moving adjournment motions etc. The control of the Assembly, however, was substantial in the sense that it could pass a vote of censure against the council of ministers. The legislatures also enjoyed some limited financial powers. The budget of the province was divided into votable and non-votable categories. Votable items constituted 30% of the expenditure while non-votable items comprised 70% of the budget. Even in the votable category, the Governor could restore any reduction or cut passed by the legislature if he considered it necessary for efficient administration of the province,
(1) Besides the above, the Act also provided for the abolition of India
Council, separation of Burma from India, creation of Federal Railway,
appointments of an Advocate General and a Financial Adviser.
August Offer 1940
When the Congress ministries in the Provinces resigned, the British arose and wanted to get support of the Congress for war. In March 1940, Congress met at Ramgarh in Bihar in its annual session. He Congress passed a resolution offering the British Government support in war, if a provisional National Government is setup at Centre. This was responded by Lord Linlithgow in the sort of a proposal which is called August Offer.
The august Offer turned down the demand of the Congress to set up a national Government at the center but proposed the following:
(1) After the war, a representative “Constitution Making Body” shall be appointed immediately after the war.
(2) The number of the Indians in the Viceroy’s Executive council will be increased.
(3)  A war advisory Council would be set up.
The Congress did not approve the August Offer. Jawahar Lal Nehru said that the whole idea was “dead and doornail”. The Muslim League said that it will not be satisfied with anything short of partition of India.
Cabinet Mission Plan
After the War (i.e. Second World War) was over, elections were held in England. Labour Party came to power. It was sympathetic towards the cause of India. The British Government sent a Parliamentary delegation to India to
get first hand information about the political situation in India. After its
report, the British Government sent a committee of three members of the
British Cabinet that was authorized to evolve a formula acceptable to the
prominent political parties of India. The Cabinet Committee, accordingly,
met different leaders of different political parties and then offered its recommendations in two instalments. On May 16, 1946 it announced its
proposals for a long-term settlement and on June 16, 1946 it outlined a
procedure for the formation of Interim Government.

Proposals for long-term: The main provisions of the long-term proposals were as follows:
(a) There should be a Union of India comprising provinces and the
princely states.
(b) The Union should have jurisdiction on Foreign Affairs, Defence and
Communication and should have necessary powers to raise finances.
(c) The Union should have an executive and a legislature consisting of
Representatives of both the provinces and princely states.
(d) Any question relating to a major communal issue in the legislature
should be decided by a majority of members present and voting belonging to that community as well as a majority of all the members of the legislature present and voting.
(e) Provinces should be free to form groups and each group could
determine the provincial subjects to be taken in common.
(f) The Constitution of the Union and of the groups should contain a
provision whereby any province could, by a majority vote of the
Legislative Assembly call for a reconsideration of the terms of the
Constitution after an initial period of ten years and at ten yearly
intervals thereafter.
Proposals for Constitution making machinery: The main provisions of the
proposals for Constitution making machinery were as follows:
(a) A constituent Assembly should be constituted consisting 389 members, 296 representing the provinces and 93 the princely states. Each province was to be
allotted a number of seats proportional to its population. The total number of seats allotted to a province was to be divided among the main communities (General, Muslims and Sikhs) in proportion to their population and were to be
elected by members of the same community in the Legislative Assembly. The number of seats allotted to each princely state was also to be fixed on the basis of population but the mode of choosing their representatives was
to be settled in consultation with a Negotiating Committee.
(b) The members of the Constituent Assembly, so constituted, would be
divided into the following three groups:
(i) Provinces not claimed for and representing Hindu majority regions viz., Madras, Bombay, the United Provinces, Bihar and Orissa.
(ii) Territories claimed for Pakistan and representing the North- Western Muslim majority regions viz., Punjab, North- Western Frontier Province  Sindh and British Baluchistan.
(iii) Territories claimed for Pakistan and representing the North- Eastern Muslim majority regions viz., Bengal and Assam.
(c) Each group was to settle the constitution of the provinces included in it and also whether any constitution for the group as a whole to be set up and, if so, the extent of its powers.
(d) After the group constitutions were settled, the groups were to assemble together to settle the Union Constitution.
(e) After the first general election under the new constitution, it was to be
open to any province to come out of any group, in which it was placed, by a resolution of its legislature.
British Indian Treaty: A treaty will be negotiated between the Constituent
Assembly and the United Kingdom to provide for certain matters arising out
of the transfer of power. It was, however, hoped that India would decide
to remain a member of the Commonwealth. But at the same time, she was
given the right to go out of Commonwealth, if so desired.
Recommendation for Short-Term Plan: The Plan envisaged immediate
setting up of an Interim Government in order to carry on administration
while the constitution making was in progress. The interim government was
to have 14 members: 6 Congressmen, 5 Leaguers, 1 Indian Christian, 1 Sikh
and 1 Parsee.
In the Interim Government all the portfolios were to be held by Indians
and the British Government was to give full co-operation in the accomplishment
of the tasks that confronted the Interim Government
Evaluation of the Plans: All the major political parties accepted the
Plan, with all its drawbacks; and elections were held for a Constituent
Assembly. But differences arose between the Congress and the League
regarding the interpretation of the Plan. Though the Plan ruled out Pakistan in
name, it definitely conceded in  substance. This caused trouble and on July 10, 1946 the League withdrew its acceptance.
Interim Government and Direct Action: On August 14, 1946 an Interim Government was formed under the leadership of Jawahar Lal Nehru. The
Muslim League did not join it. The League declared August 16, 1946 as
‘Direct Action Day. On that day a systematic killing and looting of the
Hindus began which lasted for four days. About three thousand people
were killed and thousands worth of property destroyed. While the carnage
continued in Calcutta, Noakhali, Bihar and other places, attempts were
continued to bring the League in the Interim Government. As a result,
League joined the Interim Government on October 13, 1946. This Government
remained in office till the partition of India in August 1947.
Mountbatten Plan
As per Cabinet Mission Plan, the Constituent Assembly was at work
framing the Constitution, but the League members boycotted it. This
made the British Government’s task of transferring power to Indian hands
difficult. Though it declared June 1948 to be the deadline for the transfer of
power, it was felt that it would not be appropriate for it to transfer power to
an Assembly that was not fully representative. In order to workout a
formula, acceptable to all sections of people, for resolving this problem the
British Government appointed Mountbatten as the Governor-General
of India, who reached India on March 24, 1947. While on the one hand
Mountbatten was negotiating with the leaders of different parties for evolving
a formula, a strong agitation was started for the partition of Bengal and
Punjab in the wake of communal riots and violence at a vast scale. This gave
an opportunity to Mountbatten to announce his plan for solving the
It declared that partition of India was the only possible solution of the Indian
problem. The three disputed Provinces viz., Assam, Bengal and Punjab would
also be partitioned. A referendum would be held in the North-Western
Frontier Province to decide whether that Province would like to join
Pakistan or India. A referendum would be held in the Syllhat division of Assam
also to determine whether it would like to remain part of Assam or join East
Bengal that would be a part of Pakistan.
The Plan indicated a willingness of the British Government to transfer power
before June 1948. As the Plan was accepted by all the major parities of India,
a Bill was introduced in the Parliament viz., Indian Independence Bill, 1947
which was passed by it and it became the Indian Independence Act, 1947.
Indian Independence Act of 1947
The main Provisions of the Act are as follows:
(a) The Act provided for the creation of two independent Dominions, viz.,
India and Pakistan.
(b) It provided for the partition of Punjab and Bengal and separate boundary commissions to demarcate the boundaries between them.
(c) Besides West Punjab and East- Bengal, Pakistan was to comprise territories of Sindh, North Western Frontier Province, Syllhat division of Assam, Bhawalpur, Khairpur, Baluchistan and eight other relatively minor princely states in Baluchistan.
(d) The paramount authority of British Crown over the princely states was
to lapse, and they were free to join the Dominion of India or Pakistan
or remain independent.
(e) The British Government was not to exercise any authority in future
over the tribal areas and any treaty or agreement in force, at the time of
passing of the Act, between British Government and any tribal authority was also to lapse.
(f) Both the Dominions of India and Pakistan were to have Governor-
Generals appointed by the British King. The Act also provided for one
common Governor-General if both the Dominions so agreed.
(g) The Constituent Assemblies of both the Dominions were free to frame the
constitution for their respective countries without any limitation whatsoever. They were also free to withdraw from the British Commonwealth.
(h) For the time being, till the new constitutions were framed, each of
the Dominions and all the provinces were to be governed in accordance
with the Government of India Act, 1935 with such modifications,
omissions or additions as may be done by the Governor-General-in-
(i) In each of the Dominions, the powers of the legislature of the Dominion would be exercisable in the first instance by the Constituent Assembly of that Dominion.
(j) The British Government would no longer possess any control over the
Dominions, provinces or any part thereof after Independence.
(k) The Governor-Generals would become the constitutional heads, empowered to give assent to any Bill on behalf of the Crown.
(l) The Governor-General was invested with adequate powers until March,
1948, to issue orders for the effective implementations of the provisions
of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 and the division of assets between the two Dominions and to make suitable changes in the Government of India Act, 1935 to remove any difficulty that might arise in the transitional period.
(m) Those persons who had been appointed by the Secretary of State
or Secretary of State-in-Council to a civil service under the Crown in India before 15th August 1947, would continue in that service after independence and enjoy the same privileges and rights in respect of leave, remuneration, pension, disciplinary matters and tenure of office which had been enjoyed by them before Independence.

Friday, 05th Aug 2016, 11:28:25 PM

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