26. Constitutional Development (1773-1950)

The Regulating Act of 1773
The Regulating Act of 1773 has been described the first landmark in the constitutional development of India. It was though this Act that the British Parliament for the first time interfered into the affairs of India. In the early days of the Company its three important settlements of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta were each under the charge of a Governor who was assisted by a council of merchants and writers. The ultimate authority rested with the Courts of directors and proprietors who exercised their power subject to the nominal control of Parliament. The Company gradually developed from a purely mercantile body into a territorial power, it established a double government. In Bengal and Madras, the internal government was in the hands of the Nawab while the Company managed the military defence. This system of double government with its faulty division of duties led to gross corruption and misgovernment. So in the interest of good government the British Parliament began to interfere in the affairs of India. The Indian Constitution is the product of such parliamentary interference. The development of the constitutions falls into two well marked periods, viz., (A) under the company and (B) under the crown. The first parliamentary interference in the Company’s affairs was famous Regulating Act of 1773.
Provisions of the Regulating Act of 1793

  • The qualification for a vote in the court of proprietors was raised from £1000. In other words the Act gave the right of vote for the election of Directors of the Company to shareholders holding stock worth £1000 for 12 months preceding the date of election.The Governor of Bengal was made the Governor General of India and the governors of Madras and Bombay were made subordinate to him.
  • Warren Hasting’s was appointed the first Governor-General of Bengal.
  • Governor-General in council was empowered to made rules, ordinance and regulations for the good order and civil government of Company’s settlement of Fort William and factories and places subordinate to it.
  • A Supreme Court of Judicature consisting of a chief justice and three judges was established at Calcutta.
  • All the servants of the Company were forbidden to receive any presents or bribes or to indulge in private trade.
  • The Act provided that if the Governor-General, Member of the Council or a judge of Supreme Court committed any offence he would be liable to be tried and punished by the King’s bench England.
  • The Directors of the Company were directed to send the copies of the letters and advises received from the Governor-General and Governors were asked to obey and respect the directions of the Directors and inform them all the matter affecting the interests of the Company.
  • The Act also fixed the salaries of the Governor-General, Governors, Chief Justice and other judges. Their salaries were fixed at £25000,
  • £10,000, £800 and £600 annually respectively.

The Regulating Act is reckoned as the beginning of the constitutional development of the British India. It contributed to the strengthening of the British rule in India. It limited the private trade of the servants of the East India Company. This Act also marks the beginning of the Control of the Central Government over Provincial Governments. However, this Act had many shortcomings.
The Amending Act of 1781
The amending Act of 1781 was passed in order to remove the defects of the Regulating Act. The following changes were brought about this Act:

  • It was made clear that the Governor-General and the members of his Council were not to be subject to the authority of the Supreme Court for the acts done by them in their public capacity.
  • Likewise the subjects of the Company were also not to be subject to the authority of the Supreme Court for their officials acts.
  • The matters relating to the collection of revenues were exempted from the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
  • While enforcing its decrees the Supreme Court was to take into consideration the religion and social customs of the people.
  • The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court was clearly defined. It was to have jurisdiction over all persons residing at Calcutta. It was to apply personal law of the defendant.
  • The appeals against the decision of the Company’s Provincial Courts were to lie before the Governor-General in Council registered in the Supreme Court.

Pitt’s India Act 1783
Pitt the younger, the British Prime Minister introduced his famous bill on India in the British Parliament and got it pass. The main provisions of the Pitts India Act 1784 were:

  • The Board of Control consisting of a secretary of State, the Chancellor of Exchequer and four other Privy councillors was to be created. These Commissioners were to be appointed by the king and were to hold office during his pleasure.
  • The Board of Control was to be empowered to have supervision and Control over Indian administration. It provided that all the despatches from India received by the Court of Directors were to be placed before it. It was empowered to make modifications in all the despatches and orders prepared by the Board of Directors.
  • The Board of Control was to have the power to ask for quick disposal of business on any subject. In case such a direction was not complied by the Director with in 14 days it could itself prepare and despatch and send is to the Directors for transmission to India.
  • The act provided for the appointment of a committee of secrecy consisting of three Directors only. Instructions regarding declaration of War, making of peace and the concluding of treaties were to be sent by the Board of Control to this committee and these instructions were not to be disclosed to other directors.
  • Court of Directors was to retain the power of making appointments to most of offices in India. However, the Crown was to have the power to recall any of such officials.
  • The Court of Proprietors was not to have right of overriding the decisions of the Court of Directors.
  • The secretary of state was to be the Chairman of the Board of Control. In his absence the Chancellor of Exchequer was to act as Chairman. In case both the secretary of state and the Chancellor of Exchequer were absent, the senior most Commissioner was to preside its meetings.
  • The Act provided that the expenses of the Board were to be met out of Indian revenues and they were not to exceed £16,000.
  • The Board of Directors retained the control over commercial activities. However, the policy of intervention as followed by the servants of the Company in India was disfavoured.
  • The number of the members of the Governor-General’s Council was reduced from four to three and one of them was to be the commander in chief of the armies of the company in India.
  • Governor-General was to be appointed by the Directors with the approval of the Crown. Such as approval was not necessary for the appointment of the Governors of Presidencies and members of the Governor General’s Council.
  • The powers of the Governor-General’s Council were increased. It was given the power of superintending, controlling and directing the several presidencies.

The most important feature of the Pitt’s Indian Act was the introduction of what is known as the system of dual control from England. The Act made the Governor-General Supreme over the Governors of the other Presidencies and thus helped the unification of India.
The Act of 1786
The Act empowered Lord Carnwallis, the contemporary governor to override his Council on his own responsibility. He was also made the Commander-in-Chief of the Indian forces. The privileges were to given Lord Carnwallis personally on account of his ability.
The Charter Act of 1793
The main provisions of the Act were :

  • The East India Company was granted the monopoly of carrying on trade with East for 20 years.
  • The expenses of the members of Board of Control and their Staff were to be met out of Indian revenues.
  • The Governor-General of Bengal and the Governors of Bombay and Madras were to have only three member Council. These members must have resided in India for at least 12 years before the date of appointment.
  • The Commander-in-chief was not to be a member of the Council by the virtue of his office. However he could become a member of the Council if specially appointed by the Court of directors.
  • The Governor-General and the Governors were empowered to override their Councils on their own responsibility.
  • It further confirmed and emphasized the Control of the Governor-General over the Presidencies of Bombay and Madras. It was provided that when the Governor-General went to a Presidency he was to supersede the Governor of that Presidency.
  • The Governor-General was empowered to appoint a Vice-President of his Executive Council from the members of the Council and the later was to act in the place of the Governor-General in case of his absence from Bengal.
  • The Act provided that the Governor-General, Governors, Commander-in-Chief and a few other high officials were not to be given leave of absence out of India during their tenure of office.
  • The Governor-General was given power to appoint justices of peace in any presidency with the advice of his Council.
  • The policy of non-intervention was again emphasised.
  • It was laid down that the two junior members of the Board of Control need not be Privy Councillors.
  • The Act prohibited the receiving of gifts by the servants of the Company.
  • It laid down that the length of service was to be considered in matters of promotion.
  • The sale of liquor was made subject to the grant of a licence.
  • An effort was also made to Control the finances of the Company.

Charter Act of 1813
The Charter Act of 1793 had given to the Company the monopoly to trade with the East for a period of twenty years. But during this period people had started opposing the monopoly of the Company to trade with the East. The Free trade policy of Adam Smith had become quite popular in the beginning of the 19th Century. The supporters of free trade policy were pointing out many advantages of which the abolition of monopoly would bring viz; the extension of British commerce and industry, the prevention of the diversion of Indian trade to other countries of Europe and America; the reduction in the cost of trade especially in transportation and were housing charges and the cheapening of the Indian raw imports into British. On the other hand prominent men like Warren Hastings, Malcolm and Munro defended the monopoly of the Company. After a long debate in the Parliament the Charter Act of 1813 was ultimately passed.
Charter act of 1833

  • The charter of the company was renewed for a further period of 20 years but the Company was deprived of its commercial privileges. Thus the Company lost its monopoly of carrying on trade with China also.
  • The Government of India had to pay the debts of the Company. The shareholders of the Company were guaranteed a dividend of 10½ percent per annum out of the Indian revenues for the next 40 years.
  • The Governor General of Bengal was to be called hence forward as the Governor General of India and his powers and controls were further enhanced.
  • It was decided to reduce the number of members of each presidency Councils from 3 to 2.
  • The Governor General was given many civil, administrative and military powers over the Presidencies.
  • The Governor-General was empowered to make rules and laws and only the Board of Directors could declare such rules and laws invalid.
  • The Legislative powers of the Central Government were increased and provision was made for the codification of laws in India.
  • A Law member was added to in Governor-General’s Council.
  • Lord Macaulay was appointed the Law Member in Council of Governor-General and a Law Commission was appointed under him.
  • The legislative powers of the Central Government were greatly enlarged.
  • It was not necessary for the Europeans to seek permission or to obtain licence for coming to India or setting here.
  • The control of Directors was limited and President of the Board of Control became the Minister for Indian affairs and two assistant Commissioners were appointed to assist him.
  • It was proposed to divide the Presidency of Bengal into two Presidencies viz; Presidency of Agra and Presidency of Bengal.
  • It was decided to appoint the Bishops of Bombay, Madras and Calcutta for the benefit of the Christians in India.
  • It was laid down that merit was to be the basis for employment in Government Services and the religion, birth place, colour and race of the candidates were not to be considered in respect of employment.

Charter act of 1853
The Charter of Company was again renewed in 1853 by the Charter Act of 1853 which had the following main provisions:

  • The Charter of the Company was not renewed for definite period. The Company was to hold the territories in Indian as a trust for the British Crown until Parliament should direct otherwise.
  • The number of Directors were reduced from 24 to 18, six of there were to be appointed by the Crown.
  • It was provided that the salary of the President of the Board of Control could not be less than that of a Secretary of State.
  • The Board of Directors was deprived of patronage of officers in Civil Service which was thrown open to all under the rules made by the Board of Control.
  • In order to relieve the Governor-General from the administrative works of Bengal, a Lt. Governor was appointed for Bengal.
  • The Court of Directors were given the power to constitute a new province and to alter the boundaries of the provinces.
  • The Powers of the Law member were increased and he was made a full member of the Governor-General Executive Council.
  • A Legislative Council Consisting of 12 members (which included Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief as extraordinary members four members of the Executive Council and six additional members of the Legislative Councillors) was created for Indian. The six additional members were to be the Chief Justice of Bengal one judge of the Supreme Court and four Civil Servants of 10 years of standing to represent Bombay, Madras, Bengal and N.W. Provinces.

Government of India Act, 1858
Agitation had been growing in England for a long time against the rule of the Company. It was pointed out that it was not proper to entrust the work of administration of India to a trading Company. This agitation strengthened after the outbreak of mutiny and its suppression. The British Parliament decided to abolish the rule of the Company and for this the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act, 1858. The following were the main provisions of this Act:

  • The Act declared that hence forth “India shall be governed by and in the name of the Queen” and this the territories of India were transferred from Company to the Crown.
  • The Governor-General of India was also to be called Viceroy and was to rule over Indian in the name of the crown.
  • The Board of Control and the Court of Proprietors were abolished and all their powers were transferred to Secretary of State for India and his Council.
  • The Secretary of State for India was to be a member of the British Parliament and a member of the British Cabinet. An under secretary was also to be appointed for his assistance.
  • Indian Council of the Secretary of the State was to consist of 15 members, 7 of them were to be elected by the Court of Directors and the rest of 8 members were to be appointed by the Crown. More than half the members must have lived in India for 10 years and must not have left the country more than ten years before the date of appointment. Each member was to be paid £1200 a year out of Indian revenues.
  • The Secretary of State of India was empowered to preside at the meetings of the Indian Council. He was to have a vote and also a casting vote in case of a tie.
  • The Secretary of State for India was empowered to send and receive secret messages and despatches from Governor General and was not bound to communicate these to the India Council.
  • The Act established the control of the Parliament over Indian affairs. Now the members of the Parliament could ask questions from Secretary of State for India regarding Indian administration.
  • Lord Canning was appointed the first viceroy. The assumption of the government of India by the Crown was announced by the Proclamation of Queen Victoria which was read at a Durbar at Allahabad.

Indian Councils Act of 1861
Provisions of the Act : Indian Councils Act 1861 contained the following main provisions:

  • A fifth member was added to the Executive Council of the Governor-General.
  • Governor-General’s Legislative Council was to be expanded for the purpose of making laws and regulations.
  • The Legislative Councils of Bombay, Madras and Bengal were re-established. The Governor-General was empowered to establish similar Councils for North West Province and the Punjab according to his direction.
  • Subject to the approval of the Governor-General, the Governor was empowered to nominate the members of the Provincial Councils. Half of these members were to be non-officials.
  • The powers of Legislative Councils were strictly limited to legislation. It was clearly laid down that no motion could be introduced or entertained by the Council unless it was for leave to introduce a measure or had reference to some measure already introduced in it.
  • No bill passed by Governor-General’s Legislative Council could become an Act unless it received the assent of Governor-General. Likewise the assent of the Governor was necessary for all the bills to become Act in the Legislative Council of a Presidency or Province.
  • All the previous rules and regulations made in the executive capacity by the Governor-General in Council or by Governor in Council in executive capacity were to be treated as laws and accordingly enforced.
  • In case of emergency the Governor-General was empowered to issue ordinances for the peace and good government of British India or any part of it. Such an ordinance was to have the force of law for a period of six months unless disallowed earlier by Her Majesty or superseded by an Act of Legislature.

Indian Council Act 1892
With the growth of nationalism in the country, Indians had become conscious of their rights. The exploitation of the people through free trade further increased their discontent. After the foundation of the Congress in 1885 the feeling to make reforms in the administration and the demand of more representation of the Indians developed rapidly. In 1884 Lord Dufferin sent a letter to England with regard to making some reforms. After a long debate Indian Councils Act 1892 was ultimately passed. The Act increased the functions of Legislative Councils. The following were the main provisions of the Act:

  • The powers of the Legislative Councils were increased with some restrictions, they were empowered to discuss annual financial statement.
  • The number of additional members in the Councils was increased.
  • At least 2/5 of the additional members were to be non-officials.
  • The members of the Councils were given the right to ask questions on public matters from the Government but they were to give 6 days notice before putting any question.
  • A certain proportion of non-official members should be nominated by the head of the Government on the recommendation of certain bodies like Municipal Councils, District Boards, Chambers of Commerce etc.

Minto-morley Reforms, 1909
The Indian Councils Act of 1892 had failed to satisfy the Indians who had now become conscious of their rights. Complete control of the Secretary of State for India continued over the Government of India. There was a lot of agitation and discontentment in the reign of Lord Curzon. There was also the rise of extremism in the Congress under the leadership of B.G. Tilak. Gopal Krishna Gokhale went to England and met Mr. Morley the Secretary of State for India. Lord Minto also emphasised the need of making some reforms. At last the British Parliament passed Indian Councils Act of 1909 which is popularly known as Minto-Morley Reforms.
Provisions of the Act

  • The size of the Imperial Legislative Council was enlarged. The number of additional members was increased from 16 to 60. Now the total number of members in the Imperial Legislative Council was to be 69 (37 officials, 32 non-officials).
  • The size of the Provincial legislative Councils was also enlarged.
  • The Act increased the functions of the Legislative Councils. Detailed rules were made with regard to the discussion of the budget in the Imperial Legislative Council and the Provincial Legislative Councils.
  • The members were given the right to ask questions and supplementary questions.
  • Matters of public interest could be discussed in the Legislative Councils.
  • The Act introduced restricted and discriminatory franchise.

The Act introduced the system of communal and class representation of different communities, classes and interests for the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils. The compositions of the 26 elected seats in the Imperial Legislative Council was as under :
Land Lords 6 seats
Muslims 5 seats
Bombay Chamber of Commerce
1 seat
Bengal Chamber of Commerce
1 seats
To be filled by non-official members of 9 provincial Legislative Councils 13 seats
26 elected seats of Imperial Legislative Council.

  • Indians were appointed to Executive Councils. S.P. Sinha was appointed a member of the Governor-Generals Executive Council.
  • The Act did not introduce responsible government.

Government of India Act, 1919
The growing discontent of the people brought home to the British Government the necessity of making some concessions to their roused political consciousness. This was all the more necessary in view of the great services rendered by the Indians to the cause of the Allied powers in the Great War. Moreover the Government wanted to rally the moderate opinion as the recent repressive measure had driven many moderate opinion as the recent repressive measure he driven many moderates to the extremist camp. All these causes combined led Mr. E.S. Montague, the Secretary of State to make a momentous declarations of British Policy with regard to Indian on August 20, 1917. Mr. Montague visited India and with consultation with Lord Chelmsford published a Report on the basis of which the India Act of 1919 was passed.
Main features of the Act

  • According to the Preamble of that Act, British India was to remain an integral part of the British Empire. The objective of the Parliament was to establish a responsible Government in British India. It was necessary to ensure the increasing association of the Indians in every branch of administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions.
  • So far the salary of the Secretary of State for India was paid out of the Indians revenues. This Act provided that his salary will now be paid from the treasury of England. His power and functions were also reduced.
  • Certain changes were made in the constitution of Indian Council. It was now to consist of not less than 8 and not more than 12 members. Half of the members must have remained in India for years before the time of appointment. The salary of the members of Council was enhanced from £1000 to £1200. In case any member was in India at the time of appointment he was to get an allowance of £600.
  • The Secretary of State for Indian was to act with the advice of the Council in matters of expenditure of Indian revenues and Indian Civil Service. In other matters he was free to act independently.
  • The Act created the post of a High Commissioner who was to live in England and was directly subordinate to Governor-General in Council. He was to be paid out of Indian revenues.
  • The Act of 1919 set up a bicameral legislature at the centre consisting of Central Legislative. Assembly and the Council of State. The Central Legislative Assembly consisted of 145 members out of which 103 were to be elected and the rest of the 42 were to be nominated. Out of the nominated members 27 were to be officials and 15 non-officials. The council of states consisted of 60 members out of which 33 were elected and 27 were nominated by the Governor-General. The life of the Central Legislative Assembly was 3 years and the council of states 5 years.
  • The central legislature could make laws for the whole of the British India. But there were certain restrictions. The previous sanction of the secretary of state in council was necessary to pass legislation abolishing a High Court.
  • The Provincial Government was thoroughly remodelled. The Executive was divided in to two halves—the Reserve Department and the Transferred Department. The reserved subjects were to be administered by the Governor with his executive council with no responsibility to the legislature. The Governor was responsible only to the Central Government and Parliament. The transferred subjects were placed in charge of the Governor acting with the ministers selected by him from amongst the elected members of the provincial legislature.
  • The ministers in the provinces were made responsible to the legislature. This duel government in the provincial Executive is known as ‘Dyarchy’. The ministers had to serve two masters the Governor and legislative Council. The provinces were to have Legislative Councils which were to have a clear majority of the elected members.
  • Communal electorates first set up in the case of Muslims in 1909 was extended to other groups like Sikhs, Europeans, Anglo-Indians and Indian Christians. The provincial budget was in the main made votable by the Legislative Council which could cut down or refuse any demand in respect of transferred subjects. But if the demand related to reserved subjects were rejected by the Council the Governor could restore it by certifying the expenditure as essential for the discharge of his responsibility.

Importance of the Act
There is no doubt that Government of Indian Act of 1919 was an important instalment of constitutional reform. It was more substantial and comprehensive than any attempted before. It introduced direct election, widened the franchise and at points crossed the line between legislative and authority. For the first time Indian ministers were appointed to take charge of certain departments of provincial administration not as official nominees but as the leaders of the elected majorities in their legislatures and responsible to them alone. This was responsible government although to a very limited extent. All these were no doubt significant concessions. Besides, the Act afforded valuable opportunity to the people for training in politics and in the art of government. But despite these commendable features the Act was defective in many respects. As Dr. A.K. Heith remarks, “The executive remained wholly free from direct authority of the legislature,” The Dyarchy or the double executive betrays a lack of confidence in the capacity or the double executive betrays a lack of confidence in the capacity of Indians to manage their own affairs and that was why only such subjects were transferred to their care as were politically unimportant. The system did not make for efficiency of administration. It gave minister responsibility without power and the legislatures power without responsibility. Besides subjects vitally related to one another were divided into reserved and transferred subjects. Sir K.V. Reddy ex-Minister of Madras very pertinently observed, “I was minister for Development without the Forest. I was the minister for Agriculture minus irrigation.” Development of Agriculture is impossible without irrigation but the latter being a ‘reserved’ subject the minister had no control over it. The moderates accepted the reforms as they regarded them as important steps in the direction of self government. The Nationalist party however, rejected them as being inadequate, unsatisfactory and disappointing.
Government of India Act, 1935
The Government of India Act of 1919 was regarded as insufficient disappointing and dissatisfactory by the Congress. The Congress decided not to take part in the elections. But later the Swaraj Party entered the Legislative Councils. In 1927 Simon Commission was appointed to submit a report on the reforms of 1919. The Indians boycotted this Commission because all the members of the commission were Britishers. The commission submitted its report in 1930 since the Nehru Report had not been accepted and the Congress had started Satyagraha Movement in 1930-31. Three Round Table Conferences were held at London in 1930, 1931 any 1932 respectively to decide the future of India. Only in the Second Round Table Conference Mahatma Gandhi participated as a sole representative of the Congress. In August 1932 the British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald announced the famous Communal Award and the famous White Paper was published in 1933. The joint select committee submitted its report on 22nd November 1934. On the basis of its recommendations the government of India Act was passed.
Provisions of the Act
Proposed Federation of India : The Act proposed to set up an all India Federation consisting of eleven Governor’s Provinces, Six Chief Commissioner’s provinces and such states as would agree to join the Federation.
Provincial Autonomy : The Act established the autonomy of the provinces and abolished the distinction between the Reserved and Transferred departments by making all the provincial subjects as transferred subjects. It made the ministers responsible to the Legislature.
Division of Subjects : On account of the establishment of provincial Autonomy, the division of subjects, hitherto existing had to be revised. The Act of 1935 divided the subjects into three lists—Federal, State and concurrent.
Dyarchy at Centre : Though the system of dyarchy was abolished in the province the Act of 1935 introduced the system of dyarchy at the centre. The Federal subjects were to be divided into reserved and transferred. Defence affairs, External Affairs, the Administraion of the Tribal Areas etc. were to be Reserved Subjects were to be Governor-General with the help of the Executive Councillors not exceeding three in number. The rest of the subjects were to be transferred ones. The Governor General was to administer the Transferred Subjects with the help of council of ministers who were responsible to the Governor-General and the Legislature.
Inclusion of Safeguards and Reservations : The authors of the Act were of the vies that certain checks on the Central Legislatures and on the Provincial Legislatures were necessary to make responsible government a success. In certain circumstances, the Governor General and the governors were entitled to override the decisions of the Council.
Increased size of Legislatures and Extension of Franchise : The Act of 1935 enlarged the size of the Legislatures. The Federal Legislature was to consist of Council of State having 260 members and Federal Assembly having 375 members. Bicameral system of Legislature was introduced in six out of eleven provinces. As a result of the extension of Franchise, 10 percent people became entitled to vote in the elections to provincial legislatures.
Establishment of Federal Court : A Federal Court was to be established to adjudicate inter state disputes and matters concerning the interpretation of constitution. The Federal Court was set up in 1937.
Abolition of India Council : The India Council of the Secretary of State for India which had existed since 1858 was abolished by this Act. In its place Advisers were appointed.
Extension of Communal Electorates : The Act of 1935 further extended the system of communal electorates. Separate electorates were constituted for Indian Christians and Anglo Indians.
Supremacy of the British Parliament : The Act maintained the supremacy of the British Parliament which could pass any law relating India.
No Reforms in Chief Commissioner’s Provinces : No new reforms were introduced in the Chief Commissioner’s Provinces which were continued to be administered under the authority of the Centre.
Separation of Burma : With effect from April 1937 Burma was separated from India.
Creation of new Provinces of Sind and Orissa : Sind and Orissa were created separate provinces by the Act of 1935.
Constitutional Development in India from 1937-1950
The period between 1937 to 1950 was notable for great success, great failures and a great mistake. The success was the Congress ministers, the failure was the inability of the Government to persuade the princes to join the Federation. They preferred dealing with the British direct. The Viceroy was active and persuasive, but the princes had lost their enthusiasm after the First Round Table conference. They were rent with jealousies among themselves. As for the Congress, the more they said its democratic implications, the less they liked it. Having let down the British over federation as they had previously let down the Congress over the democracy and nationalism they found themselves friendless after the World War II. They had no popular backing and they were out like so many candles. India may perhaps be grateful for the prince’s folly. It was the Princes failure to cooperate which prevented the Federal Centre from coming into being. This fact enabled the Congress to take over complete power in 1947 and to set up a strong centre. Without a strong centre the development of modern India would not have been possible.
The whole of the Government of India Act was not enforced. Only the provisions relating to the provincial autonomy were enforced from April 1939. On the assurance that the Governor would not interfere in the day to day working of the ministries. The Congress took part in the elections and secured complete majority in the six out of the eleven provinces. The Congress formed ministries in these provinces and from April 1937 to October 1939. They did commendable work relating to primary education, restriction on the consumption of liquor and other intoxication drugs; development of villages and the improvement of the conditions of the peasants. During this period of 28 months Governors acted as constitutional Heads. The work of the Congress ministries was praised by the contemporary Governor-General Lord Linlithgow. The Second World War broke out in 1939 and on account of the War policy of the British Government, the Congress Ministries resigned. A state of emergency was declared under section 93 of the Government of India Act of 1935 and the Governors took the reins of administration in their own hands.
In order to get the cooperation of the Indians during the War, the British Government announced in 1940 that India would be granted Dominion Status after the War but the Congress did not accept it and started the National Movements. In March 1942 Sir Stafford Cripps the leader of the House of Commons came to India with some proposals. He announced that an elected body was to be set up in Indian for the framing of a new constitution of India. There was provision for the participation of the Indian States in the constituent Assembly. The members of the constitution making body were to be elected by an electoral college consisting of the entire membership of provincial Legislative Assemblies. The said proposals were not acceptable to any party.
In 1942 the Congress passed the resolution of starting the ‘Quit India’ Movement. Although the government arrested many Congress leaders and workers and sent them to jails yet the movement could not be suppressed.
In 1945, the British Government offered new proposals which are popularly know as Wavell Plan. According to this plan the Governor General’s Executive Council was to be enlarged pending the preparation of the new constitution. All the members of the said council except the Governor-General and the Commander-in-Chief were to be Indians. Section 93 was to be withdrawn and responsible governments were to be set up in the provinces and External affairs was also to be transferred to Indian hands. The members of the Congress Committee were released from the jails. A conference of the leaders of different political parties was called at Simla to discuss the said proposals. The Congress accepted the proposals but the Simla conference could not succeed because of the attitude of the Muslim League. In the words of Maulana Azad—“The Simla conference marks a break water in Indian political history. This was the first time that negotiations failed not on the political issue between India and Britain but on communal issue dividing different Indian groups.” The same year there were elections in Britain and Labour Party came into power. Attlee the British Prime Minister set a mission of three cabinet member known as Cabinet Mission to India to solve the constitutional tangle. This mission offered plans for Interim Government and made several suggestions for future reforms also. Both the Congress and the Muslim League accepted the proposals of the Cabinet Mission. The contemporary Governor-General Lord Wavel asked Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru to form the Interim Govenment. The Muslim League refused to take part in the formation of the Interim Government. Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru formed the Interim Government on September 2, 1946. Later on, the Muslim League also joined the Government on October 13, 1946.
Elections of the constituent Assembly were held in July 1947. The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting at New Delhi but the Muslim League refused to participate in its meetings. On February 20, 1947 Lord Attlee declared that the British Government would leave India before June 1948 even if no agreement was made between in Congress and Muslim League. Lord Mountbatten was appointed the Governor-General and Viceroy of Indian in March 1947. He announced his plan on 3rd June 1947 According to Lord Mountbatten’s Plan India was to be partitioned into two countries named India and Pakistan. Both the Congress and the Muslim League accepted the plan. In order to give effect to the said plan a Bill was presented in the British Parliament on July 4th, 1947. After having been passed by both the Houses of the Parliament the Bill became an Act after having an assent of the British King on August 1947. This Act is popularly known as the Indian Independence Act of 1947.
Indian Independence Act 1947
Main Provisions : 1. India was to be partitioned into the Dominions of India and Pakistan from 15th August 1947.
2. The Act brought to an end to the legislative supremacy of the British Parliament over India. Full powers of legislation were given to the Legislature of the Country.
3. It was provided that from August 15, 1947 the British government was to have no control over the affairs of the Dominions provinces or any part of the Dominions.
4. The Act provided that the Dominions and Provinces were to be governed in accordance with the Government of India Act 1935 till the framing of the new constitution. In case of each Dominion the Governor-General was authorized to make the necessary changes in the Act till 31st March 1948. Any change after that date could be made only by the Constituent Assemblies.
5. The title of the Viceroy was dropped and henceforth he was to be called only Governor-General.
6. The Crown was no more to have the right to veto the laws made by dominion Legislature. Now the Governor-General was to exercise this right on the advice of the Dominion Cabinet.
7. The Act ended the paramountcy of the Crown over the native states. It provided that all the treaties and agreements between the Crown and the native states were to lapse with effect from the date of transference of power. The existing agreements between Indian states and the Government of India were to continue pending the detailed negotiations between the Indian States and the new dominion concerned.
8. The successor dominions were to negotiate the terms and agreements with the tribes of the North-Western Frontier Province of India.
9. The office of the Secretary of State for India was abolished and the work entrusted to the Secretary of State for Common Wealth Affairs.
10. The title of ‘Emperor of India’ was to be dropped from the Royal style and the Titles of the Kings of England.
11. The Indian Army, Government Stores, Railways etc. were to be divided between ‘India and Pakistan.’
12. Both the Dominions could leave the British Commonwealth of Nations if they so liked.
Thus India became free on 15th August 1947. The constituent Assembly continued its work and prepared a draft of the new constitution of India in February 1948. It gave final shape to the constitution of India on 20th November, 1949. The new constitution came into force on 16th January 1950.

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