The Indian Independence Act 1947 was as an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that partitioned British India into the two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan. The Act received the royal assent on 18 July 1947, and Pakistan came into being on August 15 at the same time as Indian independence. However due to Mountbatten’s need to be in New Delhi for the transfer of power, Pakistan celebrated its formation a day ahead on 14th August 1947 to enable the viceroy Lord Mountbatten to attend both events.
The legislation was formulated by the government of Prime Minister Clement Attlee and the Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten, after representatives of the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League, and the Sikh community came to an agreement with the Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten of Burma, on what has come to be known as the 3 June Plan or Mountbatten Plan. This plan was the last plan for independence.
BACKGROUND TO THE ACT:
- The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom announced on 20 February 1947 that:
- British Government would grant full self-government to British India by June 1948 at the latest,
- The future of Princely States would be decided after the date of final transfer is decided.
3 June Plan:
- This was also known as the Mountbatten Plan. The British government proposed a plan announced on 3 June 1947 that included these principles:
- Principle of Partition of India was accepted by the British Government
- Successor governments would be given dominion status
- Implicit right to secede from the British Commonwealth
- The Indian Independence Act 1947 was the implementation of June 3 Plan.
PROVISIONS OF THE 1947 ACT:
The Act’s most important provisions were:
- Division of British India into the two new and fully sovereign dominions of India and Pakistan, with effect from 15 August 1947;
- Partition of the provinces of Bengal and Punjab between the two new countries;
- Establishment of the office of Governor-General in each of the two new countries, as representatives of the Crown;
- Conferral of complete legislative authority upon the respective Constituent Assemblies of the two new countries;
- Termination of British suzerainty over the princely states, with effect from 15 August 1947, and recognised the right of states to accede to either dominion;
- Abolition of the use of the title “Emperor of India” by the British monarch (this was subsequently executed by King George VI by royal proclamation on 22 June 1948).
- The Dominion of India may be regarded as an expression of the desire for self-government of the Hindus in India, and the Dominion of Pakistan as the expression of the demand for self-government by the Muslims.
- The Act also made provision for the division of joint property, etc. between the two new countries, including in particular the division of the armed forces.
- Pakistan: East Bengal, West Punjab, Sind, and Chief Commissioner’s Province of Baluchistan.
- The fate of North West Frontier Province (now Pakhtunkhwa) was subject to the result of referendum.
- Bengal & Assam:
- The province of Bengal as constituted under the Government of India Act 1935 ceased to exist;
- In lieu thereof two new provinces were to be constituted, to be known respectively as East Bengal and West Bengal.
- The fate of District Sylhet, in the province of Assam, was to be decided in a referendum.
- The province as constituted under the Government of India Act 1935 ceased to exist;
- Two new provinces were to be constituted, to be known respectively as West Punjab & East Punjab.
- The boundaries of the new provinces were to be determined by, whether before or after the appointed date, by the award of a boundary commission to be appointed by the Governor General.
- Constitution for the New Dominions: until the time of framing of new constitution, the new dominions and the provinces thereof were to be governed by the Government of India Act 1935. (Temporary Provisions as to the Government of Each New Dominion.)
- The Governors General of the new dominions:
- For each of the new dominion a new Governor-General was to be appointed by the Crown, subject to the law of the legislature of either of the new dominions.
- Same person as Governor General of both dominions: if unless and until provision to the contrary was made by a law of the legislature of either of the new dominions, the same person could be the Governor General of both.
- Powers of Governor General: (Section-9)
- The Governor General was empowered to bring this Act in force.
- Division of territories, powers, duties, rights, assets, liabilities, etc., was the responsibility of Governor General.
- To adopt, amend, Government of India Act 1935, as the Governor-General may consider it necessary.
- Power to introduce any change was until 31 March 1948, after that it was open to the constituent assembly to modify or adopt the same Act. (Temporary Provisions as to the Government of Each New Dominion.)
- Governor-General had full powers to give assent to any law.
- Legislation for the new dominions:
- The existing legislative setup was allowed to continue as Constitution making body as well as a legislature. (Temporary Provisions as to the Government of Each New Dominion.)
- The legislature of each dominion was given full powers to make laws for that dominion, including laws having extraterritorial operation.
- No Act of Parliament of UK passed after the appointed date would be extended to the territories of new dominions.
- No law and provision of any law made by the legislature of the new dominions shall be void or inoperative on the ground that it is repugnant to the law of England.
- The Governor-General of each dominion had full powers to give assent in His Majesty’s name to any law of the legislature.
- Consequences of setting up of the new dominions:
- His Majesty’s Government lost all the responsibility to the new dominions
- The suzerainty of His Majesty’s Government over the Indian States lapsed.
- All the treaties or agreements in force at the passing of the Act lapsed.
- The title of “Emperor of India” was dropped from the titles of British Crown.
- The office of Secretary of State for India was abolished and the provisions of GOI Act 1935 relating to the appointments to the civil service or civil posts under the crown by the secretary of the state ceased to operate
- Civil servants: Section 10 provided for the continuance of service of the government servants appointed on or before 15 August 1947 under the Governments of new Dominions with full benefits.
- Armed Forces: Sections 11, 12, & 13 dealt with the future of Indian Armed Forces. A Partition Committee was formed on 7 June 1947, with two representatives from each side and the viceroy in the chair, to decide about the division thereof. As soon as the process of partition was to start it was to be replaced by a Partition Council with a similar structure.
- First and Second Schedules:
- First Schedule listed the districts provisionally included in the new province of East Bengal:
- Chittagong Division: Chittagong, Noakhali & Tippera.
- Dacca Division: Bakarganj, Dacca, Faridpur, & Mymensingh.
- Presidency Division: Jessor, Murshidabad & Nadia
- Rajshahi Division: Bogra, Dinajpur, Malda, Rajshahi & Rangpur.
- Second Schedule listed the districts provisionally included in the new province of West Punjab:
- Lahore Division: Gujranwala, Gurdaspur, Lahore, Sheikhupura & Sialkot.
- Rawalpindi Division: Attock, Gujrat, Jehlum, Rawalpindi & Shahpur.
- Multan Division: Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Lyallpur, Montgomery, Multan & Muzaffargarh.
- Princely states:
- On 4 June 1947 Mountbatten held a press conference in which he addressed the question of the princely states, of which there were then a total of 635.
- The treaty relations between Britain and the Indian States would come to an end, and on 15 August 1947 the suzerainty of the British Crown was to lapse.
- Consequently, the princely states would assume independent status. They would be free to choose to accede to one or the other of the new dominions.
- In the event, between August 1947 and March 1948 the rulers of several Muslim-majority states signed an Instrument of Accession to join Pakistan. These included Amb, Bahawalpur, Chitral, Dir, Kalat, Khairpur, Kharan, Las Bela, Makran, and Swat.
- Lord Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy, was asked by the Indian leaders to continue as the Governor-General of India.
- Jawaharlal Nehru became the Prime Minister of India and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became the Home Minister.
- Over 560 princely states acceded to India.
- The states of Junagadh and Hyderabad, with majority Hindu populations but with Muslim rulers, were merged into India soon after Lord Mountbatten left India in 1948.
- The state of Jammu and Kashmir chose to accede to India.
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the Governor-General of Pakistan, and Liaquat Ali Khan became the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
- Three princely states geographically inalienable to Pakistan joined the Dominion.
- There was much violence, and many Muslims from what would become India fled to Pakistan; and Hindus and Sikhs from what would become Pakistan fled to India.
- Many people left behind all their possessions and property to avoid the violence and flee to their new country.
- The act was subsequently repealed in the Article 395 of the Constitution of India and Article 221 of the Constitution of Pakistan of 1956 to obtain true independence for the new states.
- Though the new constitutions did not have legal authority to repeal the act, it was done to sever the legal chain of validity and establish the constitution as an independent legal system.