In this article we will discuss about the Indian Independence Act, 1947.
Once the whole partition scheme was agreed by major political parties, stage was set for introducing Independence Bill in the House of Commons, which was introduced on July 4, 1947. This was the culmination of India’s struggle against colonialism and imperialism.
It was also the victory of communal forces in our national struggle, because the Act provided for the partition of India and formation of an independent and sovereign state of Pakistan. It was also the victory of forces which followed the policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ on the one hand and ‘Divide and Quit’ on the other.
The Act established that by deliberate manoeuvring a ruling party with the co-operation of minority could veto very effectively the will and wishes of even a strong majority, on one pretext or the other. The Act of 1947 was not a constitution in any manner or even did not provide for any constitution on broad basis. On the other hand, it was an Act which enabled the British government to withdraw from India.
The main provisions of Indian Independence Act, 1947 were as under:
(a) The British government will leave India on 15th August, 1947.
(b) India will be divided into two sovereign states of India and Pakistan and both these states will become sovereign on this very day.
(c) The powers previously exercised by the British government in India will be transferred to both these states.
(d) Punjab and Bengal will be divided and its territories will be demarcated by a boundary commission to be headed by Mr. Redcliff.
(e) Office of the Secretary of State for India will be abolished.
(f) Provision was made for the Governor-General for each dominion, who was to be appointed by the Queen of England on the advice of the Dominion government. He was not to act in his individual judgment or discretion but will act merely as constitutional head of the state.
(g) Each Dominion was to have a sovereign legislature for rule making purpose. No law made by British Parliament was automatically to apply to India.
(h) A bill passed by the Dominions legislature could not be disallowed by His Majesty.
(i) Both the Dominions will have their own Constituent Assemblies, which will act as their legislatures as well.
(j) Till such time as the Constitution was framed by the Constituent Assembly in any Dominion, it will work as near the Act of 1935 as possible.
(k) Governors of the Provinces were to act as constitutional heads of the provinces.
(l) Reservation of posts for Secretary of State was to discontinue. Those civil service personnel who wanted to resign after transfer of power to both the dominions were to be allowed to do so.
(m) Paramountcy of Britain over Indian states and tribal areas was to come to an end on 15th August, 1947. In their case power was not to be transferred to dominions, but it was left to the states to decide whether they would like to join India or Pakistan.
(n) Relations of the British government with India henceforth were to be conducted through Commonwealth Relations Office.
(o) The King of England was to drop the title of King Emperor of India.
(p) The territories of Pakistan were to include Eastern Bengal, Western Pakistan, Sindh and British Baluchistan. In case the people of NWFP in a referendum decide to join Pakistan that territory will also join Pakistan.
The Act brought India on the threshold of new era where both the Dominions were to share their own responsibilities without any super power patronage. Lord Attlee said in the House of Commons that, “It is the culminating point in a long course of events.” Dawn which represented Muslim view point in those difficult days called it as “momentus and unique piece of legislation”.
Lord Samuel called it as “a treaty of peace without war”. The Hindustan Times characterised it as the noblest and the greatest law ever enacted by British Parliament. Dr. Rajendra Prasad in his India Divided says, “The period of domination of British over India ends today and our relationship with Britain is henceforth going to rest on a basis of equality, of mutual goodwill and mutual profit.
Of course, the Act provided for the freedom of India and the struggle of our freedom-fighters bore fruit but it was quite unfortunate that the people of both the Dominions had to undergo untold sufferings and miseries after the partition of the country. It was a period in which inhuman and un-human acts were committed in the name of religion. Life, respect and property of none else but the goondas was safe.
All the crimes which religion forbade were committed to glorify that. Not only this, but the scheme was deliberately made mischievous insofar as Indian states were concerned. In fact, Britain left more than 567 independent India’s. It needed a person of will, determination and far-sightedness of Sardar Patel who could undo the mischief and knit them in the fabric of one polity and merge them with Indian Union.
On the whole, the Act ended the agonies of freedom-fighters and threw upon them the gigantic task of giving a new constitution to India, which could take the nation on the path of peace and prosperity and end the poverty of masses.
But the hope that after the partition of the country India and Pakistan will live in perfect harmony proved to be a wishful thinking only. Even after the partition of the country both nations did not live like good neighbour – thanks to the negative attitude of Pakistan towards India. Communal harmony could not be perfectly achieved.