Government of India Act, 1858
* British Crown decided to assume sovereignty over India from the East India Company in an apparent consequence of the Revolt of 1857, described as an armed sepoy mutiny by the British historians and remembered as the First War of Independence by the Indians.
* The first statute for the governance of India, under the direct rule of the British Government, was the Government of India Act, 1858.
* It Provide for absolute (British) imperial control over India without any popular participation in the administration of the country.
* The powers of the crown were to be exercised by the Secretary of State for India, assisted by a council of fifteen members, known as the Council of India.
* The country was divided into provinces headed by a Governor or Lieutenant- Governor aided by his Executive Council.
* The Provincial Governments had to function under the superintendence, direction and control of the Governor- General in all matters.
* All authority for the governance of India was vested in the Governor- General in Council who was responsible to the Secretary of State.
* The Secretary of State was ultimately responsible to the British Parliament.
Indian Councils Acts 1861
* Indians were involved with law-making process. For this purpose, viceroy nominated the Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao.
* Decentralization of legislative powers.
* Establishment of recent legislative councils in Bengal, NWFP and Punjab in 1862, 1866 and 1897 respectively.
* Introduction of portfolio system.
* It empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances with no concurrence of the legislative council throughout an emergency. The life of such an ordinance was 6 months.
Indian Councils Act, 1892
* The non-official members of the Indian Legislative Council were to be nominated by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Provincial Legislatives Council while the nonofficial members of the Provincial Councils were to be nominated by certain local bodies such as universities, districts boards, municipalities, zamindars etc.
* The Councils were to have the power of discussing the Budget and addressing questions to the Executive.
Indian Councils Act, 1909
It also referred to as Morley – Minto Reforms. Reforms recommended by the then Secretary of States for India (Lord Morley) and the Viceroy (Lord Minto) were implemented by this Act.
* Increase in quantity of members in legislative councils.
* People in legislative councils were made to inquire about questions and resolutions on budget.
* It provided a provision for Indians to participate executive councils. Satyendra Prasad Sinha became first Indian to become listed on the Viceroy’s executive Council. He was appointed legally member.
* Introduction of communal representation. Minto is called father of communal electorate. With this Indian council acts came to a close.
The Government of India Act, 1915
* This act was passed to consolidate the provisions of the preceding Government of India Acts.
Montague-Chelmsford Report and the Government of India Act, 1919
* The then Secretary of State for India Mr. E.S. Montague and the Governor General Lord Chelmsford formulated proposals for the Government of India Act, 1919.
* Responsible Government in the Provinces was to be introduced, without impairing the responsibility of the Governor (through Governor General), for the administration of the province, by resorting to device known as ‘Diarchy’ or dual government.
* The subjects of administration were to be divided into two categories Central and Provincial.
* Central subjects were those which were exclusively kept under the control of the Central Government.
* The provincial subjects were sub-divided into ‘transferred’ and ‘reserved’ subjects.
* The ‘transferred subjects’ were to be administered by the Governor with the aid of Ministers responsible to the Legislative Council in which the proportion of elected members was raised to 70 percent.
* The ‘reserved subjects’ were to be administered by the Governor and his Executive Council with no responsibility to the Legislature.
* The previous Central control over the provinces in the administrative, legislative and financial matters was relaxed. Sources of revenue were divided into two categories so that the provinces could run the administration with the revenue raised by the provinces themselves.
* The provincial budget was separated from the central budget.
* The provincial legislature was empowered to present its own budget and levy its own taxes relating to the provincial sources of revenue.
* The Central Legislature, retained power to legislate for the whole country on any subject.
* The control of the Governor General over provincial legislature was retained by providing that a Provincial Bill, even though assented to by the Governor, would become law only when assented to also by the Governor General.
* The Governor was empowered to reserve a Bill for the consideration of the Governor General if it was related to some specified matters.
* The Governor General in Council continued to remain responsible to the British Parliament through the Secretary of State for India.
* The Indian Legislature was made more representative and, for the first time ‘bicameral.’
* The Upper House was named the Council of State. This composed of 60 members of whom 34 were elected.
* The Lower House was named the Legislative Assembly. This was composed of about 144 members of whom 104 were elected.
* The electorates were arranged on a communal and sectional basis, developing the Morley-Minto device further.
The Government of India Act, 1935
* The Act of 1935 prescribed a federation, taking the Provinces and the Indian States (native states) as units.
* It was optional for the Indian States to join the Federation, and since they never joined, the Federation never came into being.
* The Act divided legislative powers between the Centre and Provinces.
* The executive authority of a Province was also exercised by a Governor on the behalf of the Crown and not as a subordinate of the Governor General.
* The Governor was required to act with the advice of Ministers responsible to the legislature.
* In certain matters, the Governor was required to act ‘in his discretion’ without ministerial advice and under the control and directions of the Governor General, and, through him, of the Secretary of State.
* The executive authority of the Centre was vested in the Governor General (on behalf of the Crown).
* The Central Legislature was bi-cameral, comprising a Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council. In other provinces, the Legislature was uni-cameral.
* Apart from the Governor General’s power of veto, a Bill passed by the Central Legislature was also subject to veto by the Crown.
* The Governor General could prevent discussion in the Legislature and suspend the proceedings on any Bill if he was satisfied that it would affect the discharge of his special responsibilities.
* The Governor General had independent powers of legislatures, concurrently with those of the Legislature.
* On some subjects no bill or amendment could be introduced in the Legislature without the Governor General’s previous sanction.
* A three-fold division in the Act of 1935 –There was Federal List over which the Federal Legislature had exclusive jurisdiction. There was a Concurrent List also over which both the Federal and the Provincial had competence.
* The Governor General was empowered to authorize either the Federal or the Provincial Legislature to enact a law with respect to any matter which was not enumerated in the above noted Legislative Lists.
* Dominion Status, which was promised by the Simon Commission in 1929, was not conferred by the Government of India Act, 1935.
Cripps Mission (1942)
The British were alarmed at the successive victories of Japan during 1940s. When Burma was turned into a battle field and the war reached the Indian boarders, the British started feeling more concerned about the future of India. Situation in the country was further complicated as the Congress wanted to take advantage of the situation by accelerating their efforts in their struggle for independence. Moreover the differences between the Congress and the Muslim League were widening fast and visibly there was no chance to bring both the parties on a common agenda.
In these circumstances, the British Government sent a mission to India in 1942 under Sir Stafford Cripps, the Lord Privy Seal, in order to achieve Hindu-Muslim consensus on some constitutional arrangement and to convince the Indians to postpone their struggle till the end of the Second World War.
Cripps arrived in Delhi on March 22, 1942 and had series of meetings with the leading Indian politicians including Jawaharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad, Quaid-i-Azam, Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan, A. K. Fazlul Haq, Dr. Ambedkar, V.D. Savarkar and Tej Bhadur Sappru etc. In the meetings Cripps tried to plead his case before these political leaders and tried to convince them to accept his following proposals:
1. During the course of the war, the British would retain their hold on India. Once the war finished, India would be granted dominion status with complete external and internal autonomy. It would however, be associated with the United Kingdom and other Dominions by a common allegiance to the Crown.
2. At the end of the war, a Constituent Assembly would be set up with the power to frame the future constitution of India. The members of the assembly were to be elected on the basis of proportional representation by the provincial assemblies. Princely States would also be given representation in the Constituent Assembly.
3. The provinces not agreeing to the new constitution would have the right to keep itself out of the proposed Union. Such provinces would also be entitled to create their own separate Union. The British government would also invite them to join the commonwealth.
4. During the war an interim government comprising of different parties of India would be constituted. However, defence and external affairs would be the sole responsibility of the viceroy.
Quaid-i-Azam considered these proposals as "unsatisfactory" and was of the view that the acceptance of the Cripps proposals would "take the Muslims to the gallows." He said that the proposals have "aroused our deepest anxieties and grave apprehensions, especially with reference to Pakistan Scheme which is a matter of life and death for Muslim India. We will, therefore, endeavour that the principle of Pakistan which finds only veiled recognition in the Document should be conceded in unequivocal terms." The Quaid, however, was happy to know that in the Cripps proposals, at least the British Government had agreed in principle to the Muslim League’s demand of the partition of India. Yet, Quaidi- Azam wanted the British Government and Cripps to thoroughly amend the proposals to make them acceptable for the Muslim League.
Actually Quaid-i-Azam and other Muslim League leaders were convinced that Cripps was a traditional supporter of Congress and thus could not present an objective solution to the problem. On the arrival of Cripps, Quaid-i-Azam made it clear that he was a friend of Congress and would only support the Congress’ interests. Congress leaders themselves accepted that Cripps was their man. On his first visit to India, Cripps in fact attended the meetings of the Congress Working Committee. He also visited Gandhi and was so much impressed by him that he wore white khadi suit. He openly ridiculed the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan when he said, "we cannot deny 25 crore Hindus desire of United India only because 9 crore Muslims oppose it." In fact the proposals Cripps presented were mainly consisted of the ideas which were discussed in a meeting between Nehru and Cripps in 1938.
Cabinet Mission Plan (1946)
Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India on February 19, 1946, announced in Parliament that a special mission consisting of three Cabinet ministers, in association with the Viceroy, would proceed to India, in order to hold discussions with the Indian leaders. The three Cabinet ministers would be Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and A.V. Alexander. Cripps told the press conference on landing at Karachi on March 23rd that the purpose of the mission was "to get machinery set up for framing the constitutional structure in which the Indians will have full control of their destiny and the formation of a new interim government." The Mission arrived in Delhi on March 24 and left on June 29.
A resolution passed unanimously by the Convention (the "Delhi Resolution") stated that no formula devised by the British Government for transferring power to the peoples of India would be acceptable to the Muslim nations unless it conformed to the following principles:
1. Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan in the North-West of India, namely Pakistan, zones where the Muslims are in a dominant majority, be constituted into a sovereign independent State and that an unequivocal undertaking be given to implement the establishment of Pakistan without delay.
2. The two separate constitution-making bodies be set up by the people of Pakistan and Hindustan for the purpose of framing their respective Constitutions.
3. That the acceptance of the Muslim League demand of Pakistan and its implementation without delay are the sine qua non for Muslim League cooperation and participation in the formation of an Interim Government at the Centre.
4. That any attempt to impose a Constitution on a united-India basis or to force any interim arrangement at the Centre contrary to the Muslim League demand will leave the Muslims no alternative but to resist any such imposition by all possible means for their survival and national existence.
This impressive show of strength, staged in the very city where the members of the Cabinet Mission were quartered, demonstrated to the Mission and to all the others that the 100 million Muslims of India were solidly behind the demand for Pakistan and further that the Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was their undisputed supreme leader.
The Mission began their talks by first informing themselves of the views of the different leaders and parties. When they found the view-points of the League and the Congress irreconcilable, they gave a chance to the parties to come to an agreement between themselves. This included a Conference at Simla (5-12 May), popularly known as the Second Simla Conference, to which the Congress and the League were each asked to nominate four delegates for discussions with one another as well as with the Mission. When it became clear that the parties would not be able to reach a concord, the Mission on May 16, 1946, put forward their own proposals in the form of a Statement.
Azad, the president of the Congress, conferred with the Mission on April 3rd and stated that the picture that the Congress had of the form of government in future was that of a Federal Government with fully autonomous provinces with residuary powers vested in the units. Gandhi met the Mission later on the same day. He called Jinnah’s Pakistan "a sin" which he, Gandhi, would not commit.
At the outset of his interview with the Mission on April 4 the Quaid was asked to give his reason why he thought Pakistan a must for the future of India. He replied that never in long history these was "any Government of India in the sense of a single government". He went on to explain the irreconcilable social and cultural differences between the Hindus and the Muslims and argued, "You cannot make a nation unless there are essential uniting forces. How are you to put 100 million Muslims together with 250 million people whose way of life is so different? No government can ever work on such a basis and if this is forced upon India it must lead us on to disaster."
The Second Simla Conference having failed to produce an agreed solution, on May 16, the Mission issued it’s own statement. The Cabinet Mission broadcast its plan worldwide from New Delhi on Thursday night, May 16th, 1946. It was a last hope for a single Indian union to emerge peacefully in the wake of the British raj. The statement reviewed the "fully independent sovereign state of Pakistan" option, rejecting it for various reasons, among which were that it "would not solve the communal minority problem" but only raise more such problems. The basic form of the constitution recommended was a three-tier scheme with a minimal central union at the top for only foreign affairs, defence and communication, and Provinces at the bottom, which "should be free to form Groups with executive and legislatures," with each group being empowered to "determine the Provincial subjects to be taken in common".
After ten years any Province could, by simple majority vote, "call for a reconsideration of the terms of the constitution". Details of the new constitution were to be worked out by an assembly representing "as broad based and accurate" a cross section of the population of India as possible. An elaborate method of assuring representation of all the communities in power structure was outlined with due consideration given to the representation of states as well as provinces.
The Quaid replied on the 19th , asking the Viceroy if the proposals were final or whether they were subject to change or modification, and he also sought some other clarification. The Viceroy promptly furnished the necessary explanations. It seemed as if the Quaid would accept the Viceroy’s proposals. The Congress Working Committee met in Delhi on June 25th and by a resolution rejected the proposals, as “Congressmen can never give up the national character of the Congress or accept an artificial and unjust party, or agree to the veto of a communal group.” Azad sent a copy of the resolution to the Viceroy and in his covering letter protested against the non-inclusion of a Muslim-Congressman from the Congress quota.
After the Congress stand had become known, the Working Committee of the Muslim League resolved to join the Interim Government, in accordance with the statement of the Viceroy dated 16th June.
The interpretation of the Quaid-i-Azam was that if the Congress rejected the proposals, the League accepted them, or vice versa, the Viceroy would go ahead and form the interim Government without including the representatives of the party that decided to stand out. But the interpretation of the Viceroy and the Cabinet Mission was different from that of the Quaid-i-Azam.
It became clear that the protracted negotiations carried out for about three months by the Cabinet Mission did not materialize in a League-Congress understanding, or in the formation of an interim Government. Towards the end of June, the Cabinet Mission left for England, their task unfulfilled. It had, however not been a complete failure. It was clear to the Indians that the acceptance of the demand for Pakistan would be an integral part of any future settlement of the Indian problem. In the meantime the League and the Congress were getting ready for elections to the Constituent Assembly.
The Indian Independence Act, 1947 of the British Parliament
* In pursuance of this Act, the Government of India Act, 1935 was amended by the Adaptation Orders, both in India and Pakistan, for setting up an interim Constituent Assembly to draw up future Constitution of the country."
* From the 15th August 1947 India ceased to be a Dependency, and the suzerainty of the British Crown over the Indian States and the treaty relations with Tribal Areas lapsed from that date.
* The office of the Secretary of State for India was abolished.
* The Governor General and the Governors lost extraordinary powers of legislations to compete with the legislature.
* The Central Legislature of India, composed of the Legislative Assembly and the Council of States, ceased to exist on August 14, 1947.
* The Constituent Assembly itself was to function as the Central Legislature with complete sovereignty.