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The Demand for Dominion Status: 1928 Motilal Nehru Report

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Editor’s note: For stories related to the events of 15 August 1947, please visit http://www.indiaofthepast.org/contribute-memories/read-contributions/major-events-pre-1950/334-indias-first-independence-day

 

Editor's note:

A meeting of various Indian parties, called as an "All Parties Conference" in 1928 appointed a Committee to consider and determine the principles of the Constitution for India. The resolution authorizing the formation of this committee stated:

This meeting resolves that a Committee consisting of Pandit Motilal Nehru as Chairman, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir All Imam, Syt. Pradhan, Syt. Shuaib Qureshi; Syt Subhas Chandra Bose, Syt. Madhaorao Aney, Syt. M. R. Jayakar, Syt. N. M. Joshi and Sardar Mangal Singh be appointed to consider and determine the principles of the Constitution for India before 1st July next; the Committee to circulate the draft among various organisations in the country. This Committee shall give the fullest consideration to the reso­lution of the Madras Congress on Communal Unity in conjunction with those passed by the Hindu Mahasabha, the Muslim League, the Sikh League and the other political organisations represented at the All Parties Con­ference at Delhi and the suggestions that may hereafter be received by it; the Committee will give due weight to the recommendations made by the various sub-committees of the All Parties Conference at Delhi.

Selected excerpts from the report prepared by this Committee are presented below; the full report is available in the attached pdf files. The paragraph numbers below are identical to the numbers used in the original report.


Part 1 of the Nehru Report

Part 2 of the Nehru Report

The Muslim League did not participate in this Committee. Later, in 1929, Mr. Jinnah issued a statement in reaction to this report. In 1930, the Indian National Congress passed a resolution in favour of Purna Swaraj, full independence, instead of the Dominion status envisaged in the 1928 Nehru Report.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS

We have made no attempt to draft the constitution as a whole, with the precision necessary in the case of a bill intended to be introduced in the legislature. Our recommendations have by their very nature taken a form similar to that of clauses of a draft bill but they are not intended to be treated as such or understood as anything more than an indication of the principles involved, which was all we were called upon to do by our terms of reference. It will be for the Parliamentary draftsmen to put them into shape, add formal and consequential provisions, and such details as we have omitted.

Constitutional status of India

1.          India shall have the same constitutional status in the comity of nations known as the British Empire, as the Dominion of Canada, the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, the Union of South Africa and the Irish Free State, with a Parlia­ment having powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of India, and an executive res­ponsible to that Parliament, and shall be styled and known as the Commonwealth of India.

Operation of the constitution and laws

2.          This Act and all laws made by the Parliament of the Commonwealth thereunder shall be binding on the courts and people of every province, and of every part of the Commonwealth, notwithstanding anything in the laws of the Indian Legislature or of any province or in any Act of the United Kingdom extending to British India; and the laws of the Commonwealth shall be enforced in all Indian territorial waters.

Fundamental Rights

4.

(xi)        There shall be no state religion for the Com­monwealth of India or for any province in the Common­wealth, nor shall the state either directly or indirectly endow any religion or give any preference or impose any disability an account of religious belief or religious status.

(xii)       No person attending any school, receiving, state aid lux other public money shall be compelled to attend the religious instruction that may be given in the school.

(xiii)      No person shall by reason of his religion, caste or creed be prejudiced in any way in regard to public employment, office of power or honour and the exercise of any trade or calling.

(xix)      Men and women shall have equal rights as citizens.

Parliament

5.                   The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Parliament which shall consist of the King, a Senate and a House of Representatives herein called the Parliament.

6.                   The Governor-General shall be appointed by the King and shall have, and may exercise in the Common­wealth, during the King's pleasure, but subject to this constitution, such powers and functions of the King as his Majesty may assign to him.

8.          The Senate shall consist of 500 members to be elected by the Provincial Councils, a specific number of seats being allotted to each province on the basis of population, subject to a minimum. The election shall be held by the method of proportional representation with the single transferable vote. (The Hare system).

9.          The House of Representatives shall consist of 500 members to be elected by constituencies determined by law. Every person of either sex who has attained the age of 21, and is not disqualified by law, shall be en­titled to vote.

The Commonwealth Executive

22.                    The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the King and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the King's representative, acting on the advice of the executive council, subject to the provisions of this Act and of the laws of the Commonwealth.

23.             (a) There shall be an executive council consist­ing of the Prime Minister and, until Parliament otherwise provides, not more than six ministers of the Common­wealth.

(b) The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the Governor-General and the ministers shall also be appointed by him on the advice of the Prime Minister.

(c) The executive council shall be collectively responsible to the legislature for all matters concerning the departments of the Commonwealth administered by members of the executive council.

The Provincial Legislature

28         The legislative power of a province shall be vested in the King and the local legislative council.

29.        There shall be a Governor of every province who shall be appointed by the King and represent his Majesty in the province.

The Provincial Executive

43.        The executive power of the province shall be vested in the Governor acting on the advice of the provincial executive council.

44.        There shall be an executive council for every province consisting of not more than five ministers ap­pointed by the Governor.

The Judiciary,

46.        There shall be a Supreme Court which shall exercise such jurisdiction as Parliament shall determine. The Supreme Court shall consist of a Lord President, and so many other Justices, as Parliament may fix.

47.        The Lord President of the Commonwealth and other judges of the Supreme Court of the Common­wealth shall not be removed from office except by the Governor-General in Council on an address from both Houses of Parliament in the same session praying for such removal on the ground of misbehaviour or incapacity.

Property, Revenue and Finance

67.        All property vested in, or arising or accruing from property or rights vested in, his Majesty or the Secretary of State in Council under the Government of India Acts, 1858, 1915 and 1919 shall vest in the Gover­nor-General in Council.

66.                 The revenues of India shall vest in the Gover­nor-General in Council and shall, subject to the provisions of this Act, be applied for the purposes of the Commonwealth alone.

67.                  The expression "the revenues of India" in this Act shall include, all the territorial and other reve­nues of or arising in British India, and in particular,-

(i)          all tributes and other payments in respect of any territories which would have been receivable by or in the name of the East India Company if the Government of India Act, 1858, had not been passed; and

(ii)         all fines and penalties incurred by the sent­ence or order of any court of justice in British India, and all forfeitures for crimes of any movable or immovable property in British India; and

(iii)        all movable or immovable, property in British India escheating or lapsing for want of an heir or successor and all properly in British India devolving as bona vacantia for want of a rightful owner.

71.        There shall be charged on the revenues of India alone-

(a) all the debts of the East India Company; and

(b)         all sums of money, costs, charges and ex­penses which, if the Government of India Act, 1858, the Government of India Act, 1915, as amended by the Government of India Act 1919 or this Act had not been passed, would have been paid by the East India Company out of the revenues of India in respect of any treaties, covenants, contracts, grants or liabilities existing at the commencement of this Act; and

(c)         all expenses, debts and liabilities lawfully contracted and incurred on account of the Government of India ; and

(d) all other charges and payments under this Act (except so far -as is otherwise pro­vided under this Act).

Defence

75.

(a)         The Governor-General in Council shall ap­point a Committee of Defence consisting of (1) the Prime Minister, (2) the Minister of Defence, (3) the Minister of Foreign Affairs, (4) the Commander-in-­Chief, (5) the Commander of the Air Forces, (6) the Commander of the Naval Forces, (7) the Chief of the General Staff, and two other experts.

(b) The Prime Minister shall be the chairman of the committee; and there shall be a permanent staff including a secretary attached to this committee.

(c)             The functions of this committee shall be to advise the government and the various departments concerned with questions of defence and upon general questions of policy.

The Civil Services

79.        Subject to the provisions of the next succeed­ing section, all officers of the public services shall, at the establishment of the Commonwealth, become officers of the Commonwealth.

80.        As soon as possible after the establishment of the Commonwealth, the Governor-General in Council shall appoint a Public Service Commission to make re­commendations for such reorganisation and readjust­ment of the departments of the public services as may be necessary.

The Army Services

84.                  All officers, British and Indian, serving in the army, the navy, the Royal Indian Marine, or the Air Force of India, serving in India at the commencement of the new constitution, shall retain all their existing rights as to salaries, allowances or pensions or shall receive such compensation for the loss of any of them, as the Governor-General in Council may consider just and equitable, or as they would have received in like circumstances if the Commonwealth had not been estab­lished.

Further all such officers, British or Indian, who were in receipt of pensions at the date of the commence­ment of the new constitution, shall continue to receive the same pension from the revenues of India.

Indian States

85.                  The Commonwealth shall exercise the same rights in relation to, and discharge the same obligations towards, the Indian States, arising out of treaties or otherwise, as the Government of India has hitherto exercised and discharged.

In case of any difference between the Commonwealth and any Indian State on any matter arising out of treaties, engagements, sanads or similar other docu­ments, the Governor-General in Council, may with the consent of the State concerned, refer the said matter to the Supreme Court for its decision.

New provinces

86.                  The redistribution of provinces should take place on a linguistic basis on the demand of the majority of the population of the area concerned, subject to financial and administrative considerations.

Note:-The following are the recommendations on Communal and other controversial matters.

Communal representation

I.                        There shall be joint mixed electorates through­out India for the House of Representative and the provincial legislatures.

II.                      There shall be no reservation of seats for the House of Representatives except for Muslims in pro­vinces where they are in a minority and non-Muslims in the N.W. F. Province. Such reservation will be in strict proportion to the Muslim population in every province where they are in a minority and in proportion to the non-Muslim population in N.W. F. Province. The Muslims or non-Muslims where reservation is allowed to them shall have the right to contest additional seats.

III.                    In the provinces

(a) there shall be no reservation of seats for any community in the Punjab and Bengal;

(b) in provinces other than the Punjab and Bengal there will be reservation of seats for Muslim minorities on population basis with the right to contest additional seats,

(c) in the N.W. F. Province there shall be similar reservation of seats for non-Muslims with the right to contest other seats.

IV.                    Reservation of seats where allowed shall be for a fixed period of ten years.


Redistribution and status of provinces

V.                         Sind should be separated from Bombay and con­stituted into a separate province after such enquiry about the financial position as may be considered neces­sary.

VI.                       Parts of Karnataka, except the small islands on the other side of the Mysore territory, should similarly be separated from the provinces in which they are at present included and formed into a single separate province.

VII.                     The N. W. F. Province, and all newly formed provinces by separation from other provinces, shall have the same form of government as the other provinces in India.

MOTILAL NEHRU

ALI IMAM

TEJ BAHADUR SAPRU

M. S. ANEY

MANGAL SINGH

SHUAIB QURESHI*

SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE

G. R. PRADHAN

*Mr. Shuaib Qureshi was unfortunately unable to be present at the last meeting of the Committee when the draft report was considered. The draft however was sent to him and he has informed us that in regard to the recommendations contained in chapter III he is of opinion that one third seals in the central legislature should he reserved for Muslims. Further, he says: "I agree with the resolution adopted at the informal conference of July 7th but do not subscribe to all the figures and arguments produced in its support."

Sir Ali Imam, Mr. Subhas Chandra Bose and Mr. G. R. Pradhan were also unable to be present at the final meeting of the Committee but they signified their concurrence with the report after reading the draft.


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