Indian Independence Act 1947

On June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the viceroy of India, put forth the partition plan, known as the Mountbatten Plan.

  • Once all the major political parties agreed to the partition scheme, based on the Mountbatten plan, Independence Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 4th July, 1947.
  • The bill was ratified by the British Parliament on 18th July 1947 and became Indian Independence Act, 1947.
  • This was a very significant event in the colonial history of India as it marked the end of India’s struggle for national independence.
  • However, it was the final culmination of British Policy of “Divide and Rule” as the act laid the basis of partition of India and a new state, Pakistan was created.

Salient Features of Indian Independence Act 1947

  • It marked the end of the British rule in India. The British were to officially leave India on 15th August, 1947
  • The act declared India as an independent and sovereign state from August 15, 1947.
  • It dropped the title of Emperor of India from the royal titles of the king of England.
  • It proclaimed the lapse of British paramountcy over the Indian princely states and treaty relations with tribal areas from August 15, 1947
  • Indian Independence Act provided for partition of the country and creation of two independent dominions – India and Pakistan. This was to take effect from 15th August, 1947, with the implementation of the act.
  • It granted freedom to the Indian princely states either to join the Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent.
  • Office of viceroy was abolished by the act. Each dominion was to have a Governor General, to be appointed by the British crown on the advice of responsible government in each dominion
  • Governor General, so appointed would be a constitutional head of the state and responsible for effective operation of the act.
  • It designated the Governor-General of India and the provincial governors as constitutional (nominal) heads of the states. They were made to act on the advice of the respective council of ministers in all matters.
  • His Majesty’s Government in Britain was to have no responsibility with respect to the Government of India or Pakistan.
  • The constituent assembly of these two dominions were to also act as the legislature of the respective dominion
  • Existing central legislative assembly and council of states were automatically dissolved with the passing of the act.
  • It empowered the Constituent Assemblies of each dominion to frame and adopt any constitution for their respective dominion or nation and
  • The two dominions were also to be free to repeal any act of the British Parliament, including the Independence act itself.
  • The Indian Independence Act, 1947 was not a constitutional document in any manner and hence it held that until a new Constitution came into force, the 1935 Act would work as the Constitutional Law of India.
  • No Act of the British Parliament passed after August 15, 1947 was to extend to either of the new dominions unless it was extended thereto by a law of the legislature of the dominion.
  • The office of the secretary of state for India was also abolished by the act and his functions were transferred to the secretary of state for Commonwealth Affairs
  • The act also provided for continuation of all the benefits of the civil servants appointed on or before 15th August, 1947. However, it discontinued the appointment to civil services and reservation of posts by the secretary of state for India.

Implementation

  • As per the provisions on the act two dominions – India and Pakistan were created.
  • While Pakistan got its freedom on August 14, India became independent on August 15, 1947.
  • Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the Governor General of Pakistan
  • India decided to request Lord Mountbatten to wield the post of the Governor general of India
  • He swore in Jawaharlal Nehru as the first prime minister of independent India.
  • The Constituent Assembly of India formed in 1946 became the Parliament of the Indian Dominion.

Repeal of the Act

  • The act had empowered both the dominions to repeal any act of the British Parliament applied to them including Indian Independence Act itself.
  • Subsequently, both India and Pakistan repealed the Independence Act, 1947, with enactment of their constitution
  • Article 395 of Indian constitution effectively repeals the Indian Independence Act 1947.
  • With the passing of the Indian constitution, the dominion status was also done away with and India became a republic.
  • Interestingly, the British Parliament has still not repealed the Indian Independence Act, 1947 on its side.

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