Nehru Report

Nehru Report

  • Lord Birkenhead, the Secretary of State had constantly harped on the inability of Indians to formulate a concrete scheme of constitutional reforms which had the support of wide sections of Indian political opinion.
  • To meet this challenge All-Parties Conference was held in February, 1928 presided over by Dr. M. A. Ansari.
  • A sub-committee was formed in the conference under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru to finalize a constitutional scheme.
  • It was this scheme that popularly came to be known as the Nehru Report after Motilal Nehru, its principal author.
  • The committee also included Tej Bahadur Sapru, Subhash Bose, M.S. Aney, Mangal Singh, Ali Imam, Shuab Qureshi and G.R. Pradhan as its members.
  • This was the first attempt by Indians to draft a constitutional framework for the country.
  • The report was finalised by August, 1928. The recommendations of Nehru Report were unanimous except in one aspect – while the majority favoured the “dominion status”, a section of it wanted “complete independence” as the basis of constitution.

Major Recommendations of Nehru Report

  • This report defined Dominion Status (on the lines of self-governing dominions) as the form of government desired by India.
  • Formation of responsible government at the centre and in the provinces.
  • The legislative powers should rest with the King and bicameral parliament and executive powers should rest with the King exercisable by the Governor General and the same provisions should be made for the establishment of responsible governments in the provinces in respect of governor and executive council.
  • It rejected the principle of separate communal electorates on which previous constitutional reforms had been based.
  • Seats would be reserved for Muslims at the Centre and in provinces in which they were in a minority, but not in those where they had a numerical majority.
  • Full protection to cultural and religious interests of Muslims
  • Formation of Linguistic Provinces
  • The constitution should define citizenship and declare Fundamental Rights including universal adult suffrage, equal rights for women, freedom to form unions etc.
  • Dissociation of the state from religion in any form.
  • Hierarchy of courts with Supreme Court at apex should be established.

Communal Question

Though the process of drafting the constitutional framework had begun enthusiastically and unitedly, soon there were divides on communal lines and the Nehru Report got involved in controversies over the issue of communal representation.

Delhi Proposal of Muslim League

Earlier, in December 1927, a large number of Muslim leaders had met at Delhi at the Muslim League session and evolved four proposals for Muslim demands to be incorporated in the draft constitution. These proposals, which were accepted by the Madras session of the Congress (December 1927), came to be known as the ‘Delhi Proposals’. These were:

  • Joint electorates in place of separate electorates with reserved seats for Muslims
  • One-third representation to Muslims in Central Legislative Assembly
  • Representation to Muslims in Punjab and Bengal in proportion to their population
  • Formation of three new Muslim majority provinces— Sindh, Baluchistan and North-West Frontier Province.

Demands of Hindu Mahasabha

  • The Hindu Mahasabha had reservations about the proposals for creating new Muslim-majority provinces
  • It also vehemently opposed to reservation of seats for Muslims majorities in Punjab and Bengal (which would ensure Muslim control over legislatures in both).
  • It demanded a strictly unitary structure.

Compromises

This attitude of the Hindu Mahasabha complicated matters. In the course of the deliberations of the All Parties Conference, the Muslim League dissociated itself and stuck to its demand for reservation of seats for Muslims, especially in the Central Legislature and in Muslim majority provinces. Thus, Motilal Nehru and other leaders drafting the report found themselves in a dilemma: if the demands of the Muslim communal opinion were accepted, the Hindu communalists would withdraw their support, if the latter were satisfied, the Muslim leaders would get estranged.

Concessions made to Hindu Communalists in the Nehru Report 

  • Joint electorates proposed everywhere but reservation for Muslims only where in minority
  • Sindh to be detached from Bombay only after dominion status was granted and subject to weightage to Hindu minority in Sindh
  • Political structure proposed was broadly unitary, as residual powers rested with the centre

Amendments Proposed by Jinnah

 At the All Parties Conference held at Calcutta in December 1928 to consider the Nehru Report, Jinnah, on behalf of the Muslim League, proposed three amendments to the report:

  1. One-third representation to Muslims in the Central Legislature
  2. Reservation to Muslims in Bengal and Punjab legislatures proportionate to their population, till adult suffrage was established
  3. Residual powers to provinces.

These demands not being accommodated, Jinnah went back to the Shafi faction of the Muslim League and in March 1929′ gave fourteen points which were to become the basis of all future propaganda of the Muslim League.

Jinnah’s Fourteen Points

  1. Federal Constitution with residual powers to provinces.
  2. Provincial autonomy.
  3. No constitutional amendment by the centre without the concurrence of the states constituting the Indian federation.
  4. All legislatures and elected bodies to have adequate representation of Muslims in every province without reducing a majority of Muslims in a province to a minority or equality.
  5. Adequate representation to Muslims in the services and in self-governing bodies.
  6. One-third Muslim representation in the Central Legislature.
  7. In any cabinet at the centre or in the provinces, one- third to be Muslims.
  8. Separate electorates.
  9. No bill or resolution in any legislature to be passed if three-fourths of a minority community considers such a bill or resolution to be against their interests.
  10. Any territorial redistribution not to affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and NWFP.
  11. Separation of Sindh from Bombay.
  12. Constitutional reforms in the NWFP and Baluchistan.
  13. Full religious freedom to all communities.
  14. Protection of Muslim rights in religion, culture, education and language.

Reactions to Nehru Report

  • The communalist factions including the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh communalists were unhappy about the Nehru Report and found it unsatisfactory.
  • The Congress accepted the report only under pressure from Gandhiji.
  • The younger section of the Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Bose was also angered.
  • The younger section regarded the idea of dominion status in the report as a step backward
  • The developments at the All Parties Conference strengthened their criticism of the dominion status idea.
  • Nehru and Subhash Bose rejected the Congress’ modified goal and jointly set up the Independence for India League.

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