Updated: Aug 11, 2021
The British General Election had given a big victory to the Labour Party. Japan had surrendered unconditionally. The Labour Party Government realised that the situation in India called for a different approach. It announced on 19th February 1946 that a Cabinet Mission consisting of Lawrence, Cripps and Alexander would soon visit India to seek a settlement of the Constitutional Issue.
The Cabinet Mission arrived in New Delhi on 24th March 1946. It held negotiations with the Viceroy and the Leaders like Gandhiji, Nehru, Jinnah, and others. It did its best to bring the Congress and the League together for a settlement, but failed.lt put forward the proposals known as the 'Cabinet Mission Plan.'
The plan had three parts :
1. The Examination of the proposals for the partition of India and the creation of a New Independent State called 'Pakistan'.
2. A scheme for the setting up of an Interim Government and
3. A plan for a long term settlement. It rejected the plea for the partition. It commended the following plan for a long term settlement.
(i) There should be a Union of India, containing both British India and the States which should deal with the following subjects, Defence, Foreign affairs and Communications.
(ii) The Union should have an Executive and Legislature consisting of British Indian and States representatives.
(iii) All subjects other than the Union subjects and all Residency powers should vest in the Provinces.
(iv) The Constitution making body should be constituted immediately through indirect election.
(v) The elected representatives should meet in New Delhi as one body, together with the Representatives of the Indian States to constitute a Constitution making body.
(vi) The Constituent Assembly should negotiate a treaty with the United Kingdom to provide for certain matters arising out of the transfer of power.
(vii) It envisaged the setting up of an interim Government and all the portfolios of the Central Ministers would be held by Indians.
Consequences: The Cabinet Mission proposals were accepted partially by the Indian National Congress and fully by the Muslim League. The Sikh rejected the compulsory grouping of Provinces. Mr.Jinnah grew wild and called for 'Direct Action' on 16-8-1946. Lord Wavell invited Pandit Nehru to form the interim Government. The Muslim which had not first joined, joined later and five members were given place in the Ministry. This continued until the date of partition of India.
Constituent Assembly :
As per the Cabinet Mission Plan, Elections were conducted in July 1946 and the Constituent Assembly met in New Delhi in December 1956. The Muslim League refused to participate in the meetings. The constituent Assembly acted in Dual capacity. As the interim Government until the newly elected Government took office, it also acted as the Constitution making body.
Dr. Ambedkar was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. Dr. B.N. Rao was the Constitutional Adviser. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was the President of the Constituent Assembly.
The Constituent Assembly consisted of the following.
(i) Representatives elected by the members of the Provincial Legislative Assemblies as per the Cabinet Mission Plan: 292 Members.
(ii) Princely States were allowed to send their representatives : 93 Members.
It did the commendable job of framing the Indian Constitution.lt discussed the draft constitution thread-bare and after the third reading, it passed the Constitution of India.lt was adopted on 26-11 -1949 and put into operation on 26-1 -1950.
The Mountbatten Plan :
Though elections were held to the Constituent Assembly, the Muslim League refused to participate in the Assembly. But Lord Attlee, The Prime Minister of England declared duly approved by all the parties in India. However,Mr. Jinnah desired to have a separate 'Pakistan'. Hence, Lord Attlee announced that June 1948 was the deadline date, to hand over power.Lord Mountbatten was entrusted with the task of transferring power in a manner best suited to the interests of India.
He visited India, met leaders and others returned to London and submitted his plan which ,inter alia, recommended for the partition of undivided India into India and Pakistan.
The plan carved out the land territories of Pakistan. It also provided for Boundary Commissions to settle differences if any. This plan was accepted by the Muslim League and the All India Congress Committee (A.I.C.C.) It is on the basis of this plan that the India Independence Act was passed by the British Parliament.
The India Independence Act 1947 :
Lord Mountbatten's Plan was given effect to by the British Parliament by passing an Act called the India Independence Act 1947. The salient feature of the Act are :
(i) Undivided India was partitioned into India and Pakistan, from the appointed day 15th August 1947. Both became independent and sovereign states.
(ii) The Crown's Powers were transferred to the Constituent Assemblies of India and Pakistan. They would act as Dominion Legislatures until the new constitutions were framed and put into operation by them.
(iii) Princely States : The Paramountcy of the Crown over the Princely States was not transferred to the Dominions, but it lapsed .Hence, they became independent .Option was given to them to join India or Pakistan. Sardar Vallabhai Patel with his shrewdness did the commendable job to secure the Princely States join India, which they did by singing
the instrument of accession.
Lapse of Paramountcy :
(i) The Princely States in India had a peculiar status i.e., subordinate to the East India Company. They were to some extent independent but not sovereign. The company never interfered in the internal affairs of the States except in rare circumstances. The resident was the Company's Representative who had all powers in the States.
(ii) The Company was wounded up in 1858. The Proclamation of Queen Victoria declared that the Crown would respect the rights, dignity and honour of the Princes in these States. This relation between the Crown and the Princely States was called Paramountcy.
Its main features were :
(a) It evolved as a result of sanads, treaties and usages.
(b) The Princely States were not Sovereign States. The Princes were the Heads of States and had all administrative powers.
(c) For defence, the British Government was responsible,
(iii) Chamber of Princes : After world war I by a Royal Proclamation, a chamber of princes was formed with the Viceroy as the President. A committee called the Butler Committee was appointed, which recommended that the Paramount power over the Princes should not be
handed over without their consent, to the Indian Government.
(iv) The Cabinet Mission recommended that Paramountcy should lapse and should not be transferred to Indian Govt. The State should not be forced to join any Union.
(v) Under the India Independence Act, this paramountcy lapsed. As such these States became independent. They had an option to join India or Pakistan. The Iron Man-Sardar-Patel with an Iron-will worked hard with shrewdness and sagacity to make the States accede to India. The Instruments of merger and the other agreements were signed by all States except Junagadh, Hyderabad and Jammu and Kashmir. There was a popular demand in Junagadh and its Nawab fled to Pakistan. Government of India took over Junagadh. Police action in 1948 in Hyderabad resulted in the Nawab joining India. Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India when raiders of Pakistan invaded the territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Art. 370 of the Constitution is in regard to its special status.