With a view to give effect to the plan of Lord Mountbatten, the then Governor-General of India, the British Parliament passed Indian Independence Act, 1947 on July, 18. The Act came into force on 15th August, 1947. The main provisions of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 are as follows –
1. Creation of two Dominions of India and Pakistan
The Act provided for the partition of India and establishment of two independent Dominions – India and Pakistan from August 15, 1947. The word “independent” signified the absence of any external restraint. The 15 August was said to be the “appointed day.”
2. Determination of the territories of two new Dominions
Cl. (2) of the Act defined the territories of the two new Dominions and made it possible to bring about necessary adjustments in the existing boundaries. Clauses (3). and (4). provided for the partition of Bengal, Punjab and Assam keeping in view the aspirations of the people of these territories and fixing of the boundaries of these divided Provinces by the Boundary Commission.
The Dominion of Pakistan consisted of two non-contiguous partitions, West Pakistan and East Pakistan which were severed from old India. It is important to note that the Act for the first time brought about the division of India into two independent States on communal basis which was hitherto unknown to the history of India.
3. Legislative Supremacy of the Dominions
The Governor-General of each Dominion was empowered to promulgate Ordinances to meet emergencies as provided under the Government of India Act, 1935. Such ordinances were to remain in force only for six months until superseded by an Act of the Dominion Legislature. But the authority of provincial Government under S. 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935 was done away with. The provisions, requiring the Governor-General or any Governor to act in his discretion or exercise his individual judgement would ceased to have effect from August 15, 1947.
4. Constituent Assemblies of each dominions granted the status of Dominion Legislatures
The Act provided that until a new Constitution was framed for each of the Dominions, the Constituent Assemblies were to act as Dominion Legislatures and were to exercise all powers which were formerly exercised by the Central Legislature. This power was to be exercised by the Constituent Assemblies in addition to their power of framing of a new Constitution for their respective Dominions. This was indeed a unique feature which the Constituent Assemblies of India and Pakistan were conferred under the Indian Independence Act, 1947 as compared to other Dominions of the world.
5. Freedom from British Rule
The most epoch-making effect of the Act was that India no longer remained a dependency of British Empire. Like other dominions, it now got the status of an independent nation. Thus, the British period in India came to an end after nearly three and half centuries of trading, two centuries of political power and 130 years of general supremacy. After the coming into force of the Act, the British Government had no control over the affairs of the Dominions of India and Pakistan or any part thereof.
6. Continuance of the Government of India Act, 1935 until the framing of a new Constitution by the two Dominions
The Indian Independence Act, 1947 specifically laid down that the new Dominions shall continue to be governed by the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935 in so far as they are consistent with Dominion Status. It empowered the Governor-General of each of the two Dominions to make necessary omissions, additions or modifications in the Government of India Act, 1935 and the Orders-in-Council, Rules and other Instruments made thereunder till March, 31, 1948. After that day, it was open to the Constituent Assemblies to modify or adopt the same Act.
7. Termination of the Crown’s Paramountcy
With the transfer of power to the Dominions of India and Pakistan in accordance with the Indian Independence Act, 1947 the paramountcy and suzerainty of the British Crown over the Indians and over the Indian State came to an end. Consequently, all treaties and agreements between His Majesty and the rulers of the Indian States and all functions exercisable by His Majesty with regard to Indian States and their rulers, and all powers, grants, rights, authority or jurisdiction of His Majesty over Indian States lapsed from August 15, 1947.
The Instrument of Accession relating to Dominion of India laid down that the acceding States have agreed to give to the Legislature and Authorities of the Dominion of India, jurisdiction over matters, namely, defence, external affairs and Communications.
8. Agreements with N.W.F.P. Tribes
The Act provided that agreements with the tribes of the North-West Frontier Province of India were to be negotiated by the successor Dominions.
9. Office of the Secretary of State for India abolished
The constitutional position of British Government in relation to India having been altered from August 15, 1947, their responsibility as regards the Government of the territories included in British India ceased and the sovereignty of British Crown over Indian States came to an end. Consequently, the office of the Secretary of State for India and his advisers was abolished by the Indian Independence Act, 1947.
10. Continuance of the Civil Service of the Crown under the Government of the New Dominions
Sec. 10 the Act contained that the persons who were appointed by the Secretary of State in Council to the Indian Civil Service were to continue on and after August 15, 1947 under the Government of either of the new Dominions or any Province or part thereof and their conditions of service in respect of ‘remuneration, leave, pension, tenure and rights relating to disciplinary matters, etc. could not be altered to their detriment.
11. The Governor-General for each Dominion and his powers
The Act provided that each of the two Dominions of India and Pakistan was to have a Governor-General appointed by the King for the purpose of the Government of the Dominion. The Act also provided that same person could be appointed Governor-General for both the Dominions.
Accordingly, Lord Mountbatten was appointed as first Governor-General for the Dominions of India and Pakistan, both. The main function of the Governor-General was to bring into operation, the machinery, of Indian Independence Act, 1947. He had the task of carrying on for the time being on behalf of the new Dominions or on behalf of any Province, certain vital services such as Railways and other communications, Reserve Bank, the Monetary and Fiscal System. Defence and the like, which were hitherto being operated in the interests of whole of India. The right of the King to veto or to reserve law for his pleasure came to an end with the passing of the Government of India Act, 1947 and the Governor-General was given the right of assent in the name of His Majesty to any law to the Dominion Legislature made in its ordinary legislative capacity.
12. Lapse of the Instrument of Instruction
Sec. 18 of the Act provided that the existing Instruments of Instructions to the Governors and Governor-General shall lapse with the coming into effect of this Act. The reason being that the Governors and Governor-General were now required to act as the Constitutional heads in future and therefore Instruments of instructions were no longer necessary for them.
Effects of the Indian Independence Act, 1947
1. The Indian Independence Act, 1947 marked the end of ninety years British rule in India. The British Crown severed its paramountcy at one stroke. The Indian States regained their status which they enjoyed prior to the British sovereignty.
2. S. 6 (2) of the Act vested in the Legislature of either Dominion, the power to repeal or amend any Act of British Parliament existing or future one. Even the Indian Independence Act, 1947 itself could be repealed or amended under this clause of the Act.
3. By this Act, the British Parliament renounced its sovereignty once for all and no further imperial legislation was necessary for validating the future Constitution of India or Pakistan, as the case may be.
4. The Dominions of India and Pakistan were not to derive their authorities from British Crown. The officers of these Dominions were to take oath of allegiance not to the British Crown but to the Constitution of their respective Dominions.