The Cabinet Mission Plan 1946

Lord Pethick Lawrence, the then Secretary of State for India, announced in House of Lords on February 9, 1946 that the British Government had decided to send out a special Mission of Cabinet Ministers to India for discussions with the Indian Leaders regarding the setting up of a Constitution making body to enable the Indian to decide their own future.The Cabinet Mission arrived in India on March 23, 1946. Immediately after their arrival the members of the Mission started negotiations with the Viceroy and the various party leaders, particularly those of the Congress and the Muslim League. The Princes of the Indian States and the Chief Ministers of some leading Provinces were also included in the deliberations.

The Cabinet Mission conferred with 472 leaders in all in 182 sittings. The negotiations lasted for over seven weeks but the Congress and the Muslim League, did not come to any mutual understanding. Consequently, the Mission decided to put forward their own formula which they considered best for solving the Congress-League deadlock. This, formula was contained in a joint statement issued by the Cabinet Mission and Lord Wavell on May 16, 1946. The salient features of the Cabinet Mission Plan on the basis of which the Constitution of India was to be framed, was as under –

1. There should be a Union of India embracing both British India and the States which should deal with three subjects namely, defence, foreign affairs and communications.

2. The Union should have an Executive and a Legislature constituted from British India and State representatives.

3. All subjects other than the Union subjects and all residuary powers should vest in the Provinces.

4. The States will retain all subjects and powers other than those ceded to the Union.

5. Provinces should be free to form groups with Executive and Legislatures and each group could determine the provincial subjects to be taken in common.

6. The Constitution of the Union and of the group should contain a clause whereby any Province should, by a majority vote of its Legislative Assembly, call for a reconsideration of the terms of the Constitution after an initial period of ten years and at ten yearly intervals thereafter.

Beside, for the purpose of setting up the constitution making machinery the Cabinet Mission made the following recommendations-

1. The Constitution making body should be constituted immediately through indirect method of election because the direct election would Cause delay.

2. The representatives so elected from the Provinces were to meet in New Delhi as one body together with the representatives of the Indian States to constitute a Constitution-making body.

3. Each of these sections would decide its own provincial constitution and also whether any Constitution for the group as a whole to be set up, and if so, what provincial subjects, the Group should deal.

4. After the Group-Constitutions are settled the Group would assemble together to settle the Union Constitution.

5. The Union Constituent Assembly would negotiate a treaty with Britain to provide for certain matters arising out of the proposed transfer of power.

6. The Constituent Assembly was to be composed of the representatives from different provinces which were divided into three sections of provinces called A, ‘B’ and ‘C’.


The main aim of the Cabinet Mission was to solve the Constitutional problems of India in consultation with the leading political parties of India. The major constitutional problems were three namely –

(i) To examine the feasibility of partitioning the country by creating a new independent State called Pakistan as advocated by Muslim League;

(ii) To provide a scheme to setting up an interim Govt. for the Govt. country during the transitory period till a permanent constitutional settlement was being worked out for India;

(iii) To provide a scheme for forming a constitution making body which would workout a Constitution of India.


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