What is Indian Independence Act 1947 that divided the country?

Independence Act 1947 that divided the country

India Independence Act 1947 was an Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) that divided British India into two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan. The Act received the assent of the royal family on July 18, 1947, after which, India came into existence on August 15 and Pakistan on August 14 in the year 1947.

The Act was formulated together by UK Prime Minister Clement Attlee and the Governor-General of India Lord Mountbatten after the representatives of the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League, and the Sikh community gave their consent to the Act. This act came to be known as the 3 June Plan or Mountbatten Plan.

Background

The British Prime Minister Clement Atlee on 20 February 1947 declared that the British rule in India would end by 30 June 1948 after which the powers would be transferred to responsible Indian hands. This announcement was followed by the agitation by the Muslim League and demanding for the partition of the country. Then, on 3 June 1947, British Government declared that any Constitution framed by the Indian Constituent Assembly which was formed in 1946 cannot apply to those parts of the country which were unwilling to accept it. And so on the same day that is on 3 June 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the viceroy of India put forth the partition plan which is known as Mountbatten Plan. The Congress and the Muslim League accepted the plan. The immediate effect was given to the plan enacting the Indian Independence Act 1947.

Effect

On 14-15 August 1947, midnight, the British rule came to an end and power was transferred to the two new independent Dominions of India and Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten became the first governor-general of the new Dominion of India. Jawahar Lal Nehru became the first prime minister of Independent India. The Constituent Assembly that was set up in 1946 became the Parliament of Indian Dominion.

Important provisions under this Act

  1. Partition of British India into two new and fully sovereign dominions-India and Pakistan with effect from August 15, 1947;
  2. Division of the provinces of Bengal & Punjab among the two newly formed countries;
    The offices of Governor-General in both countries would be set up. These governors-general would be representing the Crown;
  3. The complete legislative authority would be conferred in the hands of the Constituent Assemblies of the two new countries;
  4. The British suzerainty over the princely states would be terminated from August 15, 1947;
  5. Abolishing the use of the title “Emperor of India” by the British monarch;
  6. The Act includes the division of the armed forces between the two countries.

Salient features of the Act

  • The emergence of two new dominions from the Indian Empire-The two new dominions, India and Pakistan came into existence after the formulation of this Act. Dominion of India will represent the desire of all people in India for self-government, while the Dominion of Pakistan would express the demand of the Muslims for the self-government.
  • Appointed date: The appointed date for the partition was August 15, 1947.

Territories

  1. Pakistan-East Bengal, West Punjab, Sind, Northwest Frontier Provinces, Sylhet divisions in Assam, Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Chief Commissioner’s Province of Baluchistan and its eight other princely states
  2. Bengal-The province of Bengal ceased to exist. Two new provinces came into existence-East Bengal and West Bengal.
  3. Punjab: Two new provinces came into being-West Punjab and East Punjab
  4. Boundaries of new provinces would be determined by a committee headed by Sir Cyril Radcliffe.
  • Constitution of India and Pakistan: The Government of India Act 1935 governed the two dominions until the new constitutions were framed for both the countries.
  • Governor-General of India and Pakistan: For each of the countries, a separate Governor-General was required to be appointed by the Crown subject to the laws of the legislature of either of the new dominions.
  • The Act also provided critical directions on the armed forces of India as well as the steps to be taken in regards to British forces in India. Naval forces were also a critical area that was dealt with by this Act.
  • The Act also created the legislatures of both the new countries formed. It also stated that the British would cease to have any control at all in any affairs of India and Pakistan from August 15, 1947, onwards.

Repeal

The Indian Independence Act of 1947 was repealed in Article 395 of the Constitution of India and in Article 221 of the Constitution of Pakistan of 1956.

The Act also created the legislatures of both the new countries to be formed. It also stated that the British would cease to have any control at all in any affairs of India from August 14, 1947, onwards. The same applied for Pakistan as well. It also made provisions for the constituent assemblies of both India and Pakistan. It was decided that the constituent assemblies in both these countries would have all the powers vested in them. They would also create the respective constitutions in any way that they deemed fit.

Indian Independence Act 1947 also decided the governors-general for the new countries. It also dealt with the results of forming the new dominions. This Act also dealt with the orders that were needed to make sure that it was executed in the way it was supposed to be. It looked into the services that were to be provided by the Secretary of State. The Act also provided critical directions on the armed forces of India as well as the steps to be taken with regards to British forces in India. Naval forces were also a critical area that was dealt with by this Act.

Courtesy: Samudranil (Jul 30, 2017)


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