Historical Background of our Constitution Part-2
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Historical Background of our Constitution Part-2

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Polity

Historical Background of our Constitution Part-2

Government of India Act of 1919:

  • The British Government declared the first time that its objective was the gradual introduction of responsible government in India.

Features of the Act:

  • It relaxed the central control over the provinces by separating the central and provincial subjects. 
  • It further divided the provincial subjects into transferred and reserved. The transferred subjects were to be administered by the Governor with the aid of the ministers responsible to the legislative council. The reserved subjects were to be administered by the Governor and his executive council without being responsible to the legislative council. This scheme was known as ‘dyarchy’.
  • It extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and Europeans. 
  • It introduced bicameralism and direct elections in the country. Indian Legislative Council was replaced by a bicameral legislature consisting of an Upper House (Council of State) and a Lower House (Legislative Assembly).
  • The majority of members of both Houses were chosen by direct election.
  • It required that the three of the six members of the Viceroy’s executive council (other than the commander-in-chief) were to be Indian.
  • It granted a franchise to a limited number of people based on property, tax, or education.
  • It created a new office of the High Commissioner for India in London and transferred to him some of the functions previously performed by the Secretary of State for India.
  • It provided for the establishment of a public service commission.
  • It separated provincial budgets from the Central budget and authorized the provincial legislature to enact their budgets.
  • It provided for the appointment of a statutory commission to inquire into and report on its working after 10 years of its coming into force.

Simon Commission:

  • The British government announced the appointment of a 7 member statutory commission under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon to report on the condition of India under its new constitution.
  • It was boycotted by all parties because all the members were British.
  • The Commission recommended the abolition of dyarchy, extension of responsible government in the provinces, establishment of a federation of British India and princely states, a continuation of communal electorates, etc.

Communal Award:

  • The British PM, Ramsay MacDonald announced a scheme of representation of the minorities, which came to be known as Communal Award.
  • The award not only continued separate electorates for the Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, and Europeans but also extended it to the depressed classes.
  • Gandhiji took fast unto death in Yeravada Jail (Poona) against this.
  • At last, Poona Pact was signed which retained the Hindu Joint electorate and gave reserved seats to the depressed classes. 

Government of India Act of 1935:

  • It provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of provinces and princely states as units.
  • The Act divided the powers between the Centre and units into 3 Lists, Federal List (for Centre), Provincial List (for provinces), and the Concurrent List (for both). Residuary powers were given to the Viceroy. But federation never came into being as the princely states did not join it. 
  • It abolished dyarchy in the province and introduced ‘provincial autonomy’. The provinces were allowed to act as autonomous units of administration in their defined spheres. The governor was required to act with the advice of ministers responsible to the provincial legislature.
  • It provided for the adoption of dyarchy at the center. This provision did not come into operation.
  • It introduced bicameralism in 6 (Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Bihar, Assam, and the United Provinces) out of 11 provinces. However, many restrictions were placed on them.
  • It further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes, women, and labor.
  • It abolished the Council of India, established by the Government of India Act of 1858. The secretary of state was provided with a team of advisors.
  • It extended franchise. About 10% of the total population got the voting right.
  • It provided for the establishment of RBI to control the currency and credit of the country.
  • It provided for the establishment of the Federal Public Service Commission, Provincial Public Service Commission, and Joint Public Service Commission for 2 or more provinces.
  • It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court. 

Indian Independence Act of 1947:

  • It ended the British rule in India and declared India as an independent and sovereign state from August 15, 1947.
  • It provided for the partition of India and the creation of 2 independent dominions of India and Pakistan with the right to secede from the British Commonwealth.
  • It abolished the office of the viceroy and provided for each dominion, a Governor-General, who was to be appointed by the British King on the advice of the Dominion cabinet.
  • It empowered the Constituent Assembly of both the dominions to frame and adopt any constitution for their
    respective nations and to repeal any act of the British Parliament, including the Independence act itself.
  • It empowered the Constituent Assembly of the two dominions to legislate for their respective territories till the new constitution was drafted and enforced.
  • It abolished the office of the secretary of state for India and transferred his functions to the secretary of state for Commonwealth Affairs.
  • It proclaimed the lapse of British paramountcy over Indian princely states and treaty relations with tribal areas. 
  • It granted freedom to the Indian princely states to join the Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent.
  • It provided for the governance of each of the dominions and the provinces by the Government of India Act of 1935 until new Constitutions were framed.
  • It deprived the British Monarch of his right to veto bills or ask for a reservation of certain bills for his approval. But this right was reserved for the Governor-General.
  • It designated the Governor-General of India and the provincial governors as constitutional heads of the state. They were made to act on the advice of the respective council of ministers in all matters.
  • It dropped the title of Emperor of India from the royal titles of the King of England.
  • It discontinued the appointment to civil services and reservation of posts by the secretary of state for India. The members of civil services appointed before would continue to enjoy all benefits that they were entitled to till that time. 
  • Lord Mountbatten became the first Governor-General of the new dominion of India.
  • He swore in Jawaharlal Nehru as the first PM of independent India.
  • The Constituent Assembly of India formed in 1946 became the Parliament of the Indian Dominion.

Historical Background of our Constitution Part-1