Indian Independence Act 1947



  • This was an act, to make provision for the setting up in India of two independent Dominions, to substitute other provisions for certain provisions of the Government of India Act 1935, which apply outside those Dominions, and to provide for, other matters consequential on or connected with the setting up of the Dominions.
  • 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.


Indian Independence Act 1947

  • The Salient Features of the Act were:
    • Clause 1 of the Act provided for the creation of two independent Dominions, namely, India and Pakistan from 15th August 1947
    • Clause 2 of the Act defined the territories of the two Dominions adjustable after the award of boundary Commission. The territories of Indian Dominion were to consist of all Indian Provinces, except those that comprised Pakistan.
      • The territories of Pakistan were to include the areas covered by the Provinces of East Bengal, West Bengal, West Punjab, Sind, Baluchistan and the N.W.F. P
    • Both the Dominions were to have Governor Generals appointed by His Majesty to represent him for the purposes of the Governments of the Dominions, The Act also provided for one common General if both the Dominions so agreed
    • The Legislature of each dominion was empowered to frame the laws for the governance of the Dominion. No law made by that Dominion were to be treated as null and void on the ground that it conflicted with any laws of England or any provision of any existing or future Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom (U. K.) nor an order in council shall extend to the New Dominions;
    • The Constituent Assembly of each Dominion were to exercise all powers exercised by the Legislature of the Dominion
    • The office of the Secretary of State for India and his advisors was abolished and affairs relating to the Dominion of India and Pakistan were to be conducted in future by the Secretary of the Commonwealth Relations Department
    • It proclaimed the lapse of British paramountcy over the Indian princely states and treaty relations with tribal areas from August 15, 1947.
      • It granted freedom to the Indian princely states either to join the Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent.
    • 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 the civil services appointed before August 15, 1947 would continue to enjoy all benefits that they were entitled to till that time.
  • Thus, with passing of the Independence Act, 1947 India attained independence on August 15, 1947 and at the same time the era of British Imperialism in India came to an end.
  • Although the Indian Constitution derives its legal authority from the Indian Independence Act, 1947, this Act had conferred power on the Constituent Assembly to frame a Constitution for India.


Repeal of the Act

  • The Indian Independence Act was subsequently repealed in Article 395 of the Constitution of India and in Article 221 of the Constitution of Pakistan of 1956, both constitutions being intended to bring about greater independence for the new states.
  • Although under British law, the new constitutions did not have the legal authority to repeal the Act, the repeal was intended to establish them as independent legal systems based only on home-grown legislation
  • It is to be noted that, the Act has not been repealed in the United Kingdom, where it still has an effect, although some sections of it have been repealed.


Act and the Aftermath

  • Violence Erupts
    • There was much violence, and many Muslims from what would become India fled to Pakistan; and Hindus and Sikhs from what would become Pakistan fled to India.
    • Also, many people left behind all their possessions and property to avoid the violence and flee to their new country.
  • Early withdrawal resulted in more Problems
    • The breakneck speed of events under Mountbatten caused anomalies in arranging the details of partition, because
      • There were no transitional institutional structures within which partition problems could be tackled;
      • Mountbatten had hoped to be the common Governor General of India and Pakistan, thus providing the necessary link, but Jinnah wanted the position for himself in Pakistan;
      • There was a delay in announcing the Boundary Commission Award (under Radcliffe); though the award was ready by August 12, 1947 Mountbatten decided to make it public after August 15 so that the British could escape all responsibility of disturbances.
  • Issues related to States’ integration
    • During 1946-47 there was a new upsurge of the State People’s Movement demanding political rights and elective representation in the Constituent Assembly.
    • So, the act which gave a choice for the Princely states, to join either of the union, had to be subjugated later.
      • This further demanded military action from Indian dominion, to ensure they acceded to the Indian Union.
  • Congress accepted partition, because
    • Only an immediate transfer of power could forestall the spread of ‘direct action’ and communal violence. The virtual collapse of the Interim Government also made the notion of Pakistan appear unavoidable.
    • The partition plan ruled out independence for the princely states which could have been a greater danger to Indian unity as it would have meant Balkanisation of the countr