The Instrument of Accession
- Part 2 -

RK Jhalajit Singh *

The Government of India Act, 1935

This Act was now the constitution of India. It came into force on the 1st of April 1937. It was our constitution upto 25 January 1950. It extended to the whole of India.

According to it, India means British Indian Provinces plus Indian States plus territories dependent on Indian States plus Tribal Areas. Thus it included, among other areas, Naga Hills (now called Nagaland), Lushai Hills (now called Mizoram) North East Frontier Agency (now called Arunachal), Khasia and Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills (Khasia and Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills are now together called Meghalaya).

The Act sought to provide a federation for the whole of India. It was compulsory for the Provinces to join the Federation. In the case of Indian States, if the Ruler of an Indian State executed a document called Instrument of Accession by the Act, the said Indian State became a part of the Federation.

If we may use a technical term, this was called accession. His Highness the Maharajah of Manipur, Sir Chudachand Singh, an experienced and capable Ruler, declared that he would join the Federation. This means that he would sign the document called Instrument of Accession prescribed by the Government of India Act 1935. That His Highness had declared that he would join the Federation of India was published by the the President of the Manipur State Darbar in his Report on the Administration of Manipur State.

The Government of India Act, 1935 was the first Act of the Parliament to call the Native States by the name Indian States. This Act is a very fine piece of constitutional legislation. We admire the political acumen, constitutional skill and foresight of the distinguished British statesmen, and the legislative drafting skill of the lawyers who laboured to draft the Bill.

The present Constitution of India, made by our sovereign Constituent Assembly takes about 75% of its provisions from the Government of India Act, 1935. The main drawback to this Act, from the Indian standpoint, is that it did not give Independence to India.

The Government of India Act, 1935 made provisions of a Federal Assembly and a Council of State. The Federal Assembly is roughly analogous to the present Lok Sabha and the Council of State is roughly analogous to the present Rajya Sabha.

The Act allotted one seat to Manipur in the Federal Assembly and one seal jointly to Manipur, Tripura and Cooch Behar. However, the Federal part of the Act did not come into operation. World War II broke out in 1939. It escalated. To win the War became a life-and-death struggle for Britain The Federal portion of the Act was shelved in 1939. In the meantime His Highness Sir Chudachand Singh passed away in 1941. He was succeeded by his eldest son Bodha Chandra Singh.

Indian Independence Act, 1947

World War II ended in 1945. The Labour Party swept to power in the United Kingdom. The British Government decided to give Independence to India. The majority of Muslims in India had been demanding a separate sovereign state for themselves to be called Pakistan. This was to be achieved by partitioning India.

The Congress had been opposing it. Now the British Government had a secret plan. If the Congress still opposed Partition, the British were prepared to quit India after balkanising India by giving sovereignty to every Province and every Indian State. Sardar Ballabhbhai Patel discovered the secret plan, cofided it to Jawaharlal Nehru and they two went to Gandhiji. They persuaded him to consent to the partition of the country Gandhiji was now too old to launch another India-wide agitation. He reluctantly agreed the vivisection of India.

Now the British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act, 1947 with great rapidity. The Act came into force on the 15th ugust 1947 in India. Under section 7(.I),(a) of this Act, two independent sovereign Dominions called the Dominion of India and I the Dominion of Pakistan were set up by dividing the territory of British India. Under ection 7(1)(b) of the Act, Paramouncy of the Crown over Indian States lapsed. Thus the hole of India barring Portuguese India and rench India attained Swaraj.

We should like to emphasise that the ritish partitioned only the territory of British ndia, They left intact the territories of the ndian States.

It may be recalled that the territories of dian States were never annexed by the British, he Indian States were merely under the uzerainty of the Crown. This suzerainty was xercised under the name Paramouncy. Now aramouncy lapsed under Section 7(1)(b) of he Indian Independence Act, 1947. The result as that sovereignty reverted to the Indian states.

Three options(The British never forced any of the Indian States to accede to this Dominion or that Dominion. After the Act came into force, each dian State would have three options
(I) To remain as a sovereign State
(2) To accede to the Dominion of India and
(3)To accede to the Dominion of Pakistan. Practically all Indian States, however, realised that it would not be practicable in the 20th century to exist as sovereign kingdoms with their small territories, small populations, meagre revenues and meagre out dated military equipments. The Manipur State Darbar foresaw this situation as early as June 1947.

The Darbar by a resolution of June 1947 most solemnly advised His Highness to join without delay the Constituent Assembly i.e. the Constituent Assembly of India. Manipur could not join this Constituent. Assembly without first acceding to the Dominion of India by executing Instrument of Accession.

Instrument of Accession executed

His Highness accepted the advice of the Manipur State Darbar and executed the Instrument of Accession on 11 August 1947. The document executed by His Highness begins with these words "I, Bodha Chandra Singh, Ruler of Manipur, in exercise of my sovereignty in and over the State of Manipur, do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession".

He ceded External Affairs, Defence and Communications to the Dominion Government. He executed the document on behalf of himself, his heirs and successors.

That His Highness had executed the Instrument of Accession was published in the Manipur State Gazette on 27 August 1947. This very important Gazette notification reads.

In order to remove any reflection of uncertainty in the Public mind with respect to Manipur State's joining THE INDIAN UNION I beg to release the following in addition to that published in the Bhagyabati Patrika of 18-7-47

The INSTRUMENT OF ACCESSION was duly executed on 11-8-47 between the Governor-General of India and His Highness the Maharajah of Manipur

By order etc.

G. H. Singh,
Offg. Private Secretary to
H. H. the Maharaja of Manipur.

His Excellency the Governor General of India duly accepted the Instrument of Accession executed by His Highness and Manipur became a part of the Dominion of India with effect from 15 August, 1947. His Highness also nominated Shree Girija Shankar Guha representative of Manipur in the Constituent Assembly.

The official copy of the Constitution of India duly adopted and enacted by the Constituent Assembly and caref preserved by the Government of India is sign by all members of the Constituent Assembly not merely by Rajendra Prasad alone.

On this - important document you will find the signa of Shree-Girija Shankar Guha also. He s" both in Roman and Bengalee scripts.


RK Jhalajit Singh

* RK Jhalajit wrote this piece originally. This was published in "Manipur Today" - a publication from DIPR, Govt. of Manipur. This article was webcasted on October 21st, 2009.

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