TODAY -

What had happened to Manipur ?
- Part 5 -

Puyam Nongdrei *

Mr Quiton being received by Maharaj Kulachandra Singh at Kangla
Mr Quiton being received by Maharaj Kulachandra Singh at Kangla
Warning: These images CANNOT be reproduced in any form or size without written permission from the RKCS Gallery



The Governor-General was appointed for the purposes of the Dominion of India and he exercised his functions in relation to the State of Manipur for the purposes only of the Dominion

Promulgation of the Indian (Provisional Constitution) Order, 1947


The Indian (Provisional Constitution) Order, 1947 was promulgated on 14 August 1947 by the Governor-General of India after adaptations and modification of the Government of India Act, 1935. As given in section 3 of the order, the Governor-General of India was appointed by a Commission under the Royal Sign Manual. Also,the appointment of a Governor-General of India by His Majesty is mentioned in section 5 of the Independence Act of 1947. This order promulgated by Lord Mountbatten carried an important section that will have wider political implications and other ramifications in Manipur and the world at large.

That is section 6 in regards to the accession of Indian States to the Dominion of India. It says: (1) An Indian State shall be deemed to have acceded to the Dominion if the Governor-General has signified his acceptance of an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof whereby the Ruler on behalf of the State: (a) declares that he accedes to the Dominion with the intent that the Governor-General, the Dominion Legislature, the Federal Court and any other Dominion authority established for the purposes of the Dominion shall, by virtue of his Instrument of Accession, but subject always to the terms thereof, and for the purposes only of the Dominion, exercise in relation to the State such functions as may be vested in them by order under this Act; and (b) assumes the obligation of ensuring that due effect is given within the State to the provisions of this Act so far as they are applicable therein by virtue of the Instrument of Accession.

The sub-clause (a) and (b) are nothing but those given in the Articles 1 and 2 of the Instrument of Accession. Regarding the Governor-General of India, we can say that the Governor-General of India shall, by virtue of this Instrument of Accession but subject always to the terms thereof, and for the purposes only of the Dominion, exercise in relation to the State of Manipur such functions as may be vested in him by or under the Government of India Act, 1935, as in force in the Dominion of India on the 15th August 1947. Now we can see that he was to exercise the functions vested in him by or under the Act of 1935 which came into operation as the Indian (Provisional Constitution) Order, 1946 for the 'purposes only of the Dominion of India'.

There are three things that need to be remembered for our understanding of the whole game plan of keeping the original copies of the Instrument of Accession and Standstill Agreement. They are:

(1) The signing of these documents were legally validated by the Indian Independence Act, 1947;
(2) Manipur was an independent State on and after 15 August 1947 under section 7 (1) of the Indian Independence Act, 1947;
(3) Manipur was not acceded and could not be acceded to the Dominion of India even after the King of Manipur signed the two documents on 11 August 1947

Interestingly, he was not to exercise the functions for the purposes of Manipur. These words in the Instrument of Accession were not simply put by the authors of the Instrument. Before going further into the detail, one has to ask the question: Why didn't the section 6 of the Indian (Provisional Constitution) Order say that an State shall be deemed to have acceded to the Dominion after the Ruler of the State execute the Instrument of Accession? What is the logic behind the Governor-General signifying his acceptance of an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler of an Indian State? This leaves the room for some States or at least Manipur which had signed the Instrument of Accession but was not accepted by the Governor-General. Such a State was not deemed to be acceded even after signing the Instrument.

Manipur King Bodhachandra signed the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement on 11 August 1947 and sent the documents to Delhi on 13 August of the same year. Why shouldn't the Governor-General of India accept the Instrument signed by the King of Manipur on behalf of the State? What were the legal-constitutional complexities that forced Lord Mountbatten, the Governor-General of the independent Dominion of India, not to append signature in the Instrument?

The SECRET file of the Home Ministry

The case of Hyderabad and that of Kashmir were very complicated because of their international attention and use of military means. But the most difficult case to be handled by Lord Mountbatten, Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon in the period between 1947 to 1949 was that of Manipur. It could not get attention of the scholars both within India and abroad because of Manipur's geopolitical location and the hideous agenda behind the cover-up of the case. But truth can not be kept covered forever.

In the book "Bleeding Manipur"(2003), the author has quoted few lines from another book entitled "Merger of Manipur" by Lt. Colonel Haobam Bhuban Singh. The quoted lines say that the original copies of the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement signed by King Bodhachandra on 11 August 1947 to accede to the Dominion of India are being kept in a file marked as SECRET till date. The file number is said to be F/375/45-Public (Sanatomba Kangujam in his article entitled "Was Manipur Independent After August 15, 1947?" writes the file number as F/375/48-Public) in the possession of the Ministry of Home, Government of India. It is said that what is written in the orginal copies is known to a very few people in Delhi.

There is no way the file can be accessed on request by anyone other than those few beings in the corridor of power in New Delhi. Any attempt made to get access to the secret file or get copies of the documents has not so far been successful. The original copy of the Instrument of Accession signed by Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir are on the web for quite a long time. But these documents to show that Manipur State was acceded to the Dominion of India with the signature of the then King Bodhachandra is still kept in a SECRET file of the Ministry of Home Affairs. There will be questions.

The documents may or may not have the signature of the Governor-General of India to signify his acceptance of the accession of Manipur as stated in section 6 of the Indian (Provisional Constitution) Order, 1947 promulgated on 14 August 1947. But there is a way to prove that the documents were not acceptable to get them signified by the Governor-General for the accession of the ancient State of Manipur to the independent Dominion of India. Proving this will put an end to the may or may not be of the Governor-General's acceptance of the accession of Manipur.

The Government of India would have done everything for integration of Manipur but the legal-constitutional complexities involved in the case of the accession of Manipur to the Dominion were very significant. The political implications of such understanding among the general public and scholars would undo the integration project of Sardar Patel and V.P. Menon. That is why the same was kept hidden from the public eyes. Manipur had low literacy rate and lack of political consciousness was further complicated by the repressive measures of the Government of India to nib in the bud any kind of public outcry in Manipur against the failed accession and Merger Agreement.

The allotment of the portfolio of Foreign Affairs and Finance to Arambam Ibungotomcha after the inauguration of the first Manipur State Assembly on 18 October 1948 has connections with the SECRET file of the Home Ministry hiding the two documents from the public view.

The Indian Independence Act of 1947 legally validated the act of signing the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement. Lord Mountbatten did it as representative of the Crown on behalf of the Indian Dominion before the establishment of the independent Dominion of India and at the same time empowered the Rulers to sign the documents exercising his Special Responsibilites and Power of Individual Judgement. The Royal Assent given to the Indian Independence Act, 1947 on 18 July 1947 approved the act of signing those documents.

But it does not ensure the legal validity and applicability of the provisions of the Instrument and Standstill Agreement. The subsequent paragraphs will unfold the hidden truth behind the SECRET file. Under section 2 (4) of the Independence Act of 1947, the accession of Indian States to the new Dominions is allowed. It states: "Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sub-section (3) of this section, nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing the accession of Indian States to either of the new Dominions."

Sovereign Political Status of Manipur on and after 15 August 1947

The section 7 sub-section 1 says that (b) the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian States lapses, and with it, all treaties and agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and the rulers of Indian States, all functions exercisable by His Majesty at that date with respect to Indian States, all obligations of His Majesty existing at that date towards Indian States or the rulers thereof, and all powers, rights, authority or jurisdiction exercisable by His Majesty at that date in or in relation to Indian States by treaty, grant, usage, sufferance or otherwise; and

(c) there lapse also any treaties or agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and any persons having authority in the tribal areas, any obligations of His Majesty existing at that date to any such persons or with respect to the tribal areas, and all powers, rights, authority or jurisdiction exercisable at that date by His Majesty in or in relation to the tribal areas by treaty, grant, usage, sufferance or otherwise:

Provided that, notwithstanding anything in paragraph (b) or paragraph (c) of this sub-section, effect shall, as nearly as may be, continue to be given to the provisions of any such agreement as is therein referred to which relate to customs, transit and communications, posts and telegraphs, or other like matters, until the provisions in question are denounced by the Ruler of the Indian State or person having authority in the tribal areas on the one hand, or by the Dominion or Province or other part thereof concerned on the other hand, or are superseded by subsequent agreements.

Section 7 (1) sub-clauses (b) and (c) clearly state that that the suzerainty of His Majesty over the Indian States lapses, and with it, all treaties and agreements in force at the date of the passing of this Act between His Majesty and the rulers of Indian States. The Indian Independence Act, 1947 was passed with the Royal Assent given on 18 July 1947. The Act was passed by the British Parliament on 5 July 1947. The suzerainty of the British Crown lapsed with the passing of the Independence Act of 1947.

Now, we see that the British Crown's suzerainty lapsed with the passing of the Act on 5 July 1947. The Royal Assent to the Act was given on 18 July 1947. The treaty making power of the Rulers of the Indian/princely States could be exercised with the passing of the Act. That means the King of Manipur had the authority to enter into treaty with the Dominion of India under section 7 (1) sub-clauses. As mentioned earlier, the Governor-General had the authority to enter into agreement with Manipur or any other country on behalf of the Dominion of India before 15th August 1947. This is stated as follows under section 9 (1) sub-clause (f): The Governor-General shall by order make such provision as appears to him to be necessary or expedient-for enabling agreements to be entered into, and other acts done, on behalf of either of the new Dominions before the appointed day (the 15th of August 1947).

Now, the legal validity of signing the Instrument of Accession and the Standstill Agreement is established without any room for doubt. A clearful reading of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 especially section 7 (1) and section 9 (1) sub-clause (f) will clear the wrongful understanding of many scholars that the Instrument of Accession was signed with pre-independent India thus having no legal binding.

Under section 8 sub-section (1) of the Independence Act of 1947, the Constituent Assembly of the Dominion of India has to function as the Dominion Legislature for the purpose of making provisions to the constitution of the Dominion. Section 8 sub-section (2) (c) states that "so much of the said provisions as requires the Governor-General or any Governor to act in his discretion or exercise his individual judgement as respects any matter shall cease to have effect as from the appointed day."

(e) the powers of the Federal Legislature or Indian Legislature under that Act, as in force in relation to each Dominion, shall, in the first instance, be exercisable by the Constituent Assembly of the Dominion in addition to the powers exercisable by that Assembly under subsection (1) of this section.

Sub-clause (c) of the section 8 (2) says that the power and authority of the Governor-General or any Governor to exercise his or their discretionary powers and individual judgement will have no effect from 15th August 1947. This also include the special responsibilities of safeguarding the rights of the Indian States and Princes exercised as representatives of the British Crown in India. But these powers and authority were effective before 15 August 1947.

Sub-clause (e) of the section 8 (2) says that the powers of the Federal Legislature under the Act of 1935, as in force in relation to each Dominion, shall be exercised by the Constituent Assembly of the Dominion. It also exercised authority over the Indian States acceded to the Dominion exercising law making powers relating to the subjects mentioned in the Instrument of Accession for those States. This authority is not extended to a State that has not acceded to the Dominion. Manipur was beyond the reach of the powers of the Federal Legislature to be exercised by the Constituent Assembly until the extraction of the Merger Agreement on 21st September 1949.

It was the Governor-General who was to exercise his functions by promulgating order or ordinances to facilitate the accession of the Indian States after the lapse of the British Crown's suzerainty over these States. A thorough understanding of the power and function of the Governor-General to bring the Indian Independence Act of 1947 into force by making order is necessary to unfold the SECRET file.

Helpless Governor-General Lord Mountbatten

Section 9 (1) The Governor-General shall be order make such provision as appears to him to be necessary or expedient-

(a) for bringing the provisions of this Act into effective operation;

(c) for making omissions from, additions to, and adaptations and modifications of, the Government of India Act, 1935, and the Orders in Council, rules and other instruments made thereunder, in their application to the separate sew Dominions;
(d) for removing difficulties arising in connection with the transition to the provisions of this Act;

(e) for authorising the carrying on of the business of the Governor-General in Council between the passing of this Act and the appointed day otherwise than in accordance with the provisions in that behalf of the Ninth Schedule to the Government of India Act, 1935;

(f) for enabling agreements to be entered into, and other acts done, on behalf of either of the new Dominions before the appointed day;

(g) for authorising the continued carrying on for the time being on behalf of the new Dominions, or on behalf of any two or more of the said new Provinces, of services and activites previously carried on on behalf of British India as a whole or on behalf of the former Provinces which those new Provinces represent;

(i) so far as it appears neessary or expedient in connection with any of the matters aforesaid, for varying the constitution, powers or jurisdiction of any legislature, court or other authority in the new Dominions and creating new legislatures, courts or other authorities therein.

(2) The powers conferred by this section on the Governor-General shall, in relation to their respective Pronvinces, be exercisable also by the Governors of the Provinces which, under this Act, are to cease to exist; and those powers shall, for the purposes of the Government of India Act, 1935, be deemed to be matters as respects which the Governors are, under that Act, to exercise their individual judgement.

(3) This section shall be deemed to have had effect as from the third day of June, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, and any order of the Governor-General or any Governor made on or after that date as to any matter shall have effect accordingly, and any order made under this section may be made so as to be retrospective to any date not earlier than the said third day of June:

Provided that no person shall be deemed to be guilty of an offence by reason of so much of any such order as makes any provision thereof retrospective to any date before the making thereof.

An interesting account of the section 9 of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 is the retrospective effect of any order made by the Governor-General or Governor as from 3rd June 1947. Section 9 of the Act of 1947 was effective from 3rd June 1947 and the orders made on or after that date (3rd June) as to any matter shall have effect accordingly and any order made under this section may be made so as to be retrospective to any date not earlier than the said date. Here is the TRAP. Any order made under this section could have retrospective effect to any date not earlier than 3rd June 1947.

This, consciously or unconsciously, put the Governor-General of India, Lord Mountbatten in a helpless situation. The legal experts of the Dominion of India could not do anything to change the things in their favour. Either the Indian Independence Act, 1947 had to be changed to accommodate a place for Manipur to successfully accede the State or to hide the truth from the world, atleast for some decades.

(4) Any orders made under this section, whether before or after the appointed day, shall have effect-
(a) up to the appointed day, in British India;
(b) on and after the appointed day, in the new Dominion or Dominions concerned; and
(c) outside British India, or, as the case may be, outside the new Dominion or Dominions concerned, to such extent, whether before, on or after the appointed day, as a law of the Legislature of the Dominion or Dominions concerned would have on or after the appointed day, but shall, in the case of each of the Dominions, be subject to the same powers of repeal and amendment as law of the Legislature of that Dominion.

(5) No order shall be made under this section, by the Governor of any Province, after the appointed day, or, by the Governor-General, after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and forty-eight, or such earlier date as may be determined, in the case of either Dominion, or by any law of the Legislature of that Dominion. (6) If it appears that a part of the Province of Assam is, on the appointed day, to become part of the new Province of East Bengal, the preceding provisions of this section shall have effect as if, under this Act, the Province of Assam was to cease to exist on the appointed day and be reconstituted on that day as a new Province.

The sub-sections (5) and (6) of section 9 have something important in store for Manipur. The Governor of any province cease to have the authority to make order under section 9 on 15 August 1947. However, the Governor-General could make order under the section till 31st March 1948 or any earlier date as determined by the Dominion Legislature. Simply put, an order made by the Governor-General on 30th or 31st of March 1948 would have retrospective effect to any date not earlier than 3rd June 1947.

The Province of Assam ceased to exist on 15th August 1947 and it was reconstitued as a new Province on that day after losing some parts to Pakistan. All the provisions of section 9 had effect accordingly as the new Province of Assam was reconstituted on the same day. It was to clear ways for the accession of Khasi Hills States, Tripura and Manipur. Section 9 subsection (6) empowered the Governor-General to remove difficulties to accede the States which were under the administrative supervision of the Assam Governor in his power as the Provincial Representative of the British Crown.

Why these provisions to facilitate the Governor-General? If we read section 9 sub-section (3) and the sub-section (5) together, the Indian Independence Act, 1947 is telling that any order made under this section will have effect as from 3rd June 1947 and such order could be made by Governor-General of India till 31st March 1948. What was the crux of the problem that could not be removed by any order made under this section? Whatever it may be it must be beyond the retrospective dateline of 3rd June 1947.

This argument is clear when read together with the section 19 sub-section (5) of the Indian Independence Act, 1947. The sub-section says: "Any power conferred by this Act to make any order includes power to revoke or vary any order previously made in the exercise of that power".

Furthermore, sub-section (2) of the section 9 of the Independence Act of 1947 states:

"The powers conferred by this section on the Governor-General shall, in relation to their respective Pronvinces, be exercisable also by the Governors of the Provinces which, under this Act, are to cease to exist; and those powers shall, for the purposes of the Government of India Act, 1935, be deemed to be matters as respects which the Governors are, under that Act, to exercise their individual judgment."

See a List of Reference Materials for this article

To be continued ...


* Puyam Nongdrei wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at khuman_mei(at)yahoo(dot)com
This article was posted on November 04, 2014.


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