TODAY -

Responsible government under Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947;
Extra constitutional powers of the Dominion agent and the dewan
- Part 2 -

Dr. Kh. Ibochou Singh *



5. Constitution implemented.

After a long tussle between the Maharaja and Constitution Making Committee ultimately there was a compromise. The Maharaja surrendered other items except that of nominated Chief Minister. The Committee, winning in all other items, yielded to the Maharaja on the item of nominated Chief Minister with this compromise, the Maharaja issued orders in Feb, 1948 implementing the Constitution called, Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947. Election to the State Legislative Assembly was held between 11 June, 1948 and 27 July, 1948.

The ratio was to be 30 for the valley, 18 for the hills and 3 for the Muslims*. In addition to it, one from Commerce and one from Education were also represented; total number of elected members being 53 members. Sri P.C. Deb was appointed Returning Officer for the said election, Mr. T.C. Tiangkham was elected Speaker and Sri T. Bokul Singh, Deputy Speaker.

A popular Council of Ministers comprising of one nominated Chief Minister, four ministers from the valley and two ministers from the hills was sworn in and took office with effect from 26 Nov. 1948. Sri M.K. Priyobarta Singh, the younger brother of Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh, was appointed Chief Minister of the new popular ministry.

5.2 The Manipur State Constitution Act, 1947, might be regarded as a democratic constitution establishing a responsible government, except the feature of a nominated Chief Minister. Questions were raised in the Legislative Assembly itself challenging the propriety of a nominated Chief Minister in a popular ministry.

But, the answer was that it could not be undone so long as Rule 10 (d) of the said Constitution, which laid down appointment of the Chief Minister by the Maharaja, remained unamended.[7] The Rule in question remained unaltered, though undemocratic, till the abrogation of the whole Constitution itself since October, 1949 consequent upon the implementation of the Merger Agreement signed on 21 Sept. 1949 taking effect from 15 October, 1949.

6. Appointment of Dominion Agent and Appointment of Dewan.

It was made clear well ahead of the day of Transfer of Power that Manipur would have no link with the British Government of India after the passing and implementation of the Indian Independence Act, 1947. The stand of His Majesty's Government was that with the lapse of British Paramountcy in India from 15 Aug. 1947, the British control over the Indian states would cease to operate.

All sovereignty and powers surrendered by the states to the Paramount Power would return to the states. The future relations of the states with successor Government of India should be settled by political arrangements arrived at through negotiations between the states and the successor Government of India.[8]

6.2 The successor Government of India under the Prime Minister ship of Pandit Nehru contended that the earlier relation between India and Manipur should continue even after the lapse of the British Paramountcy in India. During the days of partition of India, Prime Minister Nehru had declared that the Indian States could not be regarded as Independent States after the lapse of Paramountcy in view of their geographical contiguity with the Indian territories and also from the point of Indian security.[9]

Accordingly, steps were taken to contain political autonomy of Manipur within the ambit of Indian suzerainty. Confidential instructions were issued to the Governor of Assam and the Government of Manipur on these lines. To make things doubly sure, an agreement was signed between the Maharaja of Manipur and the Governor of Assam on 2nd July, 1947 highlighting the future relation of Manipur with the Government of India and the Government of Assam, representing the Government of India.

6.3 The appointment of the Dominion Agent in Manipur was the aftereffect of the agreement of 2nd July, 1947 mentioned above. Since the transfer of power on 15 Aug. 1947, the political Agent in Manipur had ceased to function. The Dominion Agent was to step into the shoes of the Political Agent in Manipur. The Dominion Agent was to look after the relations between the Deminion of India and the State of Manipur.

He had to safeguard the interests of the Government of India with the power to report any matter of importance to the Government of India. The Governor of Assam, as the Agent of the Government of India in that area, appointed the Dominion Agent. He would have the same powers and functions as enjoyed prior to 15 Aug. 1947 by the political Agent.10 Siri Deveswar Sharma of Assam was the first incumbent for the post of Dominion Agent at Manipur.

6.4 The appointment of Deveswar Sharma as Dominion Agent did not prove to be a good choice. Though there were allegations against him on certain political issues in the north east India, Sri Sharma was removed from office, without much detail, on the simple ground that the post was superfluous. The post of Dominion Agent was abolished simultaneously.

6.5 After the abolition of the post of Dominion Agent, there was the necessity for posting one officer at Imphal to represent the Government of India. Taking advantage of Clause (d) of the Agreement, dated 2nd July, 1947, the Government of India opened the issue of appointing a Dewan by the Maharaja to aid and advises him, on behalf of the Government of India, in the administration. The Maharaja pointed out that such appointment would be violating the Constitution as there was no provision for it in the Constitution.

He also expressed that he could not act without consultation and consent of the Council of Ministers. However as the Government of India had assured full protection against any eventuality, the Maharaja agreed to the proposal.[12] At the outset, Sri M.K. Priyobarta Singh was appointed Dewan by the Maharaja. He functioned as the Chief Minister and Dewan.[13] But., later on, the Government of India appointed Major General Rawal Amar Singh as the Dewan. He took over charge on 18 April, 1949.

The position of the Dewan being unconstitutional, no specific powers and functions could be laid down. However, the Government of India coast rued that, as per terms of the agreement, the Maharaja was obliged to accept any advice of the Dewan in the name of good government in the state. The post of Dewann was abolished with the creation of the post of Chief Commissioner of Manipur on 15 Oct. 1949 as Manipur became a Centrally administered area since that day. Major General Rawal Amar Singh, the former Dewan, was appointed the first Chief Commissioner of Manipur.

Conclusion

Manipur State, which had an absolute Monarchy in the early days, switched over to a Constitutional Monarchy since 1948 with an elected responsible government. It was possible with the growth of political and social awareness due to the spread of education among the people. Manipuri Nationalism had played important role at different phases of Constitutional development.

The only blot in that democratic government was the feature of a nominated Chief Minister. But, it was defended to be more democratic for the reason that not only the elected members but also the Maharaja were involved in the appointment of the Chief Minister as the Maharaja had to appoint the Chief Minister in consultation with the Council of Ministers.

The people did not raise objection to the appointment of the Dominion Agent taking him to be the normal representative of the successor government of India in Manipur. But, the appointment of the Dewan was very much controversial as it was violative of the Manipur State Constitution newly enforced. The role played by the Dewan was extra constitutional and extra territorial.

Concluded


* Dr. Kh. Ibochou Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was posted on 24 October, 2018 .


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