May 18, 2022

The Independence Act that gave the power to instrument of accession

Princely states were merged to Union of India through an ‘Instrument of accession’ accepted by each ruler. Therefore, in the present case, instrument of accession was of very importance.

The Instruments of Accession were executed in furtherance of the Indian Independence Act, 1947. On June 3, 1947 the British Government announced their plan of transfer of power in India. The Government of India formed a Ministry of States under Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and it was decided to secure the accession of Indian States on three subjects: External Affairs; and Communications.

The Act provided for lapse of sovereignty of the British Crown in India over the Indian States` and they were free to accede to any of the two Dominions of India or Pakistan or to continue as independent sovereigns.

Indian Independence Act, 1947

A reference to the Indian Independence Act, 1947 appears necessary at this stage—

  • The preamble of the Act stated that the Act was to make provision for the setting up in India of two independent Dominions and to provide for matters consequential on or connected with the setting up of those Dominions and-to substitute certain provisions in the Government of India Act 1935.
  • Section 1 of the Act fixed the 15th day of August, 1947 as the appointed date, from which the two independent Dominions were to come into existence.
  • Section 2 demarcated their territories, but without prejudice to the generality of the provisions of sub-section (3) of that section, the accession of Indian States to either of the two Dominions was not to be prevented.
  • Immediately afterwards the India (Provisional Constitution) Order 1947 was promulgated and certain substitutions were made in the Government of India Act 1935 by the Governor-General by virtue of subsection (2) of Section 8 read with section 9 of the Indian Independence Act.
  • Sections 5 and 6 of the Government of India Act 1935 were replaced by the following sections

“5. Establishment of the Dominion:

(1) The Dominion of India established by the Indian Independence Act, 1947, shall as from the fifteenth day of August 1947, be a Union comprising: –

(a) the Provinces hereinafter called Governors’ Provinces;

(b) the Provinces hereinafter called Chief Commissioners’ Provinces.

(c) the Indian States acceding to the Dominion in the manner hereinafter provided, and

(d) any other areas that may with the consent of the Dominion be uncured in the Dominion.

(2) The said Dominion of India. is hereafter in this Act referred to as “the Dominion” and the said fifteenth day of August is hereafter in this Act referred to as ‘the date of the establishment of the Dominion’.

6. Accession of Indian States

(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.

(2) An Instrument of Accession shall specify the matters which the Ruler accepts as matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislature may make laws for the State and the limitations, if any, to which the power, of the Dominion Legislature to make laws for the State, and the exercise of the executive authority the Dominion in the State, are respectively to be subject.

(3) A Ruler may, by a supplementary Instrument executed by him and accepted by the Governor General vary the Instrument of Accession of his State by extending the functions which by virtue of that Instrument are exercisable by any Dominion authority in relation to his State.

(4) References in this Act to the Ruler of a State include references to any persons for the time being exercising the powers of the Ruler of the State whether by reason of the Ruler’s minority or for any other reason.

(5) In this Act a State which has acceded to the Dominion is referred to as an acceding State and the Instrument by virtue of which a State has so acceded construed together with any supplementary Instrument executed under this section, is referred to as the Instrument of Accession of that State.

(6) As soon as may be after an Instrument of Accession or supplementary instrument has been accepted by the Governor-General under this Section, copies of the Instrument and of the Governor-General’s acceptance thereof shall be laid before the Dominion Legislature and all courts shall take judicial notice of every such instrument and acceptance.”

The execution of Instrument of accession

In furtherance of these new provisions, the Instruments of Accession were executed on different dates, after negotiations between the Government of India and the Rulers, but nothing turns upon the date of an Instrument. Many Rulers had immediately signed Instruments of Merger, transferring full and exclusive authority, jurisdiction and powers in relation to the governance of their States to the Government of India. They were merged with the existing Provinces or were set up as Chief Commissioner’s Provinces. Some others signed Instruments of Accession first and Instruments of Merger later.

The remaining at first formed themselves into different Unions of States, making over the administration of their States to a Rajpramukh of the Union of the States vesting in him all rights, authority and jurisdiction belonging to the Ruler which appertained to or were incidental to the Government of the Covenanting States. In this way several Unions of States or United States emerged.

Effect of Indian Independence act

The Indian States formed a significant but separate part of India before they merged with the rest of India. it is common knowledge that the aim of the Government of India Act, 1935 was to associate the Indian States with British India as equal partners in a loose federation. When India became independent by the Indian Independence Act 1947, British paramountly in respect of the Indian States lapsed.

In theory the Rulers became independent but, as shown above, in actual fact, almost all the Rulers signed almost immediately, Instruments of Accession in August 1947 surrendering Defence, External Affairs and Communications. The Rulers immediately after Independence became divided into four classes:

(a) those who had signed Instruments of Accession;

(b) those who had signed instruments of Merger;

(c) those who had formed themselves into Unions and the Unions had signed Instruments of Accession;

(d) Hyderabad, Mysore and Jammu and Kashmir.

The merged States were either directly administered by the Dominion Government as Chief Commissioner’s Provinces or were handed over to the neighbouring Provinces.

Thus 216 States merged in the adjoining Provinces, 61 States were converted into centrally administered areas and 275 States formed Unions. Only three States retained their integrity; but when the Constitution came into force, they too became part of the Union of India on a later date. They were Hyderabad, Mysore and Jammu and Kashmir.