Explained | What is Indian Independence Act?

Explained | What is Indian Independence Act?

The enactment of the Act officially ended the British rule in India

India celebrates its 74th year of Independence. Credit: iStock Photo

Based on the Mountbatten Plan, the Independence Act of India partitioned British India into two new independent dominions of India and Pakistan.

As India celebrates its 74th year of Independence, we take a look at why this Act was adopted and some of its salient features.

In February 1947, when the then British Prime Minister declared that the British rule in India would end by June 30, 1948, the Muslim League agitated demanding a partition.
Following this, on June 3, 1947, the Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten, put forth the partition plan, widely known as the Mountbatten Plan.

After the proposed plan was accepted by both the Congress and the Muslim League, the British Parliament passed the Independence Act of India, 1947, thereby, dividing the nation into two parts.

What are the salient features of the Independence Act of India, 1947?

The enactment of the Act officially ended the British rule in India and the nation was declared as an independent and sovereign state from August 15, 1947. Under the Act, two independent dominions of India and Pakistan came into being, freeing the British government of any responsibility with respect to the governments of the two nations. The dominions were also given the right to secede from the British Commonwealth. 

The Act abolished the Office of Viceroy as well as the Office of the Secretary of State. However, the British King, on the advice of the dominion cabinet, appointed a governor-general for each dominion as the constitutional (nominal) heads of the states. The title of Emperor of India was also dropped from the royal titles of the King of England.

The Constituent Assembly of India was formed in 1946. The Act allowed the Assemblies of both India and Pakistan to frame and adopt laws for their territories and to repeal any Act passed by the British Parliament, including the Independence Act itself. Therefore, no law that was passed by the British government after August 15, 1947, would extend to either of the dominions unless individually passed in the respective Assemblies.

The Indian princely states were freed of the ‘British paramountcy’ under the Act, giving them the right to either join Pakistan or India or to remain independent. Treaty relations with tribal areas also lapsed under the Act.

Till new constitutions were framed, the Act provided for the governance of the new dominions and provinces by the Government of India Act, 1935. However, the dominions held the authority to make any changes in the Act.

The appointment to civil services and reservation of posts by the Secretary of State for India was also discontinued.