The Nehru Committee Report of 10 August 1928 was a memorandum outlining a proposed new dominion status for the constitution for India. It was prepared by a committee of the All Parties Conference chaired by Motilal Nehru with his son Jawaharlal Nehru acting as secretary. There were nine other members in this committee. The final report was signed by Motilal Nehru, Ali Imam, Tej Bahadur Sapru, MadhavShrihariAney, Mangal Singh, Shuaib Qureshi, Subhas Chandra Bose, and G. R. Pradhan. Shuaib Qureshi disagreed with some of the recommendations.
BACKGROUND OF NEHRU REPORT
British policy, until almost the end of the Raj, was that the timing and nature of Indian constitutional development was to be decided exclusively by the British Parliament, but it was assumed that Indians would be consulted as appropriate. This was formally stated in the Government of India Act 1919. Britain did not acknowledge the right of Indians to frame their own constitution until the 1942 Cripps Declaration.
A nonofficial effort to … (to draft a new constitution was) made by Mrs. Besant and a few of her Indian friends. Most of the leaders were rather cool toward her project, but it was somewhat revised by a so-called All-Parties Conference which met at Delhi in January–February, 1925, and was formally approved by a convention held at Cawnpore in April. It was drafted as a statute and introduced in the House of Commons by Mr. George Lansbury, December 9, 1925, under the title, “The Commonwealth of India Bill.” The bill proposed to confer upon India at once the full status of a Dominion, subject to certain temporary reservations. The Viceroy, as the representative of the King-Emperor, was to have complete charge of military and naval forces and foreign relations until the Indian Parliament by its own act should signify its readiness to assume control. Any step taken by the Indian Parliament concerning the Indian States must have the previous approval of the Viceroy. There was a Bill of Rights which included, among other things, guarantees of personal liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, and equality of sex. This scheme did not arouse any popular enthusiasm, partly perhaps because it was not really an Indian product, but mainly because of the negative character of the Nationalist movement. The leaders were more interested in opposing the existing system than they were in preparing a constructive alternative.
In November 1927, the British government appointed the Simon Commission to review the working of the Government of India Act 1919 and propose constitutional reforms for India. The Commission did not have a single Indian member which irked leaders of the nationalist movement. While the British acknowledged the discontent, it did not consider making changes to the composition of the Commission; it istead asked Indians to prove that they could draw up a constitution themselves. A similar challenge was made in 1925 by Lord Birkenhead, Secretary of State for India, in the House of Lords
The constitution outlined by the Nehru Report was for Indian enjoying dominion status within the British Commonwealth. Some of the important elements of the report: Element of Nehru report…
- Unlike the eventual Government of India Act 1935 it contained a Bill of Rights.
- All power of government and all authority – legislative, executive and judicial – are derived from the people and the same shall be exercised through organizations established by, or under, and in accord with, this Constitution.
- There shall be no state religion; men and women shall have equal rights as citizens.
- There should be federal form of government with residuary powers vested in the center.(Some scholars, such as Moore 1988 considered the Nehru Report proposal as essentially unitary rather than federal);
- It included a description of the machinery of government including a proposal for the creation of a Supreme Court and a suggestion that the provinces should be linguistically determined.
- It did not provide for separate electorates for any community or weightage for minorities. Both of these were liberally provided in the eventual Government of India Act 1935. However, it did allow for the reservation of minority seats in provinces having a minorities of at least ten percent, but this was to be in strict proportion to the size of the community.
- The language of the Union shall be Indian, which may be written either in Devanagari (Hindi/Sanskrit), Telugu, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali or Tamil in character. The use of the English language shall be permitted.
The Nehru Report, along with that of the Simon Commission was available to participants in the three Indian Round Table Conferences (1930–1932). However, the Government of India Act 1935 owes much to the Simon Commission report and little, if anything to the Nehru Report.
What was the purpose of Nehru Report?
The Motilal Nehru Report 1928 was a report by a committee headed by Pt. Motilal Nehru. This committee was created when Lord Birkenhead, Secretary of State of India asked the Indian leaders to draft a constitution for the country. The report, which demanded a Dominion Status for India was considered by the Congress.
How many fundamental right are there in Nehru report?
Nineteen fundamental – (This point was a bone of contention with the younger set of leaders including Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose who favoured complete independence.) Nineteen fundamental rights including the right to vote for men and women above 21 years of age, unless disqualified. Equal rights for men and women as citizens.
Muslim League’s Reaction to the Nehru Report
With few exceptions League leaders rejected the Nehru proposals. In reaction Mohammad Ali Jinnah drafted his Fourteen Points in 1929 which became the core demands the Muslim community put forward as the price of their participating in an independent united India. Their main objections were:
- Separate electorates and weightage — the 1916 Congress-Muslim League agreement Lucknow Pact provided these to the Muslim community whereas they were rejected by the Nehru Report.
- Residuary powers — the Muslims realized that while they would be a majority in the provinces of the North-East and North-West of India, and hence would control their provincial legislatures, they would always be a minority at the Centre. Thus they demanded, contra the Nehru Report that residuary powers go to the provinces.
According to Mohammad Ali Jinnah, “The Committee has adopted a narrow minded policy to ruin the political future of the Muslims. I regret to declare that the report is extremely ambiguous and does not deserve to be implemented.”
Demands of Hindu Mahasabha
- The Hindu Mahasabha had reservations about the proposals for creating new Muslim-majority provinces
- It also vehemently opposed to reservation of seats for Muslims majorities in Punjab and Bengal (which would ensure Muslim control over legislatures in both).
- It demanded a strictly unitary structure.
Key Points of Nehru Report
The main points of the Nehru report were as follows:
- India would be given Dominion status. This means independence within the British Commonwealth.
- India will be a federation which shall have a bicameral legislature at the center and Ministry would be responsible to the legislature.
- Governor General of India would be the constitutional head of India and will have the same powers as that of British Crown.
- There will be no separate electorate.
- The draft report also defined the citizenship and fundamental rights.
The novel features of the Nehru Committee Report were almost accepted by the Indian leaders. The next session of the Congress was held in Calcutta in December 1928. In this session, the Nehru Report was accepted by a majority vote. The congress gave an ultimatum to the British Government to acceptthe recommendation of the report by December 31, 1929, and also threatened for another mass movement in case the report is not accepted. The report was not accepted by the Government.
Was Nehru Report a Reversal of Lucknow Pact?
Yes. The Motilal Nehru Committee Report, published in 1928 recommended reservation of seats for Muslims only in provinces where they were in a minority. The report proposed to abolish separate electorates, to discard reservation of seats for Muslim majorities in the Punjab and Bengal and to and to reject the principle of weightage for Muslim minorities. This was a reversal of the Lucknow Pact. The Nehru Report asked for a political status of India as a dominion, which should be the same as that of British dominions like Canada, South Africa. It asked for a similar reservation for Hindus for Hindus in NWFP. The provinces of Sindh and Karnataka shall be separate any further reorganization of proposed report was good but not practical. The joint and mixed concept was practically unacceptable for the Muslim league.
This attitude of the Hindu Mahasabha complicated matters. In the course of the deliberations of the All Parties Conference, the Muslim League dissociated itself and stuck to its demand for reservation of seats for Muslims, especially in the Central Legislature and in Muslim majority provinces. Thus, Motilal Nehru and other leaders drafting the report found themselves in a dilemma: if the demands of the Muslim communal opinion were accepted, the Hindu communalists would withdraw their support, if the latter were satisfied, the Muslim leaders would get estranged.
Jinnah’s Fourteen Points
- Federal Constitution with residual powers to provinces.
- Provincial autonomy.
- No constitutional amendment by the centre without the concurrence of the states constituting the Indian federation.
- All legislatures and elected bodies to have adequate representation of Muslims in every province without reducing a majority of Muslims in a province to a minority or equality.
- Adequate representation to Muslims in the services and in self-governing bodies.
- One-third Muslim representation in the Central Legislature.
- In any cabinet at the centre or in the provinces, one- third to be Muslims.
- Separate electorates.
- No bill or resolution in any legislature to be passed if three-fourths of a minority community considers such a bill or resolution to be against their interests.
- Any territorial redistribution not to affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and NWFP.
- Separation of Sindh from Bombay.
- Constitutional reforms in the NWFP and Baluchistan.
- Full religious freedom to all communities.
- Protection of Muslim rights in religion, culture, education and language
Reactions to Nehru Report
- The communalist factions including the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh communalists were unhappy about the Nehru Report and found it unsatisfactory.
- The Congress accepted the report only under pressure from Gandhiji.
- The younger section of the Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Bose was also angered.
- The younger section regarded the idea of dominion status in the report as a step backward
- The developments at the All Parties Conference strengthened their criticism of the dominion status idea.
- Nehru and Subhash Bose rejected the Congress’ modified goal and jointly set up the Independence for India League.
Quaid-e-Azam rejected the Nehru Report altogether and said, “The Committee has adopted a narrow minded policy to ruin the political future of the Muslims. I regret to declare that the report is extremely ambiguous and does not deserve to be implemented.”
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