After the failure of Wavell Plan, the public trial of officers of Indian National Army was started in November 1945. The three officers of I.N.A., Major Sehgal, Major General Shah Nawaz Khan and Colonel Dhillon, combination of the three communities, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh, were tried in open in the Red Fort. At that time Jawaharlal Nehru appeared in the court as Barrister, Sir Sapru and Mr. Bhullabhai Desai acted as defense counsels. But the judge found them guilty and announced death sentences. The three communities of India showed great unity and opposed the decision of Judge. So all the three were released by the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. The wave of patriotism aroused in the whole country. During this period, another significant event was taken place and that was the Naval Mutiny in Bombay.
Meanwhile, on 10th July, 1945 Labour Party in England came in power. Lord Attlee became Prime Minister of England and Mr. Lawrence became Secretary of State for India. Both were in sympathy with India’s demand for self-government.
Agarwal R.C. quoted the announcement of Lord Attlee in the House of Commons on 15th March 1946 as “the tide of nationalism was surging very fast in India and that it was in the British interest to take a positive action. He further said that the Cabinet Mission was visiting India with the intention of helping her to attain independence as speedily as possible. The Indians themselves were to decide what form of government would suit their although he hoped that they would elect to remain in the Commonwealth”.
Formation of Cabinet Mission
On this basis, Cabinet Mission was announced for India. The Cabinet Mission was consisted of three British Cabinet Ministers – Lord Pethick Lawrence, the Secretary of the State and Head of the Mission, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. Alexander arrived in India on March 1946. It was called the Cabinet Mission and it was headed by Lord Pethick Lawrence. They contacted and discussed with the leaders of the Congress, Muslim League and leaders of various groups. They studied various alternative schemes and tried to create agreeable formula for the Congress and League.
Why did the Cabinet Mission fail?
With a strong centre and minimal powers given to the provinces, the Congress Party wanted to create a strong nation. The Muslim League wanted strong protections for its members, such as parity in the legislatures. After both parties failed to find common ground due to their ideological differences, the mission came up with its own set of proposals in May 1946.
Provisions of Cabinet Mission
Proposals for Long term
There should be a Union of India comprising Provinces and the Princely States. The Union should have jurisdiction on Foreign Affairs, Defense and Communication. The Union should have an executive and Legislature consisting of Representatives of both the Provinces and Princely States. Majority of members’ present and voting belonging to that community as well as a majority of all the members of the legislature present and voting should decide any question relating to a major communal issue in the Legislature. The provinces should be free to form groups and each group could determine the Provincial subjects to be taken in common. The constitution of the Union and of the groups should contain a provision whereby any Province could by majority vote of the Legislative Assembly call for a reconsideration of the terms of the Constitution after an initial period of ten years and at ten yearly intervals thereafter.
Composition of the constituent Assembly
The constituent assembly was constituted in November 1946 under the scheme formulated by the Cabinet Mission Plan.
The features of the scheme were:
• The cabinet mission proposed the formation of a Constituent Assembly consisting of 389 members for making of Indian Constitution. The combinations of the 389 members were – 93 members from Princely States, 292 from the British Indian Provinces and 4 from the Chief Commissioner’s Provinces. Each Province was to be allotted a number of seats proportional to its population. It was to be divided among main communities – General, Muslims and Sikhs in proportion to their population and was to be elected by members of the same community in the Legislative Assembly.
The members of the Constituent Assembly would be divided into three sections:
Section A – Provinces not claimed for and representing Hindu majority regions – Madras, Bombay, U.P., Bihar, C.P. and Orissa.
Section B – Territories claimed for Pakistan and representing the North Western Muslim majority – Punjab, North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Sindh and British Baluchistan.
Section C – Territories claimed for Pakistan and representing the North Eastern Muslim majority – Bengal and Assam.
Each group was to settle the constitution of the Provinces included in it. After the group constitutions were settled, the Groups were to assemble to settle the Union Constitution. After the first general election under the new Constitution, it was to be open to any province to come out of any group by a resolution of its Legislature.
Recommendation for short term i.e. formation of Interim
The plan provided immediate setting up of an interim Government in order to carry on administration while the constitution making was in progress. Indian leaders should hold all the portfolios of the Interim Government. The British Government promised to give the fullest cooperation to the Interim Government.
A treaty will be negotiated between the Constituent Assembly and the United Kingdom to provide matters arising out of the transfer of the power. The Mission hoped that the new independent India might choose to be a member of the British Commonwealth. In the beginning, the reaction of various political groups to the Plan was favourable. The Muslim League accepted it on 6th June and the Congress on 25th June, 1946. However, the Congress Working Committee expressed its disapproval of the system of grouping of Provinces. The Committee decided to join the proposed Constituent Assembly with a view to framing the Constitution of a free, united and democratic India
The election for the Constituent Assembly was held in July 1946. The Congress got thumping majority in the Constituent Assembly. This thing disappointed the Muslim League. The Congress won 202 seats while Muslim League won 73 seats and the small groups and independents got the remaining 15 seats. However, the 93 seats allotted to the princely states were not filled as they decided to stay away from the Constituent Assembly. But the Muslim League representatives did not join in the Constituent Assembly.
In that background, on December 9, 1946 the Constituent Assembly met in New Delhi. Meanwhile Pandit Nehru in his Presidential address about Cabinet Mission to the Congress Working Committee at Bombay that, “as far as he could see it was not a question of the Congress accepting any plan, long or short. It was merely a question of their agreeing to enter the Constituent Assembly, and nothing more than that, ‘We are not bound by a single thing, he declared, ‘except that we have decided for the moment to go into the Constituent Assembly’.
Mr. Jinnah reacted on that statement of Nehru. He opposed the interim government and lastly, he declared the rejection of Cabinet Mission Plan by Muslim League. Jinnah called upon his followers to observe 16th August, 1946 as Direct Action day. Many violent events took place in the country. The gap between the Congress and League becoming widen. The nation was going towards partition.
Although the Constituent Assembly was not directly elected by the people of India on the basis of adult franchise, the Assembly comprised representatives of all sections of Indian Society—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Parsis, Anglo–Indians, Indian Christians, SCs, STs including women of all these sections. The Assembly included all important personalities of India at that time, with the exception of Mahatma Gandhi and M.A Jinnah.