About the Author
VAPAL PANGUNNI MENON found himself placed in the midst of the active life of the Government Secretariat at Delhi, when he joined service in 1914. In the years that followed, as he rose steadily in the ladder of official gradation and came to shoulder increasing responsibilities, the keen intellect behind his genial-looking face developed political sagacity and legal acumen of a rare order.
Thus in the fateful years during the World War II and after the end of it, he had the duty of advising the Governor-General on the problems confronting him over the transfer of power into Indian hands. Lord Wavell appointed him as Secretary to the Governor-General (Public) and later as Secretary to the Cabinet. As Secretary to the Governor-General (Public), he was the only Adviser to the Governor-General as to the manner in which he should exercise his control over the Governors of Provinces and also with regard to filling up of appointments which the Governor- General was to make under the provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935.
Lord Mountbatten, who attached great importance to Sri Menon's advice, acknowledged his work with profuse appreciation. For instance, at the banquet in Rashtrapati Bhavan which the Prime Minister gave to Lord Mountbatten during his recent visit (May 1965), Lord Mountbatten, in his speech, paid a most moving tribute to Sri Menon for what India owed to him during the Transfer of Power, 1947-48.
After the advent of independence, it was Sri Menon who, as Secretary and Adviser to the Ministry of States, bore the brunt of the stupendous task of the integration of the various princely states into the Union of India under the able directions of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
It was Sri Menon's intention to write a companion volume on the Government of India Act, 1935. Unfortunately, he passed away on January 1, 1966, before he could do so.
Our country is carrying out a fateful experiment in democratic government, and light from any source on its history and principles should be welcome. I have, therefore, undertaken to publish compact but fairly detailed accounts of the principal stages in recent constitutional history. My Birla Endowment Lectures, given in Bombay in December 1963, under the auspices of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, dealt mainly with politics and only briefly with constitutional arrangements. These accounts will supplement the lectures.
The present volume deals with the Montagu-Chelmsford reform scheme, which came into force in 1920 and remained in force as regards the Provinces until 1937 and as regards the Government of India till 1947. This constitution was a definite landmark in our constitutional history. It represented a decisive step forward from the Morley-Minto constitution which preceded it, in that it introduced the vital principle of the responsibility of part of the executive to an Indian electorate. After it there could be no going back to despotism; there could only be further advance, however slow or fast it might be, towards full democracy.
The Montagu-Chelmsford scheme is, therefore, of considerable interest. But little is generally known about it. The text-books quote from the Government of India Act, 1919, but the Act gives only half the story, or less than half, for it does not include the Rules framed under the Act, and passed by Parliament, which went a long way to determine how the Act should operate in practice. The present account covers the Act and also the Rules, and touches upon all points of importance.
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