57 High Commission in New Delhi to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 95 NEW DELHI, 26 February 1948

The draft constitution published today describes India as a sovereign republic but in a footnote, (which seems to be intended to obtain public reactions), the draft constitution explains that the future relationship between the republic and the British Commonwealth remains to be decided subsequently.

Other features of the draft are:-

(1) India is described as a Union of States divided into three classes corresponding to the existing Governor's provinces, the existing Chief Commissioner's provinces and the Indian states which have acceded. Kashmir and the United States of Kathiawar are specifically listed.

(2) Indian territory includes the Andamans and Nicobar Islands, and 'any other territory which may be acquired'.

(3) There is a provision for Indian citizenship which appears to be designed inter alia to confer citizenship on overseas Indians who settled abroad before 1st April, 1947.

(4) Fundamental rights including those of equality, religion and property are guaranteed. Untouchability is abolished.

(5) All executive power is vested in a President but this will be exercised on the advice of a Council of Ministers, which, under the Prime Minister is responsible to the House of the People.

There will be a Council of States.

(6) A Supreme Court of India will exercise original appellate and advisory jurisdiction. It may be only accidental that the provisions in the draft dealing with the cessation of Privy Council appeals incorporates a specific reference to 'His Majesty in Council'; the draft contains nothing else which suggests continued association with the British Commonwealth except, perhaps, two clauses which permit the retention under certain circumstances of laws now in force.

(7) For ten years seats are reserved for the Muslim community, the scheduled castes and tribes and Christians.

(8) Relations between the Centre and the States are defined. Under certain circumstances the centre may legislate with respect to any listed State power, e.g. those which assume national importance.

Essential supplies and displaced persons are on the concurrent list for five years.

No date has been specified for the coming into operation of the constitution.

The draft will probably be debated in May. Copy by bag.

[AA: A5009/2, A/6/1/1]