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The Instrument of Accession was a legal document first introduced by the Government of India Act 1935 and used in 1947 to enable each of the rulers of the princely states under British paramountcy to join one of the new dominions of India or Pakistan created by the Partition of British India.
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The instruments of accession executed by the rulers, provided for the accession of states to the Dominion of India (or Pakistan) on three subjects, namely, defence, external affairs and communications.
565 princely states existed in India during the period of British rule. These were not parts of British India proper, having never become possessions of the British Crown, but were tied to it in a system of subsidiary alliances.
The Government of India Act 1935 introduced the concept of the Instrument of Accession, wherein a ruler of a princely state could accede his kingdom into the 'Federation of India'. The federation concept was initially opposed by the Indian princes, but it is believed that they came around to its acceptance by the beginning of World War II.
In 1947 the British finalised their plans for quitting India, and the question of the future of the princely states was a conundrum for them. As they were not British, they could not be partitioned by the British between the new sovereign nations of India and Pakistan. The Indian Independence Act 1947 provided that the suzerainty of the British Crown over the princely states would simply be terminated, effective 15 August 1947. That would leave the princely states completely independent, even though many of them had been dependent on the Government of India for defence, finance, and other infrastructure. With independence, it would then be a matter for each ruler of a state to decide whether to accede to India, to accede to Pakistan, or to remain independent.
Accession of states to the new Dominions
The Instrument of Accession was the legal document designed to bring about accession, where it was decided upon. It was executed by the Government of India on the one hand and by the rulers of each of the princely states, individually, on the other hand.
Among the more momentous of such accessions was that executed by Maharaja Hari Singh, ruler of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, on 26 October 1947. It gave control of Jammu and Kashmir to the government of India. The accession of Jammu and Kashmir was accepted by Lord Mountbatten of Burma, Governor-General of India, on 27 October 1947. The text (excluding the schedule mentioned in its third point) is as follows:
Whereas the Indian Independence Act 1947, provides that as from the fifteenth day of August, 1947, there shall be set up an Independent Dominion known as India, and that the Government of India Act, 1935 shall, with such omission, additions, adaptations and modifications as the governor-general may by order specify, be applicable to the Dominion of India.
And whereas the Government of India Act, 1935, as so adapted by the governor-general, provides that an Indian State may accede to the Dominion of India by an Instrument of Accession executed by the Ruler thereof.
Now, therefore, I Shriman Inder Mahander Rajrajeswar Maharajadhiraj Shri Hari Singhji, Jammu and Kashmir Naresh Tatha Tibbetadi Deshadhipathi, Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir State, in the exercise of my sovereignty in and over my said State do hereby execute this my Instrument of Accession and
- I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India with the intent that the governor-general of India, the Dominion Legislature, the Federal Court and any other Dominion authority established for the purposes of the Dominion shall, by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession but subject always to the terms thereof, and for the purposes only of the Dominion, exercise in relation to the State of Jammu and Kashmir (hereinafter referred to as "this State") such functions as may be vested in them by or under the Government of India Act, 1935, as in force in the Dominion of India, on the 15th day of August, 1947, (which Act as so in force is hereafter referred to as "the Act").
- I hereby assume the obligation of ensuring that due effect is given to the provisions of the ACT within this state so far as they are applicable therein by virtue of this my Instrument of Accession.
- I accept the matters specified in the schedule hereto as the matters with respect to which the Dominion Legislatures may make laws for this state.
- I hereby declare that I accede to the Dominion of India on the assurance that if an agreement is made between the Governor General and the ruler of this state whereby any functions in relation to the administration in this state of any law of the Dominion Legislature shall be exercised by the ruler of this state, then any such agreement shall be deem to form part of this Instrument and shall be construed and have effect accordingly.
- The terms of this my Instrument of accession shall not be varied by any amendment of the Act or of the Indian Independence Act, 1947 unless such amendment is accepted by me by an Instrument supplementary to this Instrument.
- Nothing in this Instrument shall empower the Dominion Legislature to make any law for this state authorizing the compulsory acquisition of land for any purpose, but I hereby undertake that should the Dominion for the purposes of a Dominion law which applies in this state deem it necessary to acquire any land, I will at their request acquire the land at their expense or if the land belongs to me transfer it to them on such terms as may be agreed, or, in default of agreement, determined by an arbitrator to be appointed by the Chief Justice of India.
- Nothing in this Instrument shall be deemed to commit me in any way to acceptance of any future constitution of India or to fetter my discretion to enter into arrangements with the Government of India under any such future constitution.
- Nothing in this Instrument affects the continuance of my sovereignty in and over this state, or, save as provided by or under this Instrument, the exercise of any powers, authority and rights now enjoyed by me as Ruler of this state or the validity of any law at present in force in this state.
- I hereby declare that I execute this Instrument on behalf of this state and that any reference in this Instrument to me or to the ruler of the state is to be construed as including to my heirs and successors.
Given under my hand this 26th day of OCTOBER nineteen hundred and forty seven.
Maharajadhiraj of Jammu and Kashmir State.
I do hereby accept this Instrument of Accession. Dated this twenty seventh day of October, nineteen hundred and forty seven.
(Mountbatten of Burma, Governor General of India).
- Instrument of Accession of Junagadh
- Instrument of Accession of Jammu and Kashmir
- Indian annexation of Hyderabad
- Manavadar State
- Wiki Source, White Paper on Indian States (1950)/Part 4/Instrument of Accession
- "Instrument of Accession executed by Maharajah Hari Singh on October 26, 1947". 26 October 1947. Retrieved 26 August 2012.