Report of the Sub-Committee on Minorities

27 July 1947

The Sub-Committee on Minorities was one of the five sub-committees appointed by the larger Advisory Committee on 27 February 1947. Consisting of 26 members, it was the largest of the 5 sub-committees. It was chaired by H.C. Mookherjee and also included Frank Anthony, Sardar Ujjal Singh, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur and Jagjivan Ram, among others.

The Committee circulated a questionnaire among Constituent Assembly members to decide the scope of the work to be undertaken. On the basis of the responses received, it decided to consider the question of representation in legislature, reservation of Cabinet seats and in the services, and the administrative machinery required to ensure protection of minority rights.

The consequent Report was submitted to the parent Advisory Committee on 27 July 1947. It rejected separate electorates for minorities and reservation of Cabinet seats, but recommended reservations in legislatures and in the services.

The matter was taken ahead by the parent Advisory Committee, which submitted another Report to the Constituent Assembly, incorporating almost all of the suggestion of the Sub-Committee.

  1. THE MINORITIES SUB-COMMITTEE of the Advisory Committee met every day from the 21st of July to the 27th of July under the chairmanship of Dr. H. C. Mookherjee. The agenda placed before the sub-committee on the basis of the replies received to the questionnaire issued to the members consisted of the following items:(1) Representation in Legislatures, joint versus separate electorates and weightage;

    (2) Reservation of seats in the Cabinet;

    (3) Reservation in services;

    (4) Administrative machinery to ensure protection of minority rights (partly covered by making certain fundamental rights justiciable). 


2. The sub-committee held prolonged discussions on the various points before them. It was not possible to arrive at unanimous decisions on any point and the voting on several questions was very close. On some points, the voting was equal and the Chairman considered that as the matters were anyhow going to the Advisory Committee, it was pointless for him to exercise a casting vote. On some points, the sub-committee came to the conclusion that a decision had best be deferred till the meeting of the full Advisory Committee. In view of the shortness of time available for preparing this report, it is not possible to indicate the arguments used in the course of discussion. This report contains merely a bare summary of the conclusions reached by the sub-committee and it is hoped that this will be found adequate by the Advisory Committee. 


3. Representation in Legislatures: (1) The sub-committee decided by a majority of 28 to 3 that there should be no separate electorates for elections to the Legislatures. It was understood, in arriving at this decision, that it was open to the sub-committee to decide on any one of several methods of joint electorates that could be devised.

(2) As a general principle, there should be reservation of seats for different recognised minorities in the various Legislatures. This was carried by a majority of 26 to 3.

The reservation shall be for 10 years, the position to be reconsidered at the end of that period. 

(3) The sub-committee considered what minorities and in which Provinces may be given the right of reserved seats. For this purpose, the recognised minority communities were considered in three groups as shown below: 

A-Population less than per cent in the Indian Dominion omitting States

  1. Anglo-Indians.
  2. Parsees.
  3. Plains tribesmen in Assam.

B-Population not more than 11 per cent 

  1. Indian Christians.
  2. Sikhs.

C-Population exceeding 14 per cent

  1. Muslims. 
  2. Scheduled Castes.

(4) Sir Homi Mody advanced the claim of his community for adequate representation in the Central and Provincial Legislatures. While the com- mittee was of opinion that adequate representation should be provided for in response to this claim, it welcomed Sir Homi’s request to have more time to think over the matter and therefore the matter was left over for decision by the Advisory Committee.

(5) The sub-committee then examined the demand put forward by representatives of the Anglo-Indian community but thought it advisable that the question of both the minorities in ‘A’ group should be decided at the same time by the same body, viz., the Advisory Committee to whom the matter was decided to be referred.

(6) The representatives of the Indian Christians stated that so far as their community was concerned they did not like to stand in the way of nation-building. They were willing to accept reservations proportionate to their population in the Central Legislature and in the Provincial Legislatures of Madras, Bombay, Assam and East Punjab. In the other Provinces, they would have the liberty of seeking election from the general seats. They made it plain, however, that if any weightage was given to any minority in groups ‘B’ and ‘C, they would demand similar weightage though, on principle, they were against weightage being given to any community. The sub-committee accepted this position and decided to commend it to the Advisory Committee. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur dissented from the views of the other Christian members as she was opposed both to reservation and weightage for any community. A copy of her minute of dissent is attached.

(7) In view of the peculiar and uncertain position of the East Punjab and the position of the Sikhs, the sub-committee decided by a majority of votes (15 to 4) that the question of their representation be referred to the Advisory Committee. 

(8) The sub-committee decided by 9 to 4 votes that no weightage be given to any minority in groups ‘B’ and ‘C’. 

(9) It was decided by a majority of 8 to 2 that cumulative voting should not be permissible. 

(10) The committee examined the proposal that a minority candidate standing for election for a reserved seat should poll a minimum number of votes of his community before he is declared elected. 7 members of the sub-committee voted for this proposal and 7 against it, and it was decided to refer it to the Advisory Committee.

(11) It was proposed that members of a minority community who have reserved seats should have the right to contest unreserved seats as well. This was accepted by the sub-committee in the case of both the Scheduled Castes and other minorities. Mr. Thakur Das Bhargava made the point and the sub-committee agreed that the position of the communities in East Punjab is so balanced that the whole question of East Punjab should be considered in the Advisory Committee independently of the decisions of the sub-committee. 

(12) Dr. Ambedkar suggested that candidates of a majority community should, before being declared elected, poll a minimum number of votes from among voters of the minority communities in their constituencies. This was lost by a large majority, only Dr. Ambedkar voting for it.


4. Reservation of seats in the Cabinet: The sub-committee considered that (a) no statutory provision should be made for reservation of seats for the minorities in Cabinets and that (b) a convention on the lines of para- graph VII of the Instrument of Instructions issued to Governors of Provinces under the Government of India Act, 1935, be provided in a schedule to the Constitution.

The first proposition was carried by 8 votes to 7 and the second by 12 votes to 5.

A proposal to delete the words “important” in paragraph VII of the Instrument of Instructions was lost by 9 votes to 8. Mr. Khandekar has submitted a minute of dissent a copy of which is attached to the report.


5. Reservation in Services: (1) The sub-committee voted on the general proposition that there shall be reservation in the public services for the different communities mentioned in groups A, B and C of paragraph 3(3). 

It was agreed that the provisions, if any, regarding reservations should appear in a schedule to the Constitution Act and should have the force of a directive of Government policy. The decisions were as follows:

(i) Agreed by a majority of votes (16 to 1) that there shall be reservation in the services for the Scheduled Castes. 

(ii) Agreed by a majority of votes (9 to 7) that there shall be reservation in the services for Muslims. 

(iii) Agreed by a majority of votes (6 to 1) that there shall be reservation in the services for Sikhs. 

(iv) Agreed by a majority of votes (12 to 1) that there shall be reservation in the services for Plains tribes in Assam.

(v) Agreed by a majority of votes (12 to 3) that there shall be reservation in the services for Anglo-Indians.

Note: The Parsees and the Indian Christians did not ask for reservation in services.

(2) Mr. Ali Zaheer moved the following resolution: 

This committee recommends that in the Provincial as well as Central services, the claims of all the minorities should be kept in view in making appointments to such services consistently with the consideration of efficiency of administration. The committee further recommends that suitable provision to this effect may be embodied in some form in the Constitution or in some other way. 

When this proposition was put before the sub-committee, Chaudhari Khaliquzzaman raised the point that the proposition was out of order in view of the decision already taken in para 5(1) above. The Chairman did not accept this view. 

Nine members voted for Mr. Ali Zaheer’s proposition and 9 against.

(3) The sub-committee then considered the question as to whether seats should be reserved even for posts for which competitive examinations are held. The decisions were as follows: 

(i) Agreed by a majority of votes (11 to 6) that there should be reservation for Scheduled Castes in services to which recruitment was made by competitive examination. 

(ii) Decided by a majority of votes (8 to 7) that there should be no such reservation for Muslims, Sikhs and tribesmen. Note: Anglo-Indians did not want reservation in services of this category. Parsees and Indian Christians did not want reservation in any whether filled by competition or otherwise. 

(4) Chaudhari Khaliquzzaman, before these proposals were put to vote. raised a point of order that as the sub-committee had already decided on reservation in the services for certain communities in unqualified terms, it was not in order now to break up the proposition into compartments and vote on each of them separately. The Chairman did not accept this view on the ground that it had from the very beginning been understood that these matters would be considered separately. On this ruling being given, Ch. Khaliquzzaman and the Hon’ble Mr. Ismail Chundrigar abstained from taking part in the voting on the above propositions.

Subsequently, Maulana Hifzur Rahman also raised the same point of order, and the Chairman again ruled it out. 

(5) The next question examined was on what basis reservation should be made in those cases in which the committee had decided in favour of reservation. It was proposed that reservation should be on the basis of population. This was rejected by the sub-committee by a majority of 9 to 8 votes. 


6. Item (4) of the Agenda: (1) There were four proposals before the sub- committee as regards the administrative machinery to ensure protection of minority rights. Mr. Khandekar moved a proposal for a Minority Com- mission whose findings should be mandatory on Government. This was lost by a large majority. Mr. Anthony proposed a Minority Commission with the right only to make a report. This also was lost. Dr. Ambedkar suggested that there should be an independent officer appointed by the President at the Centre and by the Governors in the Provinces to report to the Union and Provincial Legislatures respectively about the working of the safeguards provided for the minorities. This was accepted by a majority of 16 to 2 votes. The proposal that the officer should be independent of the executive like the Auditor-General or the judge of a High Court was negatived by a majority of 9 to 6. In view of the voting on this proposal of Dr. Ambedkar there was no voting on Mr. C. Rajagopalachari’s proposal that a sub- committee of the Legislature concerned, together with an adequate secretariat staff, should be charged with preparing a report for submission to the Legislature.

(2) Mr. Munshi proposed and the sub-committee agreed that there should be provision for the setting up of a statutory commission to investigate into the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes, to study the difficulties under which they laboured and to recommend to the Union or the unit Government, as the case may be, the steps that should be taken to eliminate these difficulties and the financial grants that should be given and the conditions that should be prescribed for such grants.