Second Report of the Union Powers Committee

5 July, 1947

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,
Chairman, Union Powers Committee.

The President,
Constituent Assembly of India.


On the 28th April 1947, the Honourable Sir N. Gopalaswami Ayyangar, on behalf of our committee, presented our first report to the Constituent Assembly. In doing so, he referred to the changes that were developing in the political situation and were likely to affect the nature and scope of the committee’s recommendations, and sought permission to submit a supplementary report at a later date. The House was pleased to grant us leave to do so.


2. Momentous changes have since occurred. Some parts of the country are seceding to form a separate State, and the plan put forward in the Statement of the 16th May on the basis of which the committee was working, is, in many essentials, no longer operative. In particular, we are not now bound by the limitations on the scope of Union powers. The first point accordingly that we considered was whether, in the changed circumstances, the scope of these powers should not be widened. We had no difficulty in coming to a conclusion on this point. The severe limitation on the scope of central authority in the Cabinet Mission’s Plan was a compromise accepted by the Assembly much, we think, against its judgement of the administrative needs of the country, in order to accommodate the Muslim League. Now that partition is a settled fact, we are unanimously of the view that it would be injurious to the interests of the country to provide for a weak central authority which would be incapable of ensuring peace, of co-ordinating vital matters of common concern and of speaking effectively for the whole country in the international sphere. At the same time, we are quite clear in our minds that there are many matters in which authority must lie solely with the units and that to frame a constitution on the basis erf a unitary State would be a retro¬ grade step, both politically and administratively. We have accordingly come to the conclusion—a conclusion which was also reached by the Union Constitution Committee—that the soundest framework for our Constitution is a Federation, with a strong Centre. In the matter of distributing powers between the Centre and the units, we think that the most satisfactory arrangement is to draw up three exhaustive lists on the lines followed in the Government of India Act of 1935, viz., the Federal, the Provincial and the Concurrent. We have prepared three such lists accordingly and these are shown in the Appendix.
We think that residuary powers should remain with the Centre. In view however of the exhaustive nature of the three lists drawn up by us, the residuary subjects could only relate to matters which, while they may claim recognition in the future, are not at present identifiable and cannot therefore be included now in the lists.


3. It is necessary to indicate the position of Indian States in the scheme proposed by us. The States which have joined the Constituent Assembly have done so on the basis of the 16th May Statement. Some of them have expressed themselves as willing to cede wider powers to the Centre than contemplated in that Statement. But we consider it necessary to point out that the application to States in general of the Federal List of subjects, in so far as it goes beyond the 16th May Statement, should be with their consent. It follows from this that in their case residuary powers would vest with them unless they consent to their vesting in the Centre.


4. To enable States and, if they so think fit. Provinces also, to cede wider powers to the Centre, we recommend that the Constitution shook! empower the Federal Government to exercise authority within the Federation on matters referred to them by one or more units, it being under¬ stood that the law would extend only to the units by which the matter is referred or which afterwards adopt the law. This follows the Australian model as set out in section 51(xxxvii) of the Australian Constitution Act.


5. We have included in the Federal List the item “the strength, organization and control of the armed forces raised and employed in Indian States”. Our intention in doing so is to maintain all the existing powers of co¬ ordination and control exercised over such forces.


6. We recommend to the Assembly the proposals contained in paragraph 2-D of our previous report on the subject of federal taxation. It is quite clear, however, that the retention by the Federation of the proceeds of all the taxes specified by us would disturb, in some cases violently, the financial stability of the units and we recommend therefore that provision should be made for an assignment, or a sharing, of the proceeds of some of these taxes on a basis to be determined by the Federation from time to time.

I have etc.,
Jawaharlal Nehru,