On 7 July 1925, Lord Birkenhead, the Secretary of State for India challenged Indian leaders in a speech in the House of Lords, saying, “Let them (the Indians) produce a constitution which carries behind it a fair measure of general agreement among the great people of India.”
Similar challenge was made my British government (when Indian leaders opposed Simon Commission) asking Indians to prove that they could draw up a constitution themselves.
Leaders of the nationalist movement responded to the challenge by drafting the Nehru Report.
On December 1927, at its Madras session, the Indian National Congress took two major decisions in response to the setting up the Simon Commission: first, it decided to not cooperate with the Commission; second, it set up an All Parties Conference to draft a Constitution for India.
A large number of political parties and social organizations were invited to take part in the Conference which held its first meeting at Delhi on 12 February 1928. It was held under chairmanship of M. A. Ansari.
The All Parties Conference included the All India Liberal Federation, Hindu Mahasabha, All India Muslim League, Sikh Central League and others.
The Conference, on 19 May 1928, constituted a committee to draft the Constitution. Some of the notable members of this Committee were: Motilal Nehru (Chairman), Sir Ali Imam, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Subash Chandra Bose. M.R. Jayakar and Annie Besant joined the Committee later.
Jawaharlal Nehru, Motilal Nehru’ son, was appointed the secretary to the committee.
The Committee was given the brief ‘to consider and determine the principles of the Constitution of India along with the problem of communalism and issue of dominion status.’
Another All Parties Conference was held from 28th August to 31st August 1928 with the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru in Lucknow. In the conference, Motilal Nehru presented the draft of the constitution. The draft was called “Nehru Committee Report“. This report was submitted on August 28, 1928 at the Lucknow conference of all the parties. But Jinnah Voted against this report.
The main points of the Nehru report were as follows:
• India would be given Dominion status. This means independence within the British Commonwealth.
• India will be a federation which shall have a bicameral legislature at the centre and Ministry would be responsible to the legislature.
• Governor General of India would be the constitutional head of India and will have the same powers as that of British Crown.
• There will be no separate electorate.
• The draft report also defined the citizenship and fundamental rights.
The novel features of the Nehru Committee Report were almost accepted by the Indian leaders.
The next session of the Congress was held in Calcutta in December 1928. In this session, the Nehru Report was accepted by a majority vote.
However it was rejected by J. Nehru and S. Bose which led to ‘The Independence for India League’. It was also rejected by M. Jinnah which led to Jinnah’s fourteenth points (core demands for Muslim community).
The congress gave an ultimatum to the British Government to accept the recommendation of the report by December 31, 1929, and also threatened for another mass movement in case the report is not accepted. The report was not accepted by the Government.
Note: The Motilal Nehru Committee Report, published in 1928 recommended reservation of seats for Muslims only in provinces where they were in a minority. The report proposed to abolish separate electorates, to discard reservation of seats for Muslim majorities in the Punjab and Bengal and to reject the principle of weightage for Muslim minorities. This was a reversal of the Lucknow Pact.
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