Simon Commission
The Indian Statutory Commission was a group of seven British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 Members of Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

 that had been dispatched to India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 in 1927 to study constitutional reform in Britain's most important colonial dependency. It was commonly referred to as the Simon Commission after its chairman, Sir John Simon
John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon
John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon GCSI GCVO OBE PC was a British politician who held senior Cabinet posts from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second. He is one of only three people to have served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer,...

. One of its members, Clement Attlee
Clement Attlee
Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

, who subsequently became the British Prime Minister
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the Head of Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister and Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Sovereign, to Parliament, to their political party and...

 would oversee the granting of independence to India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 in 1947.


The Government of India Act 1919
Government of India Act 1919
-See also:*British India*British Raj*History of Bangladesh*History of India*History of Pakistan*Governor-General of India*Government of India Act*India Office*Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms*Secretary of State for India...

 had introduced the system of dyarchy to govern the provinces of British India. However, the Indian public clamoured for revision of the difficult dyarchy form of government, and the Government of India Act 1919 itself stated that a commission would be appointed after 10 years to investigate the progress of the governance scheme and suggest new steps for reform. In the late 1920s, the Conservative
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 government then in power in Britain feared imminent electoral defeat at the hands of the Labour Party
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

, and also feared the effects of the consequent transference of control of India to such an "inexperienced" body. Hence, it appointed seven MPs (including Chairman Simon) to constitute the commission that had been promised in 1919 that would look into the state of Indian constitutional affairs.
The people of the Indian subcontinent were outraged and insulted, as the Simon Commission, which was to determine the future of India, did not include a single Indian member in it. The Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress
The Indian National Congress is one of the two major political parties in India, the other being the Bharatiya Janata Party. It is the largest and one of the oldest democratic political parties in the world. The party's modern liberal platform is largely considered center-left in the Indian...

, at its December 1927 meeting in Madras (now Chennai
Chennai , formerly known as Madras or Madarasapatinam , is the capital city of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located on the Coromandel Coast off the Bay of Bengal. Chennai is the fourth most populous metropolitan area and the sixth most populous city in India...

), resolved to boycott the Commission and challenged Lord Birkenhead
F. E. Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead
Frederick Edwin Smith, 1st Earl of Birkenhead GCSI, PC, KC , best known to history as F. E. Smith , was a British Conservative statesman and lawyer of the early 20th century. He was a skilled orator, noted for his staunch opposition to Irish nationalism, his wit, pugnacious views, and hard living...

, the Secretary of State for India
Secretary of State for India
The Secretary of State for India, or India Secretary, was the British Cabinet minister responsible for the government of India and the political head of the India Office...

, to draft a constitution that would be acceptable to the Indian populace. A faction of the Muslim League, led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, also decided to boycott the Commission.

An All-India Committee for Cooperation with the Simon Commission was established by the Council of India and by selection by the Viceroy The Lord Irwin. The members of the committee were: Sir C. Sankaran Nair
C. Sankaran Nair
Sir Chettur Sankaran Nair KCIE was the President of the Indian National Congress in 1897 held at Amraoti. Until present he is the only Keralite to hold the post.-Early life and education:...

 (Chairman), Sir Arthur Froom, Rajah Nawab Ali Khan, Sardar Shivdev Singh Uberoi, Nawab Sir Zulfiqar Ali Khan, Sir Hari Singh Gour
Hari Singh Gour
Hari Singh Gour , also known as Sir Hari Singh Gour and Dr. Hari Singh Gour, was a distinguished lawyer, jurist, educationist, social reformer, poet, and novelist. He was one of the greatest visionaries of education of this century on the Indian subcontinent and even on a global scale...

, Sir Abdullah Al-Mamun Suhrawardy
Abdullah Al-Mamun Suhrawardy
Allama Sir Abdullah al-Mamun al-Suhrawardy, Barrister-at-Law , M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt. , LL.D., Iftakar-ul-Milla, Kt., Commander of the Order of Medjidie, was an Islamic scholar and academic.-Family:...

, Kikabhai Premchand and Rao Bahadur M. C. Rajah
M. C. Rajah
Rao Bahadur Mylai Chinna Thambi Pillai Rajah was a Dalit politician, social and political activist from the Indian state of Tamil Nadu....


In Burma (Myanmar), which was included in the terms of reference of the Simon Commission, there was strong suspicion either that Burma's unpopular union with India would continue, or that the constitution recommended for Burma by the Simon Commission would be less generous than that chosen for India; these suspicions resulted in tension and violence in Burma leading to the rebellion of Saya San
Saya San
Saya San was a noted monk, a Burmese medicine man and the leader of the Burmese peasant revolt of 1930-1931 and pretender to the Burmese throne...

The Commission’s recommendations were:

· Future Advance - The first principle was that the new constitution should, as far as possible, contain within itself provision for its own development. It should not lay down too rigid and uniform a plan, but should allow for natural growth and diversity. Constitutional progress should be the outcome of practical experience. Where further legislation is required, it should result from the needs of the time, not from the arbitrary demands of a fixed time-table. The constitution,while contemplating and conforming to an ultimate objective, should not attempt to lay down the length or the number of the stages of the journey…. It has been a characteristic of the evolution of responsible government in other parts of the British Empire that the details of the constitution have not been exhaustively defined in statutory language. On the contrary, the constitutions of the self-governing parts of the British Empire have developed as the result of natural growth, and progress has depended not so much on changes made at intervals in the language of an Act of Parliament, as on the development of conventions, and on the terms of instructions issued from time to time to the Crown's representative. The Preamble to the Government of India Act declares that progress in giving effect to the policy of the progressive realisation of responsible government in British India can only be achieved by successive stages; but there is no reason why the length of these successive stages should be defined in advance, or why every stage should be marked by a commission of enquiry." (Simon Report vol. 2 p.5)

· Almost Responsible Government at the Provincial Level – Dyarchy should be scrapped and Ministers responsible to the Legislature would be entrusted with all provincial areas of responsibility. However, safeguards were considered necessary in areas such as the maintenance of peace and tranquility and the protection of the legitimate interest of the minorities. These safeguards would be provided, mainly, by the grant of special powers to the Governor.

· Federation – The Report considered that a formally federal union, including both British India and the Princely States, was the only long-term solution for a united, autonomous India.

· Immediate Recommendations at the Centre - to help the growth of political consciousness in the people, the franchise should be extended; and the Legislature enlarged. Otherwise, no substantial change was recommended in the Centre. The Report strongly opposed the introduction of Dyarchy at the Centre. It should be noted that Simon set great store on having a unanimous report. This could only be done if he recommended no change at the centre as: the diehards were opposed to any Indian responsibility at the Centre: the Conservative leadership would oppose any responsibility at the Centre which did not build in conservative-pro-British control (as they tried to do in the Government of India Act 1935; and, Labour would oppose the type of gerrymandering at the Centre necessary to meet the requirements of the Conservative leadership.

Protest and death of Lala Lajpat Rai

Almost immediately with its arrival in Bombay on February 3, 1928, the Simon Commission was confronted by throngs of protestors. The entire country observed a hartal
Hartal is a term in many Indian languages for strike action, used often during the Indian Independence Movement. It is mass protest often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, courts of law as a form of civil disobedience...

(strike), and many people turned out to greet the Commission with black flags. Similar protests occurred in every major Indian city that the seven British MPs visited. However, one protest against the Simon Commission would gain infamy above all the others.

On October 30, 1928, the Simon Commission arrived in Lahore
Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country. With a rich and fabulous history dating back to over a thousand years ago, Lahore is no doubt Pakistan's cultural capital. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a...

 where, as with the rest of the country, its arrival was met with massive amounts of protesters and black flags. The Lahore protest was led by Indian nationalist Lala Lajpat Rai
Lala Lajpat Rai
Lala Lajpat Rai was an Indian author, freedom fighter and politician who is chiefly remembered as a leader in the Indian fight for freedom from the British Raj. He was popularly known as Punjab Kesari or Sher-e-Punjab meaning the samem and was part of the Lal Bal Pal trio...

, who had moved a resolution against the Commission in the Legislative Assembly of Punjab
Punjab (British India)
Punjab was a province of British India, it was one of the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to fall under British rule. With the end of British rule in 1947 the province was split between West Punjab, which went to Pakistan, and East Punjab, which went to India...

 in February 1928. In order to make way for the Commission, the local police force began beating protestors with their lathis (sticks). The police were particularly brutal towards Lala Lajpat Rai, who died later on November 17, 1928.


The Commission published its 17-volume report in 1930. It proposed the abolition of dyarchy and the establishment of representative government in the provinces. It also recommended that separate communal electorates be retained, but only until tensions between Hindus and Muslims had died down. Noting that educated Indians opposed the Commission and also that communal tensions had increased instead of decreased, the British government opted for another method of dealing with the constitutional issues of India. Before the publication of the report, the British government stated that Indian opinion would henceforth be taken into account, and that the natural outcome of the constitutional process would be dominion status for India. The outcome of the Simon Commission was the Government of India Act 1935
Government of India Act 1935
The Government of India Act 1935 was originally passed in August 1935 , and is said to have been the longest Act of Parliament ever enacted by that time. Because of its length, the Act was retroactively split by the Government of India Act 1935 into two separate Acts:# The Government of India...

, which established representative government at the provincial level in India and is the basis of many parts of the Indian Constitution. In 1937 the first elections were held in the Provinces, resulting in Congress Governments being returned in almost all Provinces. In September 1928, Mr. Motilal Nehru
Motilal Nehru
Motilal Nehru was an early Indian independence activist and leader of the Indian National Congress, who remained Congress President twice, and...

 presented his Nehru Report
Nehru Report
The "Nehru Report" was a memorandum outlining a proposed new Dominion constitution for India. It was prepared by a committee of the All Parties Conference chaired by Motilal Nehru with his son Jawaharlal acting as secretary...

 to counter British charges that Indians could not find a constitutional consensus among themselves, it advocated that India be given dominion status of complete internal self-government.

Members of the Commission

  • Sir John Simon
    John Simon, 1st Viscount Simon
    John Allsebrook Simon, 1st Viscount Simon GCSI GCVO OBE PC was a British politician who held senior Cabinet posts from the beginning of the First World War to the end of the Second. He is one of only three people to have served as Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer,...

  • Clement Attlee
    Clement Attlee
    Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, KG, OM, CH, PC, FRS was a British Labour politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951, and as the Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 to 1955...

  • Harry Levy-Lawson, 1st Viscount Burnham
    Harry Levy-Lawson, 1st Viscount Burnham
    Sir Harry Lawson Webster Levy-Lawson, 1st Viscount Burnham GCMG, CH, TD, JP, DL, was a British newspaper proprietor and a Liberal Unionist politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1885 and 1916 when he inherited his peerage.-Biography:Levy-Lawson was born at St...

  • Edward Cadogan
    Edward Cadogan
    Sir Edward Cecil George Cadogan, KBE, CB was a British, Conservative politician.Cadogan was a younger son of the 5th Earl Cadogan and his wife, Beatrix, a daughter of the 2nd Earl Craven...

  • Vernon Hartshorn
    Vernon Hartshorn
    Vernon Hartshorn was a Welsh trades unionist and Labour Party politician who served as a Member of Parliament from 1918 until his death....

  • George Lane-Fox
  • Donald Howard, 3rd Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal
    Donald Howard, 3rd Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal
    Donald Stirling Palmer Howard, 3rd Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal was a Conservative Party politician in the United Kingdom....

External links

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