The Independence of India Act 1947 & the erstwhile Hyderabad State

The article is an excerpt from a research paper presented by the author titled "The Genesis of Article 371-D the Annexation of Hyderabad to Integrate of Telangana" at the South India History Colloquium held at Osmania University and conducted by CERT (Center for Educational Research & Training).

By Syed Ghiyas Uddin  Published on  16 Aug 2022 7:30 AM GMT
The Independence of India Act 1947 & the erstwhile Hyderabad State

"In a democracy, the price you pay for being a citizen of a free democracy is the internal vigilance, if you are not prepared to have internal vigilance, you are unfit to be the citizen of a free democracy. Because freedom is not something you inherit in the bloodstream, it is not something your father enjoyed, therefore, "my friends in the gallery would be able to enjoy". No, you don't inherit freedom in the bloodstream, you have to fightfor it, cherish it, preserve it all the time, otherwise, it perishes."

-Nani Palkhivala

  1. Towards Annexation:

The Indian government had to face many challenges for the annexation of Hyderabad. Both the issues at the international forum and other internal affairs, legal and political, are intertwined. Enforcement of Indian Independence Act of 1947 [under Sec 7 (b)] resulted in the end of British paramountcy over the Princely states of British India. The dominions of India or Pakistan werenot succeeded by "His Majesty", hence, there is no question of transfer of paramountcy.

At this juncture, it was essential to have a new legal instrument for the determination of relations with these Princely states. India and Hyderabad signed the Standstill Agreement in November 1947. In just one year, still, during the course of the Standstill Agreement, the Hyderabad State was merged into the Indian Union without any Instrument of Accession but through Military intervention on 18 September 1948. Left with no other option, the Nizam's delegation took this military intervention before UN Security Council as it was a threat to the region's peace and the act of aggression on an 'Independent State' as per the submissions of his delegate. The submissions of Indian delegates are relevant before the UN Security Council for the study of post-military action policies of the Indian government with regard to people of disintegrated erstwhile Hyderabad State.

The representatives of India in the UN replied that "his Government shared the deep regret for the use of force by any country on any occasion". He reiterated that force had been used in the present case only to maintain law and order, which had completely broken down in several parts of Hyderabad. He emphasized that his Government had repeatedly said that the will of the people would determine the relationship of Hyderabad with the Dominion of India and the form of government, which they wished for their own State. While maintaining the domestic character of the dispute, this delegation would be prepared to report, in due course, to the Security Council, full details of the steps, which his Government proposed to take to restore order and to ascertain and give effect to the will of the people of Hyderabad.

It is obvious that India won this issue through the political maneuver, but that's the story for anotherday. What is interesting to note is the verbiage of the delegate: "that the will of the people would determine the relationship of Hyderabad with the Dominion of India and the form of the government which they wish for their own State."

Jurisdiction of Supreme Court and submissions of Indian Delegate

In the case of Janardhan Reddy and others v/s The State1951 Cri.L.J 391 (C.N. 119).The Petitioners challenged the judgment passed by the High Court of H.E.H Nizam on the 12, 13, and 14December 1949. The Supreme Court dismissed the Special Leave to Appeal due to lack of Jurisdiction.

Supreme Court's interpretation of the phrase 'territory of India'

The Supreme Court of India, which has the final Appellant Jurisdiction for civil matters under Article 133, for criminal matters in Article 134, and for matters before the Federal Court under Article 135; held that,

"The territory of the Government of H.E.H Nizam was never the territory of India before 26-1-1950 and therefore, the judgment passed by the High Court of the H.E.H Nizam on 12, 13, and 14December cannot be considered as judgments and sentence passed by a court within the territory of India, and such they do not fall within the class of judgments against which special leave to appeal to S.C can be asked for under Art. 136. It should be noticed in this case that before 26-1-1950 the Govt. of H.E.H, the Nizam, was an independent state in the sense that no court in India or Judicial committee of the Privy Council in London had any jurisdiction over the decision of the Hyderabad State courts. To give the SC of India jurisdiction over the decisions of courts of such a state, one requires specific provisions or provisions which necessarily confer jurisdiction to deal, on appeal…"

As mentioned in the preceding quote from the judgment, the Nizam had only one agreement with the Indian Union that was the Standstill Agreement under which India had authority over Hyderabad State with regard to the external affairs, defense, and communication. He (the Nizam) never signed a treaty of accessionbut merely issued a Firman(declaration) on 25 November 1949declaring that the new Constitution of India would be accepted by Hyderabadsubject to ratification by the people who "must finally determine the nature of the relationship between this State and the Union of India". It was this declaration that is regarded as tantamount to accession, but it was only on 26 January 1950 that the Governor-General of India (on behalf of India) and the Nizam signed a formal agreement. From this, it can be deduced that Hyderabad State was considered to be the territory of India only after 26 January 1950, as reiterated by the Supreme Court judgment above. This interpretation was contrary to the claim of the Indian Delegate before the Security Council on 15 September 1948. The representative of India maintained that "Hyderabad was not competent to bring any question before the Security Council; that it was not a State; Indonesia was not in the heart of the Netherlands as Hyderabad was in the heart of India. With the lesson of developments in Burma, India could not possibly agree to be dismembered by allowing any of the Indian States to claim international statehood. Hyderabad had never been a State in the sense of international law and it could never be one in the future! India was to live."

It is interesting that the Firman issued by Nizam on 25 November 1949 was considered as a treaty of accession before the international forum but not by the Supreme Court.

  1. Towards Integration

'(The) will of the people would determine the relationship of Hyderabad with the Dominion of India and the form of government which they wished for their own State.'

The representative of the world's largest democracy, the Indian delegate, could differentiate between the monarch and his subjects. A third party was introduced by the Indian delegate in this dispute between the two sovereigns, i.e., the people of Hyderabad State.

The Hyderabad State was trifurcated. The Marathwada region was merged with Maharashtra, the taluk of Raichur, Bidar, Gulbarga were merged with Karnataka, and Telangana was merged with Andhra to form a new state Andhra Pradesh. The Nizam decided not to send the representatives of Hyderabad to the Constituent Assembly, as a result of which the aspiration of 16 million people was left unheard by the Constituent Assembly.

After the annexation of Hyderabad, Nizam secured his personal estate (Sarf e Khas land worth 25 to 30 million) and gave it up to the Indian government in lieu of 25 lakhs. He was entitled to receive 50,00,000 (Fifty lakhs) annually free of all taxes. Above all, he was elevated to the position of RajPramukh, the constitutional head of Hyderabad State (Telangana State). Mir Osman Ali Khan as the 7thNizam lost everything but in his individual capacity secured all his personal luxury.

The will of the people and the Nizam's interests were two different subjects. In the pre-annexation policies, the Indian administration never recognized Nizam as the people's representative but after the annexation, the government of India seemed proactive in securing the interest of the former monarch.Ironically, it would take 66 years, i.e., 2 June 2014, for the government of India to listen to the will of the people in the determination of the relationship of erstwhile Hyderabad and India.

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