Council of Princes

Council of Princes in India

Council of Princes in India in the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms by Edwin S. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, 1918

“We have explained how, on various occasions in recent years, the princes have met in conference at the invitation of the Viceroy. These conferences have been of great value in assisting in the formulation of the Government’s policy on important matters like minority administration and succession, and in promoting interest in such questions as scientific agriculture and commercial and agricultural statistics. The meetings have given the princes the opportunity of informing the Government as to their sentiments and wishes, of broadening their outlook, of conferring with one another and with the Government. But although the meetings have. in the last few years been regular, they depend upon the invitation of the Viceroy; and our first proposal is to replace them by the institution of a Council of Princes. We wish to call into existence a permanent consultative body. There are questions which affect the states generally, and other questions which are of concern either to the Empire as a whole, or to British India and the states in common, upon which we conceive that the opinion of such a body would be of the utmost value. The Viceroy would refer such questions to the Council, and we should have the advantage of their considered opinion. We think it is all-important that the meetings should be regular, and that ordinarily the Council should meet once a year to discuss agenda approved by the Viceroy. Any member of the Council or the Council as a whole might request the Viceroy to include in the agenda any subject on which discussion was desired. If questions of sufficient importance arose in the intervals between the annual meetings, the princes might suggest to the Viceroy that an extraordinary meeting should be held. We contemplate that the Viceroy should be President and should as a rule preside, but that in his absence one of the princes should be Chairman. The rules of business would be framed by the Viceroy after consultation with the princes, who might perhaps from time to time suggest modifications in the rules. We believe that most of the princes desire to see such a Council created, although some of the most eminent among them have not taken part in the conferences in 1916 and 1917. The direct transaction of business between the Government of India and any state would of course not be affected by the institution of the Council. We have used the name ‘Council of Princes’ to describe the body which we desire to see instituted. We. have had difficulty, however, in finding a name appropriate to such a unique assembly. We wish to avoid a designation associated with other institutions, and to find one which will connote the real position of this body of rulers with the representative of the King-Emperor as Chairman. From both these points of view the terms Council or Chamber or House of Princes are open to criticism. There is much to be said in favour of an Indian name for an Indian body which, from the circumstances of the case. would exist nowhere else; but it would be necessary to choose one not peculiarly associated historically either with Hindus or with Muhammadans. While therefore we have adopted the term Council for temporary purposes, we hope that discussion may produce some happier alternative.”

Leave a Comment