The Simon Commission, also known as the Indian Statutory Commission, was a group of seven Members of Parliament under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon. The British Government announced the appointment of the Commission in 1927. The Commission arrived in India in 1928 to enquire into and report on the Constitutional progress in British India under Constitutional reforms by the Government of India Act 1919.
In 1919, at the time of introducing the Mont-Ford Reforms, the British Government declared that a Commission would be sent to India after ten years to inquire into the working of the Government of India Act 1919 and to suggest more reforms for India.
The 1919 Government of India Act introduced the “Dyrachy” system to govern the provinces in British India. The Indian people wanted reform of this Dyarchy form of Government.
The Government of India Act of 1919 (1919 GOI Act) also provided for the appointment of a statutory commission after ten years of its coming into force to inquire and report on the work & progress made on measures taken through the 1919 Act.
As per the provision of the 1919 GOI Act, the Commission was supposed to be set up in 1929. However, in the late 1920s, the Conservative party-led Government in the United Kingdom feared imminent electoral defeat at the hands of the Labour Party in the elections due and worried about the effects of the consequent transfer of control of British India to such an inexperienced body. The ruling Conservative Party regarded themselves as protectors of British rule in India and wanted to set up constitutional reforms in British India in their own regime.
Hence, in November 1927 (two years before the schedule), the British government announced the appointment of a seven-member statutory commission under Sir John Simmon to investigate the progress of the governance scheme, to report on the condition of India under constitutional reforms by the 1919 GOI Act, and to suggests new steps for reforms in India. The Commission arrived in British India in February 1928 in Bombay.
Recommendations of the Simon Commission
Simon Commission submitted its report in May 1930, in which it gave the following recommendations:
- The Commission recommended the abolition of Dyrachy and the establishment of representative governments in the provinces. It also proposed to provide provincial autonomy.
- It recommended to retain the separate communal electorates and extending such electorates to other communities, but only until the communal tensions had died down. There was to be no universal franchise.
- The Commission accepted the idea of federalism but not in the near future. It suggested the establishment of a Consultative Council of Greater India, which should include representatives of the British Provinces and princely states. In other words, it advocated the establishment of the Federation of British India and princely states.
- It proposed that the Governor should have discretionary powers in relation to internal security and Administrative Powers to protect the different communities.
- It suggested to increase the number of members of the provincial legislative council.
- The Commission recommended to separate Sindh from Bombay.
- It also recommended that Burma should be separated from India because it was not a natural part of the Indian subcontinent.
- It suggested that the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Baluchistan should get local legislature. It also proposed that both the NWFP and Baluchistan should have the right to be represented at the Centre.
- The Commission recommended that the Governor-General should have full power to appoint the members of the cabinet. The report rejected the parliamentary responsibility at the Centre.
- It also recommended that the Government of India would have complete control over the High Courts.
- It also suggested to Indianise the Indian army, though the British forces must be retained.