White Paper on Indian States (1950)/Part 1/Growth of Paramountcy

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2588717White Paper on Indian States (1950) — Growth of ParamountcyMinistry of States, Government of India

Growth of Paramountcy

7. The principle of paramountcy although elaborated as a political doctrine later was clearly and vigorously asserted during this period. Wellesley was the first Governor-General to feel and act as the Paramount Power and his paramountcy complex was reflected in the attitude of his immediate subordinates. Of the East India Company, Metcalfe wrote in 1806: "Sovereigns you are, as such must act". During the regime of Lord Hastings, the relative position of the parties changed "too decidedly to be governed merely by the written words of treaties". The first clear enunciation of the idea of paramountcy is to be found in Ochterlony's letter to Metcalfe, dated March 21, 1820, in which he writes: "I hope His Lordship will in Virtue of his Power and Paramountcy forbid all future invasions of Surhoie and fix himself a sum which the Rajah must take". In his Minute, 1825, Metcalfe speaks of the fact of paramountcy by which the British Government had itself the "duty as supreme guardians of general tranquillity, law and right to maintain the legal succession". Thus, as early as the first quarter of the 19th century, Metcalfe and Ochterlony had evolved the full doctrine of paramountcy in a form indistinguishable from that held by Lord Reading in his famous letter to the Nizam. (Appendix I.)


Letter from the Viceroy and Governor-General of India to His Exalted Highness the Nizam of Hyderabad, dated Delhi, the 27th March, 1926

Your Exalted Highness,

Your Exalted Highness's letter of 20th September, 1925, which has already been acknowledged, raises questions of importance, and I have, therefore taken time to consider my reply.

I do not propose to follow Your Exalted Highness into a discussion of the historical details of the case. As I informed you in my previous letter, your representations have been carefully examined, and there is nothing in what you now say which appears to affect the conclusions arrived at by me and my Government and by the Secretary of State. Your Exalted Highness's reply is not in all respects a correct presentation of the position as stated in my letter of 11th March last, but I am glad to observe that in your latest communication you disclaim any intention of casting imputations on my distinguished predecessor, the late Marquis Curzon.

I shall devote the remainder of this letter to the claim made by Your Exalted Highness in the second and third paragraphs of your letter and to your request for the appointment of a commission.

2. In the paragraphs which I have mentioned you state and develop the position that in respect of the internal affairs of Hyderabad, you, as Ruler of the Hyderabad State, stand on the same footing as the British Government in India in respect of the internal affairs of British India. Lest I should be thought to overstate your claims, I quote Your Exalted Highness's own words: "Save and except matters relating to foreign powers and policies, the Nizams of Hyderabad, have been independent in the internal affairs of their State just as much as the British Government in British India. With the reservation mentioned by me, the two parties have on all occasions acted with complete freedom and independence in all inter-Governmental questions that naturally arise from time to time between neighbours. Now, the Berar question is not and cannot be covered by that reservation. No foreign power or policy is concerned or involved in its examination, and thus the subject comes to be a controversy between the two Governments that stand on the same place without any limitations of subordination of one to the other."

3. These words would seem to indicate a misconception of Your Exalted Highness's relations to the Paramount Power, which it is incumbent on me as His Imperial Majesty's representative to remove, since my silence on such a subject now might hereafter be interpreted as acquiescence in the propositions which you have enunciated.

4. The Sovereignty of the British Crown is supreme in India, and therefore no Ruler of an Indian State can justifiably claim to negotiate with the British Government on an equal footing. Its supremacy is not based only upon treaties and engagements, but exists independently of them and, quite apart from its prerogative in matters relating to foreign powers and policies, it is the right and duty of the British Government, while scrupulously respecting all treaties and engagements with the Indian States, to preserve peace and good order throughout India. The consequences that follow are so well known, and so clearly apply no less to Your Exalted Highness than to other Rulers, that it seems hardly necessary to point them out. But if illustrations are necessary, I would remind Your Exalted Highness that the Ruler of Hyderabad along with other Rulers received in 1862 a Sanad declaratory of the British Government's desire for the perpetuation of his House and Government, subject. to continued loyalty to the Crown: that no succession in the Masnad of Hyderabad is valid unless it is recognised by His Majesty the King-Emperor: and that the British Government is the only arbiter in cases of disputed succession.

5. The right of the British Government to intervene in the internal affairs of Indian States is another instance of the consequences necessarily involved in the supremacy of the British Crown. The British Government have indeed shown again and again that they have no desire to exercise this right without grave reason. But the internal, no less than the external security which the Ruling Princes enjoy is due ultimately to the protecting power of the British Government, and where Imperial interests are concerned, or the general welfare of the people of a State is seriously and grievously affected by the action of its Government, it is with the Paramount Power that the ultimate responsibility of taking remedial action, if necessary, must lie. The varying degrees of internal sovereignty which the Rulers enjoy are all subject to the due exercise by the Paramount Power of this responsibility. Other illustrations could be added no less inconsistent than the foregoing with the suggestion that, except in matters relating to foreign powers and policies, the Government of Your Exalted Highness and the British Government stand on a plane of equality. But I do not think I need pursue the subject further. I will merely add that the title "Faithful Ally" which Your Exalted Highness enjoys has not the effect of putting Your Government in a category separate from that of other States under paramountcy of the British Crown.

6. In pursuance of your present conception of the relations between Hyderabad and the paramount power, you further urged that I have misdescribed the conclusion at which His Majesty's Government have arrived at a "decision" and that the doctrine of res judicata has been misapplied to matters in controversy between Hyderabad and the Government of India.

7. I regret that I cannot accept Your Exalted Highness's view that the orders of the Secretary of State on your representation do not amount to a decision. It is the right and privilege of the Paramount Power to decide all disputes that may arise between States, or between one of the States and itself, and even though a court of Arbitration may be appointed in certain cases, its function is merely to offer independent advice to the Government of India with whom the decision rests. I need not remind you that this position has been accepted by the general body of Indian Rulers as a result of their deliberations on paragraph 308 of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report. As regards the use of the term res judicata, I am, of course, aware that the Government of India is not, like a Civil Court, precluded from taking cognizance of a matter which has already formed the subject of a decision, but the legal principle of res judicata is based on sound practical considerations, and it is obviously undesirable that a matter which has once been decided should form the subject of repeated controversies between the same parties.

8. I now pass on to consider your request for the appointment of a Commission to enquire into the Berar case and submit a report. As Your Exalted Highness is aware, the Government of India not long ago made definite provision for the appointment of a Court of Arbitration in cases where a State is dissatisfied with a ruling given by the Government of India. If, however, you will refer to the document embodying the new arrangement, you will find that there is no provision for the appointment of a Court of Arbitration in any case which has been decided by His Majesty's Government, and I cannot conceive that a case like the present one, where a long controversy has been terminated by an agreement executed after full consideration and couched in terms which are free from ambiguity, would be a suitable one for submission to arbitration.

9. In accordance with Your Exalted Highness's request your present letter has been submitted to His Majesty's Secretary of State, and this letter of mine in reply carries with it his authority as well as that of the Government of India.

Yours sincerely,