Topic of the Day - Butler Committee Report

UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Butler Committee Report

The recommendations of Montford Reforms (Montague-Chelmsford Reforms) created Chamber of Princess as a consultative and advisory body having no say in the internal affairs of individual states and having no powers to discuss matters concerning existing rights and freedoms. But the question of extent of sovereignty and paramountcy was still undefined in 1927. To examine the nature of the relationship between the states and government the Butler Committee was set up in 1927. The committee was formed with an objective of inquiring into the relationship between the Indian states and the paramount power and to suggest ways and means for more satisfactory adjustments of existing relations between them and the British India.

Sir Harcourt Butler chaired a three-member committee appointed by his Majesty’s Government in Britain in 1927 to inquire into the relationship between the Indian Princely States and the British Government of India. The British group, consisting of Sir Harcourt Butler, Prof. W.S. Holdsworth and S.C. Peel, was called the Indian States Committee. They visited sixteen Princely States. They submitted their report in February 1929. The Butler committee gave the following recommendations:

(i) Paramountcy must remain supreme and must fulfil its obligations, adopting and defining itself according to the shifting necessities of time amid progressive development of states.

(ii) The states were bound by treaties with the Crown, and the states should not be handed over without the ruler’s prior consent to an Indian Government in British India responsible to an Indian Legislature.

(iii) The Viceroy, not the Governor-General in Council was to be the Crown agent in dealing states.

The report noted the apprehensions of the princes about a possible transfer of relationship control by an elected Indian legislature. The Indian princes were surprised at the concept of Paramountcy being left undefined. In opposition to the views of the rulers, the State People’s Conference-submitted a written statement to the Butler Committee declaring their objective to be representative and responsible government in the Indian states. All the left parties also criticised the report in the strongest term.


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