The Simon Commission (1927)

Arora IAS Class Notes


  • The Government of India Act (1919) provided for a commission to review progress after 10 years.


  • Established in 1927 by the British government under Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.
  • All-white, seven-member commission chaired by Sir John Simon (with Clement Attlee as unofficial co-chair).
  • Composed of four Conservatives, two Labourites, and one Liberal.


  • To assess India’s readiness for further constitutional reforms.
  • To recommend the direction of such reforms.


  • Conservative government’s fear of losing power to Labour.
  • Desire to control the issue of Indian reforms before a potential Labour government.
  • Concerns about the perceived instability of the 1919 Act.


  • Preceded by several inquiries into Indian governance:
    • Lee Commission (1923) – Superior Civil Services.
    • Muddiman Committee (1924) – Functioning of the 1919 Act Constitution.
    • Linlithgow Commission (1926) – Agricultural and rural economy.

Controversial Aspect:

  • Lack of Indian representation in the commission.


Indian Response to the Simon Commission (1927)

Rejection and Boycott:

  • Reason for Anger:Exclusion of Indians from the commission, seen as disrespectful and undermining self-determination.
  • Congress Response:
    • Boycott at every stage (December 1927 session, Madras).
    • Nehru’s resolution for complete independence as the goal.
  • Other Groups:
    • Hindu Mahasabha (liberals).
    • Jinnah’s faction of Muslim League.
    • Exceptions: Unionists (Punjab), Justice Party (South).

Public Protests:

  • Nationwide Hartal (strike) and rallieson the commission’s arrival (February 3, 1928).
  • “Simon Go Back”slogan popularized (possibly by Yusuf Meharally or Lala Lajpat Rai).
  • Active participation of youth:
    • New generation experiencing political action.
    • Leadership roles for Nehru and Subhash Bose.
    • Boost for youth leagues and conferences.
    • Emergence of socialist groups.
  • Police Repression:
    • Lathicharges (police beatings) on demonstrators.
    • Injuries to Jawaharlal Nehru and G.B. Pant.
    • Fatal police beating of Lala Lajpat Rai (October 1928).

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s Position:

  • Appointed by Bombay Legislative Council to work with the commission.
  • Advocated for:
    • Universal adult franchise (male and female).
    • Provincial autonomy.
    • Dyarchy at the Center.
  • Presented demands for the Depressed Classes (Dalits):
    • Separate identity from Hindus.
    • Political safeguards due to social and economic disadvantages.
    • Reserved seats in legislatures (if universal franchise granted).
    • Separate electorate (if no universal franchise).
    • Educational and service entry opportunities.
  • Though the Simon Commission report offered reserved seats, Ambedkar disliked the conditional nature (governor’s approval needed).

Note: The Simon Commission report was ultimately not implemented.


Impact of the Simon Commission (1927)

Stimulus for Radical Forces:

  • The national movement gained momentum.
  • Congress, lacking an active program, found a cause for mass action.
  • Demands shifted towards:
    • Complete independence.
    • Socialist-style socio-economic reforms.

Prospects for Unity:

  • Lord Birkenhead challenged Indians to propose a unified constitution.
  • This challenge offered a potential path towards Indian unity.

Simon Commission Recommendations (May 1930):

  • Abolition of dyarchy in provinces.
  • Representative governments with autonomy in provinces.
  • Governor’s discretionary power for security and community protection.
  • Increased provincial legislative council members.
  • No parliamentary responsibility at the center.
  • Governor-General to appoint cabinet members.
  • Retention and potential expansion of separate communal electorates.
  • No universal franchise.
  • Eventual federalism with a “Consultative Council of Greater India.”
  • Local legislatures for North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan.
  • Separate provinces for Sindh and Burma.
  • Indianization of the army (gradual).

Note: These recommendations became largely irrelevant due to subsequent events.


The Nehru Report (1928)


  • Drafted in response to Lord Birkenhead’s challenge for a unified Indian constitution.
  • Compiled by a committee under Motilal Nehru (February 1928).
  • First major attempt by Indians to propose a constitutional framework.

Committee Members:

  • Motilal Nehru (Chair)
  • Tej Bahadur Sapru
  • Subhas Chandra Bose
  • S. Aney
  • Mangal Singh
  • Ali Imam
  • Shuaib Qureshi
  • R. Pradhan

Key Recommendations:

  • Dominion Status:Majority favored dominion status (similar to self-governing colonies) as the initial goal (opposed by some who wanted complete independence).
  • Joint Electorates:Replacement of separate electorates with reservation of seats for Muslims in minority provinces.
  • Linguistic Provinces:Creation of provinces based on language.
  • Fundamental Rights:Included 19 rights, such as equal rights for women, freedom of association, and universal adult suffrage.
  • Responsible Government:
    • Central Parliament with a House of Representatives (elected) and a Senate (elected by provincial councils).
    • Governor-General appointed by Britain but advised by a responsible central executive council.
    • Provincial councils with responsible executives.
  • Secular State:Complete dissociation of state from religion.

Communal Considerations:

  • Muslim League Demands (Delhi Proposals, 1927):
    • Joint electorates with reserved seats for Muslims.
    • One-third representation for Muslims in the central legislature.
    • Proportional representation in Punjab and Bengal.
    • Three new Muslim-majority provinces (Sindh, Baluchistan, North-West Frontier Province).
  • Hindu Mahasabha Concerns:
    • Opposed new Muslim-majority provinces and Muslim reservation in Punjab and Bengal.
    • Favored a unitary structure.
  • Nehru Report Compromises:
    • Joint electorates with limited Muslim reservations.
    • Delayed separation of Sindh from Bombay.
    • Broadly unitary structure with central control over residual powers.


  • The report’s compromises failed to satisfy both Hindu and Muslim communalists.
  • Muslim League dissociated itself due to limited Muslim representation.
  • Though not implemented, the Nehru Report became a starting point for future constitutional discussions.


Jinnah’s Response to the Nehru Report (1928)

Dissatisfaction and Demands:

  • Jinnah, representing the Muslim League, proposed amendments to the Nehru Report at the Calcutta Conference (December 1928).
  • The amendments included:
    • One-third representation for Muslims in the central legislature.
    • Reservation of seats for Muslims in Bengal and Punjab legislatures (until adult suffrage).
    • Granting residual powers to provinces.
  • These demands were not accepted.

Jinnah’s Fourteen Points (March 1929):

  • A new framework outlining Muslim League’s future demands:
    • Federal constitution with strong provincial autonomy.
    • Muslim representation reflecting their population in legislatures and services.
    • One-third share for Muslims in central legislature and cabinets.
    • Separate electorates for Muslims.
    • Veto power for minorities on issues affecting their interests.
    • Protection of Muslim majority status in certain provinces.
    • Separate provinces for Sindh, NWFP, and Baluchistan.
    • Guarantees for religious freedom, cultural rights, education, and language.

Nehru Report’s Shortcomings:

  • The report failed to satisfy various groups:
    • Muslim League – Dissatisfied with Muslim representation.
    • Hindu Mahasabha – Opposed concessions to Muslims.
    • Sikh community – Concerns not addressed.
    • Younger Congress (Nehru & Bose) – Dominion status deemed inadequate.
  • This led to the formation of the “Independence for India League” by Nehru and Bose, advocating complete independence.








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