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The Merged States (Laws) Act, 1949.

India was divided into two parts during the British rule though both the parts belong to Britishers. The first kind of Indian Territory was under direct control of Britishers whereas the second one was indirectly controlled by them. The latter was popularly known as Princely states or Native States where a local ruler regulate the territory but was subject to subsidiary alliance of the British Crown. The subsidiary alliance was imposed upon princely states by Lord Wellesley who was the governor general from 1798 to 1805. It provided that the princely states had to accept the British troops within its territory and had to pay a regular maintenance which if failed, part of the territory would be taken away as penalty. Therefore it meant that the powers of the local and hereditary rulers were cut down to the extent that they cannot annex any other local rulers’ territory in India. It further meant that if the British rule disappears, then these local rulers would be restored with the power they once possessed. This was the reason that during Independence of 1947, integration of states had to be done so that none of the princely states should declare their own independence. The rulers at the time of Independence accepted the accession to Independent Indian territory. In order to legitimize the above, certain programs and legislations were passed in which one of the legislation was the Merged States (Laws) Act of 1949.

The Merged States (Laws) Act, 1949 (hereinafter referred to as “The Act”) came into force on 1st January, 1950. It consisted of seven sections. The objective of the Act is to extend certain laws to those parts which were administered as Governor’s province or Chief Commissioner’s Province. Section 290A of the Government of India Act, 1935 provided that the areas needs to be administered which formed part of governor’s province or chief commissioner’s province. Section 290A had been introduced through an amendment in the Government of India Act, 1935. Section 290A issued an order on 27th July, 1949 known as States’ Merger (Governors’ Province) Order, 1949 which became applicable to all provincially merged states. Similarly, another was passed for centrally merged states known as States’ Merger (Chief Commissioner’s Province) Order, 1949. Both the orders came into force from 1st August, 1949. The purpose behind these orders was to make the position of central and provincial merged states equal.

Section 3 provides for the extension of laws which are so applicable in the absorbing, merged and new province. A schedule has been attached to the Act wherein all the laws has been specified which would be extended to new provinces. Moreover, in a merged state where the Dominion legislature had power to make laws for the new governor province , that law being part of the schedule to the Act, in that case, it would be extended to that part of the province.

The interpretation of laws is an important aspect of law especially where some territorial changes has been made. Section 4 deals with the same. First, it provides that the acceding state other than the United State of Saurashtra will not be considered as a merged state. Secondly, any Indian British subject will be referred to the person who immediately before 1st August, 1949 has resided in one of the merged states. Also the new provinces will be considered to be a part of chief commissioners’ province and governors’ province and the absorbing province and merged province will be referred to as same.

In case of controversy of provisions wherein any corresponding law is available to the law mentioned in the schedule of this Act, in that case, Section 5 provides that the corresponding law will stand repealed in the new province as well as merged province. However, the above mentioned provision will not affect in cases of previous operation of such law or where the penalty has been allotted or where any legal proceeding has been initiated. Also, a provision has been carved out for the convenience of the state to adapt with the laws mentioned in the schedule of the Act. Section 7 deals with it which explains that the Court or other authority has power to alter certain provisions of the Act in order to make it adaptable in the then present situation. Hence, the Act helped India to settle with integrated states.

by Neha Dayal.