The Indian Independence Act of 1947 granted independence to British India and left the decision of future course of action to princely states. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel played a pivotal role in persuading princely states to join the Indian Union after independence. As a result of their accession, princely states were granted a ‘privy purse’ as per the Instrument of Accession.

Relevance of ‘Privy Purse’:

  • Privy purse’ payments were provided to former rulers through constitutional provisions (Art. 291 and Art. 362), yet it was seen as a remnant of colonial history.
  • It upheld a special status for the ruling class, perpetuating a colonial hierarchy of rulers and subjects.
  • Contradicted the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution’s Preamble and Part 3.
  • Economically strained India, grappling with poverty and security challenges, couldn’t sustain this added financial burden.

Abolition of ‘Privy Purse’:

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi advocated for its abolition, leading to the 26th Amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1971, which removed Articles 291 and 362.

Reasons for Abolition:

  • The ‘privy purse’ contradicted the constitutional promise of equal rights for all citizens.
  • The concept of privileged rulers contradicted democratic, equitable, and socially just principles.
  • The ‘privy purse’ served no contemporary purpose and was irrelevant to the needs of the nation.
  • The economic strain intensified due to the 1971 refugee crisis from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), necessitating measures to address the revenue deficit.

Despite challenges from princely state rulers, the abolition of the ‘privy purse’ was a step towards realizing the Constitution’s vision of an egalitarian society. It aligned with the principles of democracy, equality, and social justice, fostering a more inclusive and equitable nation.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish April 19, 2024