Privy Purse in India

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In India, the Privy Purse was a payment made to the ruling (royal or lower) families of erstwhile princely states as part of their agreements to first integrate with India in 1947, and later to merge their states in 1949 whereby they lost all ruling rights. The Privy Purse was continued to the royal families until the 26th Amendment in 1971, by which all their privileges and allowances from the Central Government would cease to exist, was implemented after a two-year legal battle.[1] In some individual cases however privy purses were continued for life for individuals who had held ruling powers before 1947.[2]


When the British Crown partitioned British India and granted independence to the new Dominions of India and Pakistan, more than a third of the subcontinent was still covered by princely states, with rulers whose position and status within the Indian Empire had varied. In 1947 there were more than 560 such princely states in India, over which the British Crown had suzerainty but not sovereignty. Relations with them were determined by subsidiary alliances and other treaties establishing indirect rule. A protocollary system of Gun salutes also determined the ranking of about 120 major states (Pakistan included), most however were minor/petty 'non-salute states'. By the Indian Independence Act 1947 the Crown abandoned its suzerainty, leaving the rulers of the states free to choose to accede either to India or to Pakistan or to remain fully independent.[3] Most had been so dependent on the Government of India that they had little choice about accession. By the eve of independence, most of the non-Muslim states had signed Instrument of Accessions to India, but only one to Pakistan. Only a few states held out for complete independence after the British left India. Due to the diplomacy of Vallabhbhai Patel and VP Menon, Travancore, Bhopal and Jodhpur signed the Instruments of Accession before 15 August 1947. Even after independence three states vacillated, namely Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad which were integrated later.

The Instruments of Accession needed the states to only cede defence, communications and foreign relations to India. Democratic institutions were introduced in these states and it was only in 1949 that they were fully merged with India to form new states. Thus Travancore Ambliara and Cochin merged into India and formed the new state of Thiru-Kochi. Although in 1947 the royal families had been allowed to retain large sums of money as their Privy Purse, in 1949 with the states and its revenues being entirely taken over by the Government of India, it was the Indian Government that provided the rulers and their families with Privy Purses that were determined by several factors such as revenue of the state, gun salute enjoyed, antiquity of the dynasty and so on.[4] Dewan Jarmani Dass of Kapurthala says:

Recipients and amounts[edit]

As stated above, the Privy Purses were determined by several factors. Minor feudatories of the erstwhile princely states received whatever little allowances the princely governments had been providing them. For the 565 princely states, Privy Purses ranged from Rs. 5000 per annum to amounts in millions. 102 privy purses were of more than 1 lakh rupees with an upper ceiling of 2 lakh rupees for all except 11 states. Only six of the most important Princely states in India were provided with Privy Purses above 1,000,000 Rupees : Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Baroda, Jaipur and Patiala. For certain other states, while certain amounts were guaranteed for the time being, it was liable to be reduced soon after. Thus Hyderabad which received initially a Privy Purse of Rs. 4,285,714 was a few years later guaranteed a Rs. 2,000,000 purse. The Government of India also generally reduced the allowances with every succession in the family.[5]


The motion to abolish Privy Purses in India, and the official recognition of the titles, was originally brought before the Parliament in 1969 and passed in the Lok Sabha, but failed by one vote to reach the required two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha, 149 voting for and 75 against.[6]

It was again proposed in 1971, and was successfully passed as the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of India in 1971.[1] Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi argued the case for abolition based on equal rights for all citizens and the need to reduce the government's revenue deficit.

Many erstwhile royalty tried to protest the abolition of the Privy Purse, primarily through campaigns to contest seats in the Lok Sabha elections of 1971. They, however, received a rude shock when many of them were defeated by huge margins. This included Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, the last and former Nawab of Pataudi, who contested from Gurgaon. Mansoor contested as a candidate for the Vishal Haryana Party, but received barely 5% of the vote in a two-way contest.[7]


  1. ^ a b "Twenty Sixth Amendment". 28 December 1971. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  2. ^ HH Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayis allowance was reinstated after a prolonged legal battle until her death in 1985. "At the turn of the Tide, the Life and Times of Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, the Last Queen of Travancore" by Dr. Lakshmi Raghunandan
  3. ^ Ishtiaq Ahmed, State, Nation and Ethnicity in Contemporary South Asia (London & New York, 1998), p. 99
  4. ^ "Maharaja" by Jarmani Dass
  5. ^ "Maharaja" by Jarmani Dass, page 424-435
  6. ^ "H. H. Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao vs Union of India on 15 December, 1970". Indian Kanoon. p. See para 44. Retrieved 16 October 2012. The Bill was voted upon in the Lok Sabha on September 2, 1970. 332 votes for and 154 votes against it, were cast. It was considered in the Rajya Sabha, on September 5, 1970, and was defeated, 149 voting for and 75 against it. It failed in the Rajya Sabha to reach the requisite majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting. 
  7. ^ Cricketers in Politics

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