Government Of India Acts 1909, 1919, 1935 and 1947


Indian Councils Act of 1909

  1. This Act is also known as the Morley- Minto Reforms.
  2. Direct elections to legislative councils; first attempt at introducing a representative and popular element.
  3. It changed the name of the Central Legislative Council to the Imperial Legislative Council.
  4. The member of Central Legislative Council was increased to 60 from 16.
  5. Introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’.
  6. Indians for the first time in Viceroys executive council. (Satyendra Prasad Sinha, as the law member)

Government of India Act of 1919

  • This Act is also known as the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms.
  • The Central subjects were demarcated and separated from those of the Provincial subjects.
  • The scheme of dual governance, ‘Dyarchy’, was introduced in the Provincial subjects.
  • Under dyarchy system, the provincial subjects were divided into two parts – transferred and reserved. On reserved subjects, Governor was not responsible to the Legislative council.
  • The Act introduced, for the first time, bicameralism at center.
  • Legislative Assembly with 140 members and Legislative council with 60 members.
  • Direct elections.
  • The Act also required that the three of the six members of the Viceroy’s Executive Council (other than Commander-in-Chief) were to be Indians.
  • Provided for the establishment of Public Service Commission.

Government of India Act of 1935

  • The Act provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of the Provinces and the Princely States as units, though the envisaged federation never came into being.
  • Three Lists: The Act divided the powers between the Centre and the units into items of three lists, namely the Federal List, the Provincial List and the Concurrent List.
  • The Federal List for the Centre consisted of 59 items, the Provincial List for the provinces consisted of 54 items and the Concurrent List for both consisted of 36 items
  • The residuary powers were vested with the Governor-General.
  • The Act abolished the Dyarchy in the Provinces and introduced ‘Provincial Autonomy’.
  • It provided for the adoption of Dyarchy at the Centre.
  • Introduced bicameralism in 6 out of 11 Provinces.
  • These six Provinces were Assam, Bengal, Bombay, Bihar, Madras and the United Province.
  • Provided for the establishment of Federal Court.
  • Abolished the Council of India.

Indian Independence Act of 1947

  • It declared India as an Independent and Sovereign State.
  • Established responsible Governments at both the Centre and the Provinces.
  • Designated the Viceroy India and the provincial Governors as the Constitutional (normal heads).
  • It assigned dual functions (Constituent and Legislative) to the Constituent Assembly and declared this dominion legislature as a sovereign body.

Points to be noted

  • Laws made before Charter Act of 1833 were called Regulations and those made after are called Acts.
  • Lord Warren Hastings created the office of District Collector in 1772, but judicial powers were separated from District collector later by Cornwallis.
  • From the powerful authorities of unchecked executives, the Indian administration developed into a responsible government answerable to the legislature and people.
  • The development of portfolio system and budget points to the separation of power.
  • Lord Mayo’s resolution on financial decentralization visualized the development of local self-government institutions in India (1870).
  • 1882: Lord Ripon’s resolution was hailed as the ‘Magna Carta’ of local self-government. He is regarded as the ‘Father of local self-government in India’.
  • 1921: Railway Budget was separated from the General Budget.
  • From 1773 to 1858, the British tried for the centralization of power. It was from the 1861 Councils act they shifted towards devolution of power with provinces.
  • 1833 Charter act was the most important act before the act of 1909.
  • Till 1947, the Government of India functioned under the provisions of the 1919 Act only. The provisions of 1935 Act relating to Federation and Dyarchy were never implemented.
  • The Executive Council provided by the 1919 Act continued to advise the Viceroy till 1947. The modern executive (Council of Ministers) owes its legacy to the executive council.
  • The Legislative Council and Assembly developed into Rajyasabha and Loksabha after independence.
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