Government of India Act 1935 stipulate a federal constitution?

Question – Did the Government of India Act, 1935 stipulate a federal constitution? Discuss with example. 3 February 2022

AnswerA federal system is a political system in which different states are united together for the fulfillment of common objectives. Those who have their own executive and legislature, but have central limits on their powers. The presence of a federal system is claimed in ancient India, Rome and Greece, but there has been a lack of consensus among political science scholars about its nature. In the modern era, the United States is considered the first and ideal federation, while Canada and India are said to be quasi-federal. Whether the political system of any country is federal or not, it is decided on the following grounds-

  • Two-tier government (Union and Provinces)
  • A Written constitution
  • Supremacy of the constitution
  • Supremacy of the constitution
  • Provision for an independent judiciary for federal dispute resolution
  • Representation of States at the Union Level

The first attempt to adopt a federal system in India was made through the Government of India Act, 1935. By this the concept of establishment of an All India Federation was laid down. The state and princely states were treated as one unit. Through this, provincial autonomy was introduced by ending the diarchy in the provinces. Certain provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935 laid down the draft of a federal constitution, which is as follows:

  • In this, the provision of two tier government was prescribed – at the provincial level and at the central level.
  • To facilitate and facilitate the execution of their functions, a written constitution was made, consisting of 321 articles – 10 schedules, transferred and protected subjects.
  • Under this, the powers were divided into the State List (54), the Central List (59) and the Concurrent List (36).
  • The provinces were given autonomy, separate identity, responsibility for making laws and the right to implement them.
  • Provincial subjects were administered by ministers, who worked under the chief minister and were accountable to the legislature.
  • It established a federal judiciary.

The inclusion of princely states in the proposed union was optional under the Act of 1935. For the federation to exist, it was necessary that at least half of the elected princely states should be represented by the princely states, as this did not happen. Hence the federal system did not come into existence. The following provisions of the Act of 1935 were also contrary to the federal spirit-

  • The governor general was the focal point of the entire constitution, which was separate from the federal system. He could cut demands for grants, approve bills rejected by the legislature. He could issue ordinances on various subjects. Government laws can be banned. This hindered the actual implementation of the Act.
  • In this the federal judiciary could be appealed to the Privy Council, which was contrary to the federal system. This act introduced a flexible constitution, with no scope for internal development.
  • The power to amend the Constitution was vested in the British Parliament.
  • About 80 percent of the federal budget was such that the legislature could not exercise its franchise.
  • The most important point was to promote British interests and limit Indian sovereignty.

On the above grounds, it can be said that the Government of India Act 1935 indirectly represents the concept of a federal constitution, but never came into its original form due to the role of the Governor General and the primacy of British interests.

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