Indian Council Act 1909/ Morley Minto Reforms
The Indian Council act 1909 introduced a few reforms in the legislative councils. It was an act of the British parliament to increase the involvement of Indians in the governance of British India. It is also known as the Morley Minto Reforms after the Secretary of State for India John Morley and the Viceroy of India, the 4th Earl of Minto.
We will discuss the background of Morley Minto reforms and the provisions these reforms brought along in this article.
Background of Indian Council Act
The British authorities were uncertain to accept Indians as equal partners in spite of the proclamation by Queen Victoria that Indians would be treated equally. That was why very few Indians got such an opportunity.
In 1905, Lord Curzon had put into effect the partition of Bengal but this led to a massive uprising in Bengal consequently.
Hence, the British authorities appreciated the need for some reforms in the governance of Indians.
Moreover, the Indian National Congress was agitating for more reforms and self-governance of Indians.
The extremist leaders of the Indian National Congress were on the rise and believed in more aggressive methods compared to earlier Congress leaders that moderated. In 1906, Congress demanded home rule for the first time.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale met Marley Minto personally in England and highlighted the need for reforms.
In 1906, a group of Elite Muslims led by Aga Khan met Lord Minto. They place their demand for a separate electorate for the Muslims (Shimla Deputation).
John Morley was a member of the Liberal Government and he was ready to make positive changes in the governance of India.
- The Legislative Council at the centre and the provinces expanded in size
-Central Legislative Council (from 16 to 60 members)
-Legislative Councils of Bengal, Bombay, Madras and United Provinces (50 members each)
-Legislative councils of Punjab, Assam and Burma (30 members each)
- The Legislative Council at the centre and the province were to have four categories of members
-Ex official members: Governor-General and members of the executive council
-Nominated official members: Government officials who were nominated by the Governor-General
-Nominated non-official members: nominated by the Governor-General but were not the government officials
-Elected members: elected by different categories of Indians.
- These members were elected indirectly and the local bodies elected an electoral college that would elect members of the provincial legislative councils. These members would elect the members of the Central legislative council in turn.
- These elected members were from the local bodies such as the chambers of commerce, universities, landlords, traders communities and Muslims.
- Non-official members were in the majority in the provincial councils. Although, some of the non-official members were nominated. As a whole, a non-elected majority was there.
- For the first time, Indians were given membership in the Imperial Legislative Council.
- It established separate electorates for the Muslims and some constituencies were set aside for Muslims and only Muslims could vote for their representatives.
- The members could discuss the budget, matters of public interest and move resolutions and also ask supplementary questions.
- Any discussion on foreign policy or on the relation with the princely states was allowed.
- Satyendra P. Sinha was appointed as the first Indian member of the Viceroy Executive Council by Lord Minto.
- Also, two Indians were nominated to the Council of the secretary of state for Indian affairs.
Assessment of Indian Council act
The Morley Minto reforms suggested communal representation in Indian politics and were intended to stem the growing tide of nationalism in the country by dividing the people into communal lines. The culmination of this step was noticed in the partition of the country along religious lines.
The impact of differential treatment of different religious groups can be seen to the day.
But this act did not do anything to grant colonial self-government which was the demand of Congress. It increased Indian participation in the Legislative Councils, especially at the provincial levels.