The Government of India Act 1919 was enacted to increase the participation of Indians in the administration of their country. it was an act of the British parliament and based on the recommendations of a report by Edwin Montagu, the then secretary of state for India and Lord Chelmsford, India’s Viceroy between 1916 and 1921.
Therefore, the constitutional reforms set forth by the ‘Government of India Act 1919’ are also known as the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms or Montfort reforms.
Montagu Chelmsford reforms are an important topic for the IAS exam and are a part of Modern Indian History. Let us check the relevant facts about the act.
Main features of the Act
Dyarchy was introduced by this act. There were two classes of administrators:-
The Governor was the executive head of the province and the subjects were divided into reserved and transferred lists.
The Governor with his executive counsellor was in charge of the reserved list. The subjects included irrigation, finance, law & order, land revenue etcetera.
The subjects under the transferred list were local government education, health, industry, excise, public works, religious endowments etc and the Ministers were in charge of subjects under this list.
These ministers were nominated from among the elected members of the Legislative Council and they were responsible to the people who elected them through the legislature. However, the executive counsellors were not accountable to the legislature, unlike the ministers.
The secretary of state and the Governor-General have the right to interfere in matters under the reserved list but they cannot interfere in the matter of the transferred list.
The size of provincial Legislative assemblies increased and approx 70% of the members were elected.
There were communal and class electorates and some women could also vote.
The consent of the Governor was required to pass any act or bill.
He had veto power and could issue ordinances too.
There were two lists for administration Central and provincial and the Governor-General was the chief executive authority.
The Centre handled the central list while the provincial list was under the provinces.
The Executive Council of Viceroy were to be three Indian members out of the 8 members.
The Governor-General not only could issue ordinances but also certified bills that were rejected by the central legislature.
A bicameral legislature was established with two houses:-
-Legislative Assembly (precursor of the Lok Sabha)
-The Council of State (precursor of the Rajya Sabha)
Legislative assembly (Lower House)
Members of the Legislative assembly
Total 145 members
26 official + 15 non-official (Nominated)
52 general + 30 Muslim + 9 European + 7 landlord + 4representative of India community + 2 Sikhs (Elected)
The Governor-General nominated the nominated members from Anglo Indians and Indian Christians and these members had a tenure of 3 years.
Council of State (Upper House)
The members had a tenure of 5 years (only male members)
Member of the Council of stat
27 nominated + 33 elected
17 official + 10 non-official (Nominated)
33 selected + 16 general + 11 Muslim + 3 European + 16 sikhs (Elected)
Only 25% of the budget was subject to vote. The legislatures could vote on a part of the budget and also ask questions. Rest was non-votable. A bill had to be passed in both houses before becoming a law.
There were three measures to sort out any deadlock between both the houses.
The consent of the governor-general was required for any bill to become law even if both houses had approved it; he also had the right to enact any bill without the assent of the legislature.
If any bill is deemed as detrimental to the peace of the country, he could prevent it from becoming low.
He could refuse any debate, question adjournment motion in the house
Who could vote?
The franchise was restricted and there was no universal adult franchise.
Voters should have a property with rental value or have paid land revenue of Rs. 3000 or have taxable income.
They should be members of a University senate and possess previous experience in the Legislative Council.
They should hold some specific titles and certain offices in the local bodies.
That is why this decreases the number of people who could vote to an abysmal number.
In the Council, there were to be a maximum of 12 members and a minimum of 8.
Their tenure was to be 5 years and salaries were increased from £ 1000 to £ 1200.
Half of the members should have experience of 10 years in public service in India.
There were to be three Indian members in the Council
Some other features of the Government of India Act
For the first time, this act provided for the establishment of a public service commission in India and a statutory commission would be set up to study the working of the government after 10 years. In 1927, this resulted in the Simon Commission.
This act also created an office of the high commissioner for India in London
This act introduced the concept of federal structure with a unitary bias and the concept of responsible government.
it increased the participation of Indians in the administration and they held some portfolios like health labour etc.
Elections were known to the people for the first time and it created political consciousness among the people.
For the first time, some Indian women also had the right to vote.
The Government of India Act expanded consolidated and communal representation but the franchise was very limited and it did not extend to the common man.
The governor-general and the governors had the authority to undermine the legislature at the centre and provinces respectively. The allocation of seats for the central legislature was based on the importance of the provinces in the eyes of the British rather than the population.
In 1919 Rowlatt Act was passed which gravely restricted press and movement. Those bills were passed in spite of the unanimous opposition of the Indian members of the Legislative Council.
Some Indian members resigned in protest.