The British Parliament passed the Government of India Act in August 1935. It was the longest act passed by the British parliament at that time. It was divided into two separate acts, the Government of India Act 1935 and the Government of Burma act 1935.
The British government passed this act due to the growing demand for constitutional reform in India by Indian leaders. Moreover, India’s support to Britain in the first world war also added to the British acknowledgement of the need for the inclusion of more Indians in the administration of their own country. The Government of India Act was based on the Simon Commission, a report on the recommendation of round table conferences, the white paper published by the British government in 1933 and the report of the joint select committees.
All India federation
An All India Federation was to consist of British India and the princely states. The provinces in British India would have to join the federation compulsory but this was not applicable for the Princely States. Although the federation never metallised due to the lack of support from the princely states.
The Government of India Act divided powers between the centre and the provinces. There were three lists which gave the subject under each government namely:
-Federal List (Centre)
-Provincial List (Provinces)
-Concurrent list (Both)
And the Viceroy was vested with residual powers.
This act provided more autonomy to the provinces and the Diarchy was abolished at the provincial levels. The Governor was the head of the executive and a Council of ministers was to suggest or advise him. These ministers were responsible to the provincial legislatures who controlled them and the legislature had the authority to remove the ministers. Although the governors still retained special reserve powers and the British authorities could suspend a provincial government.
Diarchy at the center
Under the Federal list, subjects were divided into two:
The reserve subjects were directed by the Governor-General who administered them with the help of three councillors appointed by him but they were not responsible to the legislature.
The reserve subjects included defence, ecclesiastical affairs, police, taxation, press, power sources, justice and tribal affairs.
The transferred subjects were controlled by the Governor General with his council of ministers and the Council had to act in confidence with the legislature. These subjects included forests, local government, health etc.
The governor-general had a special power to interfere in the transferred subject also.
A bicameral federal legislature would be set up and the two houses were:
- Federal assembly ( Lower House)
- Council of States ( Upper House)
The Federal assembly or lower house had a term of 5 years and both the houses had representatives from the princely states too. The representatives of the princely states were to be nominated by the rulers. They were not elected but the representative of British India elected and somewhere to be nominated by the Governor General.
In some provinces, like Madras, Bengal, Bihar, Bombay, Assam and the United provinces, the Bicameral legislature was introduced.
A federal court was set up in Delhi for the resolution of disputes between the provinces and even between the centre and the provinces. It was to have not more than 6 judges and one chief justice.
The Indian Council ended and the secretary of state for India would have a team of advisors.
For the first time, this act introduced direct election in India.
Burma was separated from India and the Aden was also severed off from India and made into a crown colony.
Bihar and Orissa were split and Sindh was carved out of the Bombay Presidency.