We all are well aware of the history of our country for many years. But India faced a political and administrative change during the 19th century. Numerous things have happened to India. There were so many drastic changes at that time. There were a lot of freedom movements and struggles by our prominent political leaders, great revolutionaries, and common people against British Crown Rule. Once the British set their foot strongly on Indian soil, they began the commercial exploitation of the natural resources of India. By the middle of the 19th Century, arrogant exploitation of the people had strained the patience of the Indians to the limit. British imperialism reached its peak between the middle of the nineteenth century and the First World War. The exploitative policies of the British in India gave birth to nationalist concerns against it. The anti-colonial struggle became truly a mass movement with the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948). It was followed by numerous movements against British rule. With the passage of time and the stubbornness of the Indians, the British had come to realize that the day was not far off when they will have to quit India. Successive campaigns had the effect of driving the British out of India in 1947, but with independence came the independence of the country into Pakistan.
What is Government of India Act
The Government of India Act was passed by the British Parliament in August 1935. It was the longest act enacted by the British Parliament at that time. It was divided into two separate acts namely, the Government of India Act 1935 and the Government of Burma Act 1935.
When the Government of India was passed in 1935, then what major events had happened in a few years before it had passed? the effect of those events will be on this act. Having an understanding of the events which took place before the Government of India Act 1935 was passed, will help us capture the intentions behind the provisions of the Government of India Act 1935.
In the year 1919, the British Parliament passed an act named the Government of India Act 1919 which is also called Montagu Chelmsford Reforms. According to the provisions of this act they set up a commission which is addressed as the Simon Commission in the year 1927. Simon Commission was introduced to review the provisions of the Government of India Act 1919 and to purpose Constitutional Reforms in India.
But Indian National leaders opposed this commission because there was no Indian representative in the commission – which was formed to purpose Constitutional Reforms for India. So, the British government acknowledged the discontent and asked Indian Leaders to prove that they could draw up a constitution which is acceptable to all sections of Indian Society and Communities. Indian leaders accepted these challenges and formed a committee which was chaired by Motilal Nehru. And they released a report which is also called the Nehru report in December 1928. Shortly after the Simon Commission also published its report in May 1930. And thereafter Md. Ali Jinnah also gave his 14 points which are also called Jinnah’s 14 Points. Jinnah gave these 14 points because he was thinking that in the Nehru report there were violations of Muslim demands, and they were not fulfilled properly.
After these Nehru Report, Simon Commission Report and Jinnah’s 14 points were tabled in round table conferences from 1930 to 1932. And finally, based upon the recommendations of these three round table conferences, a white paper was published by the British government in 1933. Despite these, the British government put forward the report of joint select committees and then on the basis of these they made the Government of India Act 1935. And in the Government India Act of 1919 there was a preamble also but in this new Act of Government of India, 1935 there was no preamble mentioned.
Control of the Government of India
The control of the Government of India was still in hands of the Secretary of State for India and at that time the secretary of state for India was Lawrence Dundas. He was residing in Britain and handling the Indian administration with the help of the Viceroy who was also called an agent at that time. And we already know about the 15 council members who were appointed to help the secretary of state for India.
Did the Government of India Act 1935 change anything?
Control of Government: –
- Indian council members were called advisors only and also the no. of advisors was decreased from 15 to 6 members. Now there were 6 advisors to the Secretary of State for India.
- The Secretary of State for India was changed to the Secretary of State for Burma. Because the government of India Act 1919 separated Burma from India. And Lawrence Dundas became the first Secretary of State for India and Burma.
Administrative Changes: –
The position of administration during the Indian Council Act of 1919. As we already know that the viceroy has the ordinance power in fact from Indian Council Act 1861. Despite that executive council included 6 members from which 3 Indians were allowed.
And there was no change in administration in the Government of India Act 1935.
Central Legislature changes: –
Let’s review the Government of India Act of 1919 and the position of the Central Legislature. During the government of India of 1919, the Legislative Assembly which was the lower house at that time contained 145 members and the Council of State which was the upper house contained 60 members. And in both houses, the members were elected and nominated by the Viceroy. And in these nominated members, there were some official members and some non-official members. Official members were only Britishers who worked in civil services or in military services. By the act of 1919, all the members of Central Legislature were from British Indian Provinces and not from princely states.
Dyarchy at the centre
Through this Act, the dyarchy system was adopted at the central level. There were two categories of federal subjects:
- Reserved subjects
- Transferred subjects.
Reserved Subjects– The subjects that are mentioned in this category of federal subjects were to be administered by the Governor-General on the advice of the Executive Councillors and the Executive Council could not exceed its limit of three members. Religious affairs, defence, administration of tribal areas and external affairs were included in the reserved subjects.
Transferred Subjects– This subject was to be administered on the advice of ministers and the number of ministers could not exceed 10. Subjects other than reserved were dealt with under the Transferred Subjects. The Governor-General had the power to dominate the ministers.
And in the Government of India Act, of 1935 there were many changes in the legislature.
- Now in the legislative assembly, there were 375 members from 145 and in the council of state, the number of members increased to 260 from 60.
- Over than this, the Government of India Act, of 1935 had purposed to establish an All-India Federation. And this federation should consist of provinces and princely states. It was also said that princely states were free to join the federation. And to join the federation, they had to sign the instrument of accession.
- And also the name of the Legislative Assembly was changed to Federal Assembly.
- The subjects were divided into three central subjects containing 59 subjects, provincial subjects containing 54 subjects and concurrent subjects containing 36 subjects.
The government of India Act, of 1935 recommend the establishment of a Federal Court. It proposed the establishment of a federal court to resolve disputes arising between state and federal governments.
Also, in cases where disputes arose in matters concerning the interpretation of the constitution.
This act recommended the establishment of RBI.
All India Federation was never formed. In the Government of India Act, of 1935 suffrage was extended to a little more than 30 million people.
A Federal Railway Authority was set up to control Indian railways also.
And 1935 was the lengthiest act that was made before the year 1935. It consists of 321 sections, 14 parts and 10 Schedules. The Act was a milestone in the development of a responsible constitutional government in India.
The Government of India Act, of 1935 was the lengthiest Act that was made before the year 1935. It consisted of 321 Sections, 14 Parts, and 10 Schedules. This Act proposed many salient features such as the creation of the All India Federation, Provincial Autonomy, provision for safeguards and reservation, etc.
These features were important for the Britishers, but Indian politicians were not happy with these features although some features were adopted by the drafters of the Indian Constitution in free India. The Act of 1935 was a rigid one. It could not be amended or modified by any Indian legislature, either he was Federal or Provincial Legislature. This Act gave nearly 10% of voters the right to vote.
Providing separate electorates to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, etc, later on, turned out to be the tool for disintegrating India. Hence, this Act, in reality, did not help in curbing the difficulties that had arisen in the Government of India Act, of 1919. It only showed the dominion of the British Government over the Indians. Only for their benefit, they introduced this Act. But some of its features benefitted the Indians also.
- OUTLINES OF INDIAN LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY by M.P. JAIN,
- INDIAN LEGAL & CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY by J.K. MITTAL, JAIN BOOK AGENCY
- INDIA’S STRUGGLE FOR INDEPENDENCE by BIPAN CHANDRA, 1988
Written By- Rayma Kumari
School of Law, 2nd Year [BA.LLB honours]
Lovely Professional University, Punjab