Indian Council Act, 1909

Indian Council Act, 1909

This article is written by Parveen Kaur, 2nd year Student, lovely professional University, Phagwara (Punjab). This article deals with a detailed explanation of Indian Council Act 1909.


The British government in India passed the Indian Councils Act in 1909 as a step toward involving Indians in administration. It is also known as the Morley-Minto reforms, after two British officials who were instrumental in its drafting who were, in 1905–1910, the Viceroy and Secretary of State of British India, respectively: Lord Minto and Lord John Morley.

The Indian national movement saw two changes at the beginning of the 20th century. First, nationalists grew louder and more forceful in their demands for Indian representation in government. Second, during this time, radical nationalist groups emerged with the intention of undermining British rule. In some instances, both British and Indian government officials were murdered.

A new period of changes for British India began in 1906 after the Liberal Party won an election in Great Britain. Lord Minto, the British viceroy of India (1905–10), put a lot of obstacles in the way of the relatively young secretary of state, yet he was nevertheless able to make some significant changes to the legislative and administrative framework of the British Indian administration. In order to fulfil Queen Victoria’s promise that Indians would have equal opportunities, he appointed two Indians to his council at Whitehall: Krishna G. Gupta, a senior Indian in the Indian Civil Service, and Sayyid Husain Bilgrami, a Muslim who had actively participated in the Muslim League’s founding (ICS). In 1909, Morley persuaded Lord Minto to nominate Satyendra P. Sinha as the first Indian member of the viceroy’s Executive Council.

Historical background

The Indian National Congress’ essential goals were not achieved by the Indian Council Act of 1892. Queen Victoria, who had promised to give Indians an equal chance, failed to live up to the aspirations of the people of India. Indians did receive opportunities, but they were only on a small scale.

The Indian National Congress also made note of the challenges experienced by Indians when applying for various government positions. The Indian National Congress, therefore, requested and recommended, in light of this, an increase in the number of Indians in the legislative council which should have a part in how things should be done in their nation.

The growth of the extremists simultaneously put the moderates at risk. Reforms were therefore necessary to appease the moderates. In light of everything that was occurring in the nation, Gopal Krishna Gokhale visited Lord Morley on behalf of the INC and pleaded for the nation to begin the process of achieving self-government.
Muslims also visited Lord Minto, the former Viceroy of India, to discuss separate electoral districts for India’s Muslims. Therefore, Morley and Minto resolved to use the Morley-Minto Improvements to enact some reforms in the nation

Major provisions of the Morley-Minto reforms

• The legislative councils at the Centre and the provinces increased in size.
• Central Legislative Council – from 16 to 60 members
• Legislative Councils of Bengal, Madras, Bombay and United Provinces – 50 members each
• Legislative Councils of Punjab, Burma and Assam – 30 members each
• The legislative councils at the Centre and the provinces were to have four categories of members as follows:
• Ex officio 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 government officials.
• Elected members: elected by different categories of Indians.
• The elected members were elected indirectly. The local bodies elected an electoral college that would elect members of the provincial legislative councils. These members would, in turn, elect the members of the Central legislative council.
• The elected members were from the local bodies, the chambers of commerce, landlords, universities, traders’ communities and Muslims.
• In the provincial councils, non-official members were in the majority. However, since some of the non-official members were nominated, in total, a non-elected majority was there.
• Indians were given membership to the Imperial Legislative Council for the first time.

• It introduced separate electorates for the Muslims. Some constituencies were earmarked for Muslims and only Muslims could vote their representatives.
• The members could discuss the budget and move resolutions. They could also discuss matters of public interest.
• They could also ask supplementary questions.
• No discussions on foreign policy or on relations with the princely states were permitted.
• Lord Minto appointed (on much persuasion by Morley) Satyendra P Sinha as the first Indian member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
• Two Indians were nominated to the Council of the Secretary of State for Indian affairs.


• It was a forward step towards the responsible association of elected Indians with the administration.
• The members for the first time got an opportunity to criticize the executives and make suggestions for the better administration of the country.

Morley–Minto Reforms 1909 – Defects

• To increase the divide between Muslims and Hindus, separate constituencies were created. In Indian politics, this system ushered in an era of unabashed communalism.
• The size of the councils was expanded, but not their functions or powers.
• Although the Provincial Councils had a non-official majority, the outcome was irrelevant because the non-official majority was invalidated by the election of nominated members.
• The Governor-position General’s and veto power were not affected by the Act.
• Members were able to discuss the budget, but they were unable to make any significant changes to it.
• They could ask questions but not compel the executives to respond to the resolutions, which were more like recommendations to the government.
• Morley-Minto Reform diverted attention away from political and economic difficulties that afflicted all Indians, Hindu and Muslim alike.


To win over Muslims and Moderate members of the Indian National Congress, the Indian Councils Act of 1909 was passed. Its goal was to use the electoral system to determine who would sit on India’s imperial and local legislative councils. Even if there was some improvement in the increasing representation of Indians in the legislative council, the act still has several shortcomings. The communal representation, which is still prevalent today, is among the most prominent.
Muslims were relieved by the process of a separate electorate, but the Indian National Movement suffered.

We were thus able to observe the results of this system in the country’s division along communal lines. In addition, the Morley-Minto Reforms also fell short of establishing a system of self-government.


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