Government of India Act 1919

Introduction 

The British government, unwilling to give or even share power with the Indians, reverted to the ‘carrot and stick’ method. The small Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms were the carrot, while legislation like the Rowlatt Act was the stick.

Government of India Act 1919, British Indian Acts

In July 1918, the administration proposed additional constitutional reforms, known as the Montagu-Chelmsford or Montford Reforms, in conformity with Montagu’s August 1917 statement. As a result of these events, the Government of India Act, 1919 was adopted.

The Most Important Features of the Act

  • Introduction to Dyarchy and Provincial Government
  • The Act established dyarchy in the executive branch of the provincial government.
  • It was founded the Dyarchy, or two-person rule (executive councillors and popular ministers). The governor was to be the executive leader of the province
  • Subjects were divided into two categories: reserved and transferred. Reserved subjects included law and order, finance, land revenue, irrigation, and so on. Transferred subjects included education, health, local government, industry, agriculture, excise, and so on. The reserved subjects were to be administered by the governor through his executive council of bureaucrats, while the transferred subjects were to be administered by ministers nominated from among the elected members of the legislative council
  • Ministers were required to report to the legislature and be forced to retire if the house approved a no-confidence resolution against them, although executive councillors were not
  • The governor may also take over the administration of transferred topics if the province’s constitutional apparatus fails.
  • The secretary of state for India and the governor-general had limited power to intervene in transferred subjects, although they did have limited capacity to intervene in reserved themes.
  • Provincial legislative councils were expanded even more, with 70% of members chosen.
  • The communal and class electorate systems were reinforced even further.
  • Women were granted the right to vote.
  • Legislative councils may propose legislation, but it must be signed by the governor. The governor has the power to veto bills and ordinances.
  • The budget may be rejected by the legislative councils, but the governor may, if necessary, reinstate it.
  • The legislators had the freedom to express themselves.
  • Despite the fact that the central government lacks a responsible administration,
  • The Act did not provide a provision for a responsible national government. The following are the most crucial points:

Executive

(I) The executive branch was to be led by the governor-general.

(ii) There were to be two lists for administration: central and regional.

(iii) Three of the viceroy’s executive council’s eight members were to be Indians.

(iv) The governor-general had complete authority over the reserved themes of the provinces.

(v) The governor-general has the authority to reverse grant cuts, certify bills that the central assembly has rejected, and issue ordinances.

Legislature

(I) A bicameral system was put in place. The lower house, known as the Central Legislative Assembly, would have 145 members (41 nominated and 104 elected— 52 General, 30 Muslims, 2 Sikhs, and 20 Special), while the upper body, known as the Council of State, would have 60 members (20 General, 10 Muslims, 3 Europeans, and 1 Sikh) (as per the figures given by Subhash Kashyap).

(ii) The Council of State had only male members and served for five years, but the Central Legislative Assembly had only female members and served for three years.

(iii) While legislators were allowed to ask questions and submit extra information, pass adjournment motions, and vote on a portion of the budget, the remaining 75% was not. A number of Indians were appointed to key committees, including the finance committee.

The Government of India Act, 1919, introduced a fundamental change on the domestic front (in Britain): the Secretary of State for India would henceforth be paid from the British purse.

Drawbacks

(I) There were only a few franchise opportunities available. Despite India’s population being estimated to be over 260 million people, the electorate for the central legislature was increased to roughly 1.5 million individuals.

(ii) The viceroy and his executive council were not subject to central government oversight.

(iii) The subject division in the middle was insufficient.

(iv) Provinces were given seats in the central legislature based on their ‘importance,’ like as Punjab’s military importance and Bombay’s commercial value.

(v) Subject division and simultaneous administration of two halves at the provincial level were irrational and consequently impractical. Irrigation, money, the police, the press, and justice were all designated as’reserved’ subjects.

(vi) Provincial ministers lacked jurisdiction over budgets and bureaucracy, resulting in constant disagreement. On major topics, ministers were not usually consulted; in fact, the governor had the ability to overrule them on any issue he deemed exceptional.

The Congress’s Reaction

Instead of seeking effective self-government, Congress gathered in a special session in Bombay in August 1918 under Hasan Imam’s chair and pronounced the reforms “disappointing” and “unsatisfactory.” The Montford reforms were seen by Tilak as “unworthy and disappointing—a dreary morning,” while Annie Besant said they were “unworthy of England to propose and India to accept.”

Results of the Act

  • In August 1918, under Hasan Imam’s presidency, the Congress reassembled in Bombay for a special session, declaring the reforms “disappointing” and “unsatisfactory,” and demanding effective self-government instead.
  • Bal Gangadhar Tilak called the Montford reforms “unworthy and disappointing – a sunless morning.”
  • The reforms, according to Annie Besant, were “unworthy of England to offer and India to accept.”
  • Surendranath Banerjea, a veteran Congress leader, was in favor of accepting the government’s offers.
  • The Act encouraged both Indians and British to fight for power.
  • As a result, there were a considerable number of communal disturbances, which increased from 1922 to 1927.
  • Except for Madras, the Swaraj Party was created in 1923 and won a significant number of seats in the elections.
  • Whereas in Bombay and the Central Provinces, the majority of other supplies were successfully blocked with ministerial pay.
  • As a result, the governors of both provinces were forced to dismantle the diarchy government and take charge of the transferred subjects.
  • The Rowlatt Act was enacted in an attempt to pacify Indians, but the Indian government was prepared to oppress them.
  • Repression of nationalists lasted throughout the conflict. Terrorists and revolutionaries were apprehended, hanged, or imprisoned.
  • Many other nationalists, including Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, were also imprisoned.
  • To crush those nationalists who would refuse to accept the official reforms, the government decided to empower itself with more far-reaching powers, which went against acknowledged ideals of rule of law.
    The Rowlatt Act was approved in March 1919, against the opposition of every Indian member of the Central Legislative Council.
    This Act gave the government the authority to imprison anyone without a trial or conviction in a court of law.
    The Act gave the government the power to suspend the right of Habeas Corpus, which had been the bedrock of British civil freedoms.

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