Indian Constitution
General Knowledge

Administrative & Legislative Reforms After 1919

Montague-Chelmsford Report and the Government of India Act, 1919

» The then Secretary of State for India Mr. E.S. Montagu and the Governor General Lord Chelmsford formulated proposals for the Government of India Act, 1919.
» Responsible Government in the Provinces was to be introduced, without impairing the responsibility of the Governor (through the Governor General), for the administration of the Province, by resorting to device known as 'Dyarchy' or dual government.
» The subjects of administration were to be divided into two categories Central and Provincial.
» Central subjects were those which were exclusively kept under the control of the Central Government.
» The provincial subjects were sub-divided into 'transferred' and 'reserved' subjects.
» The 'transferred subjects' were to be administered by the Governor with the aid of Ministers responsible to the Legislative Council in which the proportion of elected members was raised to 70 per cent.
» The reserved subjects' were to be administered by the Governor and his Executive Council with no responsibility to the Legislature.
» The previous Central control over the provinces in administrative, legislative and financial matters was relaxed. Sources of revenue were divided into two categories so that the provinces could run the administration with the revenue raised by the provinces themselves.
» The provincial budget was separated from the central budget.
» The provincial legislature was empowered to present its own budget and levy its own taxes relating to the provincial sources of revenue.
» The Central Legislature, retained power to legislate for the whole country on any subject.
» The control of the Governor General over provincial legislation was retained by providing that a Provincial Bill, even though assented to by the Governor, would become law only when assented to also by the Governor General.
» The Governor was empowered to reserve a Bill for the consideration of the Governor General if it was related to some specified matters.
» The Governor General in Council continued to remain responsible only to the British Parliament through the Secretary of State for India.
» The Indian Legislature was made more representative and, for the first time 'bi-cameral'.
» The Upper House was named the Council of State This was composed of 60 members of whom 34 were elected.
» The Lower House was named the Legislative Assembly This was composed of about 144 members of whom 104 were elected.
» The electorates were arranged on a communal and sectional basis, developing the Morley-Minto device further.
» The Governor General's overriding powers in respect of Central legislation were retained as follows :
  • His prior sanction was required to introduce Bills relating to certain matters;
  • He had the power to veto or reserve for consideration of the Crown any Bill passed by the Indian Legislature;
  • He had the converse power of certifying Bill or any grant refused by the Legislature;
  • He could make Ordinances, in case of emergency.

Simon Commission

» This commission, headed by Sir John Simon, constituted in 1927 to inquire into the working of the Act of 1919, placed its report in 1930. The report was examined by the British Parliament and the Government of India Bill was drafted accordingly.

The Government of India Act, 1935

» The Act of 1935 prescribed a federation, taking the Provinces and the Indian States (native states) as units.
» It was optional for the Indian States to join the Federation, and since they never joined, the Federation never came into being.
» The Act divided legislative powers between the Centre and Provinces.
» The executive authority of a Province was also exercised by a Governor on behalf of the Crown and not as a subordinate of the Governor General.
» The Governor was required to act with the advice of Ministers responsible to the Legislature.
» In certain matters, the Governor was required to act 'in his discretion' without ministerial advice and under the control and directions of the Governor General, and, through him, of the Secretary of State.
» The executive authority of the Centre was vested in the Governor General (on behalf of the Crown).
» Counsellors or Council of Ministers responsible to the Legislature was not appointed although such provisions existed in the Act of 1935.
» The Central Legislature was bi-cameral, consisting of the Federal Assembly and the Council of State.
» In six provinces, the legislature was bi-cameral, comprising a Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council. In other provinces, the Legislature was uni-cameral.
» Apart from the Governor General's power of veto, a Bill passed by the Central Legislature was also subject to veto by the Crown.
» The Governor General could prevent discussion in the Legislature and suspend the proceedings on any Bill if he was satisfied that it would affect the discharge of his special responsibilities.
» The Governor General had independent powers of legislation, concurrently with those of the Legislature.
» On some subjects no bill or amendment could be introduced in the Legislature without the Governor General's previous sanction.
» A three-fold division in the Act of 1935— There was a Federal List over which the Federal Legislature had exclusive powers of legislation. There was a Provincial List of matters over which the Provincial Legislature had exclusive jurisdiction. There was a Concurrent List also over which both the Federal and Provincial Legislature had competence.
» The Governor General was empowered to authorize either the Federal or the Provincial Legislature to enact a law with respect to any matter which was not enumerated in the above noted Legislative Lists.
» Dominion Status, which was promised by the Simon Commission in 1929, was not conferred by the Government of India Act, 1935.

Cripps Mission

» In March 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps, a member of the British cabinet came with a draft declaration on the proposals of the British Government.
» These proposals were to be adopted at the end of the Second World War provided the Congress and the Muslim League could accept them.
» According to the proposals :
    ★ The Constitution of India was to be framed by an elected Constituent Assembly by the Indian people.
    ★ The Constitution should give India Dominion Status.
    ★ There should be one Indian Union comprising all the Provinces and Indian States.
    ★ Any Province (or Indian State) not accepting the Constitution would be free to retain its constitutional position existing at that time and with such non-acceding Provinces the British Government could enter into separate Constitutional arrangements.

Cabinet Mission Plan

» In March 1946, Lord Attlee sent a Cabinet Mission to India consisting of three Cabinet Ministers, namely Lord Pethick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps and Mr. A.V. Alexander.
» The object of the Mission was to help India achieve its independence as early as possible, and to set up a Constituent Assembly.
» The Cabinet Mission rejected the claim for a separate Constituent Assembly and a separate State for the Muslim.
» According to Cabinet Mission Plan there was to be a Union of India, comprising both British India and the States, and having jurisdiction over the subjects of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Communication. All residuary powers were to be vested in the Provinces and the States.
» The Union was to have an Executive and a Legislature consisting of representatives of the Provinces and the States.
» Any decision involving a major communal issue in the legislature was to require a majority support of representatives of each of the two major communities present and voting as well as a majority of all the members present and voting.
» The provinces could form groups with executives and legislatures, and each group could be competent to determine the provincial subjects.

The Mountbatten Plan

» The plan for transfer of power to the Indians and partition of the country was laid down in the Mountbatten Plan.
» It was given a formal shape by a statement made by the British Government on 3rd June, 1947.

The Indian Independence Act, 1947 of the British Parliament

» In pursuance of this Act, the Government of India Act, 1935, was amended by the Adaptation Orders, both in India and Pakistan, for setting up an interim Constituent Assembly to draw up the future Constitution of the country.
» From the 15th August, 1947 India ceased to be a Dependency, and the suzerainty of the British Crown over the Indian States and the treaty relations with Tribal Areas lapsed from that date.
» The office of the Secretary of State for India was abolished.
» The Governor-General and the Governors lost extraordinary powers of legislations to compete with the Legislature.
» The Central Legislature of India, composed of the Legislative Assembly and the Council of States, ceased to exist on August 14, 1947.
» The Constituent Assembly itself was to function also as the Central Legislature with complete sovereignty.