After the great revolt of 1857, the British Government felt the necessity of seeking the cooperation of the Indians in the administration of their country. In pursuance of this policy of association, three acts were enacted by the British Parliament in 1861, 1892 and 1909.
The Indian Councils Act of 1861
It is an important landmark in the constitutional and political history of India.
Features of the Act of 1861
1. Indians were appointed as non official members in the viceroy expanded council. In 1862, Lord Canning, the then viceroy, nominated three Indians to his legislative council—the Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao.
2. Restored the legislative powers of Bombay and madras presidencies and It initiated the process of decentralization. It thus reversed the centralizing tendency that started from the Regulating Act of 1773 and reached its climax under the Charter Act of 1833.
3. Provided for the establishment of new legislative councils for Bengal, North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab, which were established in 1862, 1866 and 1897 respectively.
4. It empowered the Viceroy to make rules and orders for the more convenient trans-action of business in the council. It also gave recognition to the ‘portfolio’ system, introduced by Lord Canning in 1859. Under this, a member of the Viceroy’s council was made in-charge of one or more departments of the government and was authorized to issue final orders on behalf of the council on matters of his department(s).
5. Empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances, without the concurrence of the legislative council, during an emergency. The life of such an ordinance was six months.
Features of the Act of 1909 – Minto Morley reforms
1. Increased the size of the legislative councils, both Central and provincial. The number of members in the Central Legislative Council was raised from 16 to 60. The number of members in the provincial legislative councils was not uniform.
2. It retained official majority in the Central Legislative Council but allowed the provincial legislative councils to have non-official majority.
3. Enlarged the deliberative functions of the legislative councils at both the levels. For example, members were allowed to ask supplementary questions, move resolutions on the budget, and so on.
4. This act provided for the association of Indians in viceroy executive Councils and Governors. Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to join the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
5. Introduced communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’. Under this, the Muslim members were to be elected only by Muslim voters.
6. It also provided for the separate representation of presidency corporations, chambers of commerce, universities and zamindars.
Features of the Act
1. It relaxed the central control over the provinces by demarcating and separating the central and provincial subjects. The central and provincial legislatures were authorised to make laws on their respective list of subjects.
2. Provincial subjects were divided in two—transferred and reserved. The transferred subjects were to be administered by the governor with the aid of ministers responsible to the legislative Council. The reserved subjects, on the other hand, were to be administered by the governor and his executive council without being responsible to the legislative Council. This dual scheme of governance was known as ‘dyarchy’—a term derived from the Greek word di-arche which means double rule. However, this experiment was largely unsuccessful.
3. It introduced bicameralism and direct elections in the country. Indian Legislative Council was replaced by a bicameral legislature consisting of an Upper House (Council of State) and a Lower House (Legislative Assembly). The majority of members of both the Houses were chosen by direct election.
4. It required that the three of the six members of the Viceroy’s executive Council (other than the commander-in-chief) were to be Indian.
5. It extended communal representation by providing separate electorates for Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians and Europeans.
6. It granted franchise on the basis of property, tax or education.
7. High Commissioner for India in London was created and transferred some of the functions performed by the Secretary of State for India.
8. Public service commission was established to recruit civil servants.
9. It separated provincial budgets from the Central budget
10. A commission to be appointed to look in to working of this act after ten years of its coming in to force. i.e simon commission
Government of India Act of 1935
The Act marked a second milestone towards a completely responsible government in India. It was a lengthy and detailed document having 321 Sections and 10 Schedules.
1. It provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of provinces and princely states as units.
2. The Act divided the powers between the Centre and units in terms of three lists—Federal List (for Centre, with 59 items), Provincial List (for provinces, with 54 items) and the Concurrent List (for both, with 36 items). Residuary powers were given to the Viceroy. However, the federation never came into being as the princely states did not join it.
3. Abolished dyarchy in the provinces and introduced ‘provincial autonomy’ in its place. Provincial autonomy came into effect in 1937 and was discontinued in 1939.
4. It provided for the adoption of dyarchy at the Centre. Consequently, the federal subjects were divided into reserved subjects and transferred subjects. However, this provision of the Act did not come into operation at all.
5. Introduced bicameralism in six out of eleven provinces. Thus, the legislatures of Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Bihar, Assam and the United Provinces were made bicameral consisting of a legislative council (upper house) and a legislative assembly (lower house). However, many restrictions were placed on them.
6. Extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labour (workers).
7. It abolished the Council of India, established by the Government of India Act of 1858. The secretary of state for India was provided with a team of advisors.
8. Extended franchise. About 10 per cent of the total population got the voting right.
9. Reserve Bank of India was established to control the currency and credit of the country.
10. Established Federal Public Service Commission, Provincial Public Service Commission and Joint Public Service Commission for two or more provinces.
11. Federal Court was established and was setup in the year 1937.