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Government of India Act of 1935

Government of India Act of 1935

Introduction

  • 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.

Background

  • There was a growing demand for constitutional reforms in India by Indian leaders.
  • India’s support to Britain in the First World War also aided in British acknowledgement of the need for the inclusion of more Indians in the administration of their own country.
  • The Act was based on:
    • Simon Commission Report
    • The recommendations of the Round Table Conferences
    • The White Paper published by the British government in 1933 (based on the Third Round Table Conference)
    • Report of the Joint Select Committees.

Features of the act

  • It provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of provinces and princely states as units. 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.
  • It abolished dyarchy in the provinces and introduced ‘provincial autonomy’ in its place. The provinces were allowed to act as autonomous units of administration in their defined spheres.
  • Moreover, the Act introduced responsible Governments in provinces, that is, the Governor was required to act with the advice of ministers responsible to the provincial legislature. This came into effect in 1937 and was discontinued in 1939.
  • 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.
  • It 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.
  • It further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (Scheduled Castes), women and labour (workers).
  • 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.
  • It extended franchise. About 10 percent of the total population got the voting right.
  • It provided for the establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of the country.
  • It provided for the establishment of not only a Federal Public Service Commission, but also a Provincial Public Service Commission and Joint Public Service Commission for two or more provinces.
  • It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937.

Conclusion

  • The Act of 1935 was condemned by nearly all sections of Indian opinion and was unanimously rejected by the Congress. The Indian National Congress demanded instead, the convening of a constituent assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise to frame a constitution for an independent India.
  • The significance of Government of India Act, 1935 can be best summed up in the words of the then Viceroy Lord Linlithgow himself: ” After all we framed the constitution….of 1935 because we thought it the best way… to hold India to the Empire.”  
  • The Government of India Act 1935, however, had introduced several features which later formed the nucleus of our Constitution.

 

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