Indian Councils Act of 1909
Indian Councils Act of 1909
- This Act is also known as Morley-Minto Reforms (Lord Morley was the then Secretary of State for India and Lord Minto was the then Viceroy of India).
- The Indian Councils Act 1909 was an act of the British Parliament that introduced a few reforms in the legislative councils and increased the involvement of Indians (limited) in the governance of British India.
Causes behind the introduction of Morley- Minto Reform
- Extremism was rising within the congress and in order to pacify the Moderates the govt accepted some of the demands of moderates in the form of Morley-Minto Reform.
- Govt also made efforts to win over the Muslims against the Hindus through Morley-Minto Reform.
- Congress was also demanding self-governance of Indians and in 1906 Congress demanded home rule for the first time (In Calcutta Session of congress which was presided by Dadabhai Naoroji the resolution of Swaraj was taken).
- Through Simla Deputation, a group of elite Muslims led by the Aga Khan met Lord Minto in 1906 as they observed that neither elections nor nominations are fulfilling the requirements of the Muslims and thus they demanded separate electorate for the Muslims.
- The group which was part of Simla Deputation formed Muslim League in 1906 itself. This newly formed organisation intended to preach Loyalty to British Empire and aimed to keep Muslim Intelligentsia away from the Congress in order to get its demand fulfilled.
Features of the Act
- It considerably 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.
- It retained official majority in the Central legislative council, but allowed the provincial legislative councils to have nonofficial majority.
- It 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.
- It provided (for the first time) for the association of Indians with the executive councils of the Viceroy and Governors.
- Satyendra Prasad Sinha became the first Indian to join the Viceroy’s executive council. He was appointed as the Law Member.
- It introduced a system of communal representation for Muslims by accepting the concept of ‘separate electorate’.
- Under this, the Muslim members were to be elected only by Muslim voters. Thus, the Act ‘legalised communalism’ and Lord Minto came to be known as the Father of Communal Electorate.
- It also provided for the separate representation of presidency corporations, chambers of commerce, universities and zamindars.
Assessment of the Morley-Minto reforms
- The Act introduced communal representation in Indian politics. This was intended to stem the growing tide of nationalism in the country by dividing the people into communal lines. The culmination of this step was seen in the partition of the country along religious lines. The effects of differential treatment of different religious groups can be seen to this day.
- The Act did nothing to grant colonial self-government, which was Congress’s demand.
- The Act did increase Indian participation in the legislative councils, especially at the provincial levels.
Negative Impacts of Morley-Minto Reform
- Separate constituencies were created to widen the ditch between the Muslims and Hindus. This system began an era of gross communalism in Indian polity.
- Morley-Minto Reform prevented people from concentrating on political and economic problems that were common to all Indians, irrespective of Hindu or Muslim.
- The size of the councils was increased but their functions and powers were not enlarged.
- Although non-official majority was there in the Provincial Councils, the actual result was not much appreciable since non-official majority was nullified by the election of nominated members.
- Under the Act the position of the Governor-General and his veto power remained unchanged.
- The members could discuss the budget but could not make any substantial change in the Budget.
- The resolutions were like recommendations and were not binding on the government.
- They could ask questions but could not force the executives to reply.
Merits of Minto-Morley Reforms
- Nevertheless, the Minto-Morley Reforms had some of their merits.
- They mark an important stage in the growth of representative institution, and one step ahead towards the responsible association of elected Indians with the administration.
- Further, it also gave recognition to the elective principle as the basis of the composition of legislative council for the first time. It gave some further avenues to Indians to ventilate their grievances.
- They also got opportunity to criticise the executives and make suggestions for better administration. The enlargement of the legislatures furthered the demand of complete indianization of the legislature.