After the transfer of power from the East India Company, the British had followed the policy of cooperation. To make it in function there were three Acts had been also passed in 1861, 1862, and 1909 but these policies hadn’t been proved successful. Therefore the British rulers had changed their opinion with reference to India. It was experienced that it was not enough to take cooperation of Indians but also it was needed that the formation of a responsible government is essential.

Therefore, in 1919 another Act was passed and the theory of partial responsibility was adopted. The theory of partial responsibility was given by the Indian Secretary General Montagu and the Governor General Chelmsford. Hence, it is defined as “The Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms” or “Mont-Ford Reform” or the “Government of India Act, 1919”.

Montagu and Lord Chelmsford arranged meeting with Indian nationalist leaders and formed a committee in which an Indian Bhupendra Nath Basu was also a member. The committee had formatted a document that was published in July 1918 that was called the Government of India Act, 1919.

Preface of the Government of India Act, 1919

In the preface of the Government of India Act following points were included:-

  • India is an integral part of the British Empire.
  • A responsible Government is established in India which is only possible by the gradual development.
  • The participation of Indians will increase progressively.
  • Autonomous administrative institutions will be gradually increased.
  • With the development of autonomous administrative institutions the control of central government will be removed from the Provinces.

Reason to Pass Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms

In 1919, the reasons behind the regulation of Montagu–Chelmsford Reform are following:-

Dissatisfaction with the Morley-Minto reform: The Morley-Minto reform was erroneous and inadequate. No Indian sects were satisfied with the reform. The Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms blew the hope of the Indian nationalist leaders who were struggling for the absolute independence. The Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms was regressive in many ways as it adopted the communal representation system and planted communalism in India.

Although the practice of election was adopted yet its practical importance remained equal. The central government’s control on Local and provincial institutions had been made even more firm. Therefore the movement by the Indian nationalist leaders became even faster because the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms never satisfied the Indian people.

Government Policy of Subjugation

The British Government adopted the policy of reform to please the liberals and suppressing policy against the insurgents but neither their policy pleased the liberals, nor they could suppress the insurgents. Their oppressive policy was criticized and the moment became more aggressive and the revolutionists and insurgents became more active.


Change in the Muslim Attitude towards the Government

The biased policies of the British had greatly encouraged the Muslims and they bowed down to a great extent. The concept of separate election made the intimacy of friendship also thickened but some incidents had happened that awaken the Muslims and they became the adversary of the British.

In 1911, when the British had divided Bengal, the faith in the government started rising among the Muslims. The Muslims were in suspicion after the policies adopted by the British against the Muslims in the Turkey- Balkan war.

On the other hand the national newspapers and magazines showed sympathy towards the Muslims that brought the Muslims closer to the Indian National Congress. The effect of Aligarh movement was getting decrease among the Muslims and the nationalist Muslims were dominating on the Muslim League.

Now the view of the Muslim League became nationalist and progressive. The sessions of Muslim League and Indian National Congress were held on the same day in Lucknow and both had made the similar plan which is known as “Lucknow Pact”. That was a great historical event that tied the knot between the two communities into the source of unity.

The Effect of the First World War

In 1914 the First World War broke out. The British had started showing sympathy towards the Indians to get their support and announced many changes. Indians had also shown their generosity and heartily helped the British in the war. Lord Harding had behaved well with the Indians and shown his sympathy on the Indian Diaspora living in South Africa. Lord George Hamilton declared that all nations would have a right to build their fate.

The Allied Force said that they were not fighting for their selfishness but they entered into the war for good reasons and to save the democracy in the world. Since the British were stressed on the safety of democracy and self-decision right to the subordinate nations, hence a ray of hope was seen in the Indians.  They thought that after the war they would have the right of self-governance.

But the British had not fulfilled the conditions after the end of the war. Therefore, in the leadership of Smt. Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak ‘Home-rule movement’ was launched. This movement was fiercely suppressed by the British. Therefore, the consciousness and awakening among the Indians had been increased and the national unity has reached its zenith.


Letter of Memorandum by the Central Legislative Assembly

When the members of the Central Legislative Assembly knew the reform proposal advocated by Lord Chelmsford, the 19 elected members of the assembly including Jinnah, Sri Niwas Shastri, and Surendra Nath Banerjee had submitted a “Letter of Memorandum” to the British Government. In the memorandum, it was mentioned that not only the best government or skilled administration was enough but also such a government was needed that became responsible to the people. The memorandum also defined some suggestions that are given here under:

  • The number of Indian Members in the legislative and executive Council must be 50%.
  • In the Legislative Councils there should be the majority of the elected members.
  • Minorities get proper representation.
  • The post of secretary general should be abolished and the provinces should be classified autonomous.

Event of Mesopotamia

The event of Mesopotamia had largely affected the Indian constitutional development. The total responsibility of the action against Turkey was upon the Indian government in which they were unsuccessful. In the Mesopotamia Commission report Indian government was blamed and demanded political reforms in the Indian sub-continent.

Petition Letter of the Duke, 1915

The former Lieutenant Governor and the member of Indian council, William Duke had presented a petition letter in which he had demanded and suggested to implement Diarchy in the provinces that will partially responsible. In his point of view it was an intermediate arrangement because it was not possible to establish a totally responsible government immediately in India. Although any written document was not available, nevertheless, it was a base of the 1919’s reform act.

Main Clauses of the Government of India Act, 1919

  • Change in Interim Government

The salary of Secretary General was paid through Indian revenue which was now paid through the British revenue. The post of Indian High Commissioner was created who along with the council became the agent of the Governor General. The control of provinces as well as the center was in his control.

  • Change in Indian Government

Change in the executive: Although no efforts were done to form a responsible government but many important posts were allotted to the Indians. In the executive of the Governor General three members had been appointed out of eight members and had been given the responsibility of major departments such as Law, education, labour, and industry.

Division of the Subjects: With new reforms the subjects were divided into two parts- the reserved and the transferred subjects. The subjects included in the Reserved subjects were under the control of Governor General. The subjects related to the national importance or those subjects who were related to more than one province like Foreign affairs, Political terms with other nations, communication, Postal services, civil and criminal law etc. were in Reserved list. The subjects in transferred list were health, local administration, education, land revenue, water resources, natural calamities, law and order, and agriculture etc. The subjects that were no mentioned are considered in the reserved list.

Change in legislative council: According to Government of India Act, 1919, in place of imperial legislative council a bilateral legislative council (Dyarchy) was established. Both houses were named as Council of State and Central Legislative Assembly.

Council of State: It was the upper house consisted of 60 members among whom 26 were nominated by the governor General and rest 34 were elected members. The council of state was partially renewed every year. The term of the council was of 5 years and the leader of the council was elected by the viceroy. The members were designated as ‘honourable’. The total powers remained in the hand of Governor General. Women had not given the right to join.

Power of vote was limited. Only those members had the right to vote whose total annual income was more than INR10, 000. Secondly the candidate must have the experience of any legislative council or he should be the member of senate of any university. Apart from this he must have a title holder. Therefore only 17,364 people could receive the power to vote out of crores.

Central Legislative Assembly: The lower house consisted of 145 members among which 41 were the nominated members while 104 were elected. The term of the assembly was of three years which could be increased by the Governor General. It is noteworthy that the elected assembly in 1936 was dissolved after 10 years. For this assembly the power to vote was also limited.

Powers of Central Legislative Assembly

Powers of Central Legislative Assembly are the following:

  • It could make law for all.
  • It could change or cancel the law.
  • Members had allowed putting motion and adjournment motion so that quick action could be taken.
  • The members had the right to freedom of speech.

The Government had put some control on the assembly. It was mandatory to take permission of the Governor General before presenting the bill on the following subjects:

  • Cancellation of ordinance of the Governor General or in Existing law and on the amendment bills.
  • The decisions in relation with the princely states.
  • Public loan or taxes.
  • Religion and customs.

In addition to the above Governor General could stop any bill if he felt any kind of threat to the empire. If the Legislative Assembly refused to pass any bill, the governor had the power to pass if the crown had permitted to do so and would be affected till 6 months. For passing any law the permission of Governor General was compulsory. It meant that the Veto power was in the hands of the Governor General.

Budget: The budget of the Government will be presented as the investment demands. Some issues depend upon the votes, some issues could be debated but it was not mandatory.

Establishment of Dyarchy: A vital change was observed in the provincial administration. As it was said in the Mont-Ford Report and repeated in the preface. The report suggested that the steps should be taken to form responsible government and maximum legislative and administrative power should be given to them. This was the objective behind the suggestion of the Mont-Ford Report and thus Dyarchy was established in India.


There were three major flaws in the Government of India Act, 1919:

  • In center the government was not responsible.
  • Separate franchise strengthened.
  • Establishment of Dyarchy in the provinces.

It was very difficult to execute the above three errors. However the Government of India Act-1919 had provided better reforms instead of the previous laws. There had some liberty in the franchise and direct elections were started. Apart from this Indians had got the opportunity to learn politics and administrative works.



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