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Old Friday, December 16, 2011
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Default Government of India Act, 1919 (Montague-Chelmsford Reforms)

Government of India Act, 1919 (Montague-Chelmsford Reforms)


The reforms introduced by the Act of 1909 failed to satisfy the people of India. Some significant developments in 1909-1919 like World War I- 1914- 1918, change in Muslim League objectives, Lucknow Pact 1916 were happened. The Rowlett Committee presented its report to the Government in 1918 which contained very strict measures to be adopted against those who were found involved in the political activities against the Government. These incidents contributed a great deal towards a widespread sense of hatred towards the Government received an immeasurable fillip giving rise to large scale anti-British propaganda.

Montague-Chelmsford Reforms

The country was passing through the most critical and unstable period of its history. The British Government realized that something should be done for the Indians. The British government announced that gradual induction of Indians in all branches of government would be done. Gradual introduction of responsible government would be done. Commissioned ranks of Army would be given to the Indians. Mr. Montague, Secretary of State visited India from November 1917 to April 1918 and discussed the constitutional matters with Viceroy Lord Chelmsford and the Indian political leaders. The outcome was the government of India Act 1919.

Salient Features, Government of India Act, 1919

The Government of India Act, 1919 was based to a great extent on the Montague-Chelmsford Report. The following were the most important features of the Act, 1919.

Bicameral legislature was established in the Centre. The Upper House was known as the Council of State and the Lower House was named as Central Legislative Assembly. The membership of the Upper House was fixed at 60 members while the Lower House consisted of 146 members.
The Upper House was elected for 5 years and the Lower House for 3 years.
Separate electorate was retained for minorities.
Self-Government would be established gradually in India.
The system of Dyarchy was introduced in the provinces. The provincial subjects were divided into Reserved and Transferred ones.
The subjects were divided between the Centre and Provinces. The central subjects were Defence, Foreign Affairs, Currency, Railway and Telecommunication. The Provincial subjects included Education, Health, Irrigation and Local Government.
The Governor-Generalís Executive Council was responsible to the Secretary of State for India who was sitting in London.
The Governor-General retained the right to certify any legislation which he considered essential.

An Appraisal of the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms

The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms of 1919 conceded far less than the Lucknow Pact had demanded. The Act did not make important changes at the Centre. The bicameral system of legislature was introduced at the Centre but there was not appreciable increase in the powers of the legislature. In the domain of provinces, Dyarchy was introduced but it was unsound in principle and unworkable in practice. Such concessions were not acceptable to the Congress and the Muslim League. The Indians felt that the Reforms of 1919 had not given them enough powers and they were dissatisfied with them. The Rowlett Act, the Jullianwala Bagh Tragedy, Martial Law and other sad happenings added to the resentment and bitterness of the people.

The political circles declared these reforms as inadequate and unsatisfactory. Congress split into two factions over the question of accepting the Reforms, one group was in favour of accepting the Reforms while the other was for rejecting them. Muslim League too, was not very optimistic about the proposals as they did not contain any concrete suggestions about the introduction of self-rule in India. Thus the reforms introduced by the Act of 1919 failed to satisfy the people of India and the people did not think the 1919 Reforms worth for any consideration of attention.
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