The 321 sections and 10 schedules, Government of India Act, was the longest act passed by the British parliament after its domination in the year 1935. It was an act born out of frustration when the Simon commission was appointed to review the political situation of the country. The introduction of Dyarchy in the 1919 act caused a lot of frustration among the Indian politicians.
Hence the Simon Commission report proposed the scrappage of the Dyarchy system and put the ‘responsible government in the province’ in place.
The 1935 act was based on Lord Linlithgow’s Joint Select Committee’s scrutiny of the ‘White paper’ constitutional scheme. Hence The White Paper scheme, the Third Round Table Conference and the reports issued by Lord Linlithgow’s Joint Select Committee stood to be the sources of the Government of India Act 1935.
Due to the regulation of efficiency and the length, the act was divided into two parts :
1)The Government of India Act, 1935
2)The Government of Burma Act,1935
The act was thoroughly criticised by all the political parties except the National Liberal Federation. It was called “slave constitution that attempted to strengthen and perpetuate the economic bondage of India” by the National Congress. In order to undermine the act, the national Congress motivated it’s members to fight the elections and procure posts in the provincial legislature in order to subvert the act.
Even though the act faced lengths of criticism, it provided a new prospective to the affairs of the country through the removal of the dyarchy system, development of the All India federation, provisional autonomy and it played an indispensable role in the drafting of the Constitution of India, 1950 as a enormous chunk of the constitution especially the administrative chunk was provided by the act.
IMPORTANT PROVISIONS OF THE ACT
The most important provisions of the act are:
1) All India Federation:
The act created an All India Federation which included the Indian States and the British Indian Provinces. 6 chief commissioner provinces, 11 governors provinces and a few states which agreed to merge in the federation were constitute units of the All India federation. The terms of joining who mentioned in the instrument of accession and it was purely upon the discretion of the state whether they wanted to join or not. Each individual unit enjoyed complete autonomy in its internal affairs and according to the 1935 act India would become a federation of 50% of the stage would decide to join. The required number of princely states failed to join, leading to the provisions of the federation not being implemented.
2) Provincial Autonomy:
One of the most noteworthy and reclaiming feature of the act was the beginning of the Provincial Autonomy. This feature was definitely a big step up from the act of 1919. In this the provinces India define spheres were allowed to act as autonomous units of administration.
It came into effect in 1937 and was discontinued in 1939.
Except for law and order, the Council of Ministers has the authority to handle provincial matters. The government, which had powers superior to the Council of Ministers, had the authority to administrate on the issue of law and order.
The Centre’s control over provincial subjects was reduced after the commencement of this Act. Ministers were unable to exert their authority over their departments in a free and independent manner. The governor rarely used his dominating powers over the ministers and auntie advice of the viceroy he took complete control of the provincial government at the time of political breakdown.
The strategy for creating the federation and establishing provincial autonomy paved the way for the division of subjects between the Centre and the Provinces. The Government of India Act, 1919, divided subjects into three lists, which were updated and expanded by this Act of 1935: 1) Federal list 2) Provincial list 3) Concurrent list.
3) Division of Subjects:
As mentioned above the strategy for creating the federation and establishing provincial autonomy led to division of subjects between the centre and the provinces. The federal list consisted of 59 items, the provincial list consisted of 54 items and the concurrent list consisted of 36 items.
The established subjects worked for an overall all India interest and provided a uniform treatment in the federal list as only the federal legislature could make laws on the federal subjects. The subjects that mainly focused on local interest were placed in the provincial list which were wholly within the jurisdiction of the provincial legislatures for the purpose of legislation. The Concurrent list includes subjects which were primarily provincial interests but also required uniform treatment throughout the country.
Therefore, The Government of India act authorises the federal and provincial legislature to pass laws on those subjects and when conflict arises the federal law will prevail. At the time of conflict the constitution add authorised the Governor General of the country to distribute Indians discretion ‘the right to legislate’ on any items which are not included in the lists over the centre run the province.
4) Dyarchy at Centre:
By the establishment of the act, the dyarchy system was adopted battery central level and the federal subjects what divided into 2 categories.
1) Reserved subjects
2) Transferred subjects
– Reserved Subjects: The subjects mentioned in this following category , word dispensed by the Governor General on the particular advice of the executive councillors which had a maximum limit of 3 members. topics such as defence , external affairs, administration of the areas populated by tribals and religious affairs work counted as reserved subjects.
-Transferred subjects- : These subjects will be the Spence on the advice of the ministers who would not exceed the limit of 10 members. Subjects which were not mentioned under reserved they were dealt by the transferred subjects.
Both the Reserved and Transferred subjects remained within the Governor general’s control. He was also in charge of coordinating work between the two wings and encouraging councillors and ministers to have joint deliberations. The idea of dyarchy was enforced upon to improve administration, and the governor general was elected to oversee and coordinate the two parts.
5) Bicameral Legislature:
Under the act the central legislature was bicameral in nature which consisted of the Council of states and the Federal Assembly.
The upper house consisted of the council of states, which was a permanent body in which 1/3 of the members retired every 3rd year. the upper house consisted of 260 members, 156 were representatives of the British India and 104 were of the Indian states.
The lower house was the federal assembly, which had 375 members in which 250 were the representatives of British India and 125 from the princely states having a tenure of 5 years.
The princely state seats were to be filled by the nominated members only but provinces were given different number of seats.
“It also 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) Abolition of the Indian Council:
The act caused The India council to be discontinued and provided for the appointment by the Secretary of State and his advisors who have to be more than 3 members and less than 65. Due to the introduction of provincial autonomy the control over the transferred subjects by the Secretary of State was greatly diminished but list controlled remained intact when it came to discretionary powers of the Governor General and the governors.
7) Federal court :
The act provides for the establishment of a federal court which would help in interpreting the act an advocating all the federal related matters. The federal court quit consists of one single Chief Justice and a maximum of 6 judges. The court was provided with exclusive original jurisdiction to decide all the matters between the constituent units and the centre.
Appeals from High Courts to the Federal Court and from the Federal Court to the Privy Council were made possible. The Federal Court could also issue Special Leave to Appeal, although such appeals required a certificate from the High Court.
8) Federal Railway Authority:
The command of the railway was given onto the new authority call the federal railway authority by the 1935 act. The authority consisted of 7 members who were free from all forms of control by the counsellors and ministers as the authority directly reported to the Governor General. The main reason the authority was established was in order to reassure the British stakeholders that their investment in the railway was safe.
9) Increase in the Size of Legislatures and Extension of Franchise: The Act’s extension of franchise was another feature. Nearly 10% of the population was granted the right to vote. For the first time in India, this Act established direct elections.
1) Diva Rai, Government of India Act, 1935, IPLEADERS, (August 5th, 2019), https://blog.ipleaders.in/government-of-india-act-1935-2/#:~:text=The%20Government%20of%20India%20Act%2C%201935%20was%20the%20lengthiest%20Act,for%20safeguards%20and%20reservation%2C%20etc.
2) Dr. Deepti Tiwari, Government of India Act 1935:Main Features, MAGADHMAHILA(February 7th, 2017), http://magadhmahilacollege.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Government-of-India-Act-1935-converted-1.pdf.
3) Anonymous, The Government of India Act, 1935, SELFSTUDYHISTORY(March 8th, 2015), https://selfstudyhistory.com/2015/03/08/the-government-of-india-act-1935/.
4) Anubhav Pandey, Government of India Act, 1935, IPLEADERS, (July 2nd, 2018), https://blog.ipleaders.in/government-of-india-act-1935/.
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