The increasing demands for a greater role in the government of the country had contributed to the need for an act like Government of India Act 1935. The Government of India Act of 1919 was not satisfactory and it was too short in terms of its provisions for the self-government form to be imposed on the country. Indian politicians were frustrated with the fact that the areas they believed were there’s was in reality in the control of the British. In order to make changes to this matter and resolve it, the matter was reviewed in the Simon Commission report. However, it was not adequately dealt with in the report and this led to it being reviewed in the consequent round table conferences and after the discussion of the same in the Third Round Table conference, a Bill was formulated and passed by the British Parliament. This bill came to be known as the Government of India Act of 1935.
PROVISIONS OF THE ACT
As mentioned before, the Act was formulated and brought into existence after the Simon Commission Report and the Round Table Conferences. It was the longest legislation that had been passed by the British Parliament during their period of dominance over India and therefore it had a large number of provisions enclosed within it. Before looking at the provisions more in detail , the salient features of the Act will be enumerated and this will help in the understanding of the major and minor provisions of the act.
The salient features were:
- The Act had proposed for the establishment of an organized body consisting of the provinces of British India and Princely states which would be known as an All-India Federation
- The Act provided for the setting up of a Federal Legislature
- The Act did in certain aspects symbolize the British dominance over Indians
- The Act gave birth to a system of Provincial Autonomy as a replacement for the system of dyarchy that existed
- Provided for the adoption of dyarchy at the Center
- Setting up of a federal court was instructed by the Act
- There was provisions for separate electorates given to Sikhs, Muslims and others
- Reorganization of provinces
- It proposed the expansion of the Universal Adult Franchise from the old 3% of the population to 14% of the population
- It proposed the establishment of the Reserve Bank of India in order to control and regulate currency and credits of the country.
- The Act abolished the Council of India that had been set up in accordance with the Government of India Act of 1858.
- It gave exclusively to the Governor the Critical Emergency powers
ANALYSIS OF THE ACT
As a nation under the dominance of the British, India was in dire need of hope for independence in some form and it was during this time of frustration the Government of India Act of 1935 was formulated. This Act holds great importance in Indian history and there are many reasons for this which will be discussed. It was the first time the concept of Provincial Autonomy was introduced into India. It gave greater freedom to provinces of British India and also eased governance. This concept was a highly motivating and beneficial concept brought into a country which had a large number of provinces and helped in the progress towards independence. This ease in governance was also helped by the division of subjects between the Provinces and Center. It had also provided for safeguards for minorities and provisions for safeguarding the interests of Princely States. Minorities got reservations and separate electorates while the princely states were provided with seats in the All-India Federation which was one of the most important provisions of the Act. There was also more clarity in disputes as they had set up a federal court to settle disputes regarding the constitution and this helped with easier functioning of the government in general. With all these provisions coming into existence, the Act showed great promise to people in ensuring their welfare but it failed in delivering on its promises. The Act resulted in failure owing to 3 main reasons.
The first of the reasons of failure was the failure of the concept of the failure of the concept of the All-India federation. This happened because the Indian National Congress which was the then largest Indian political body comprised of a large group of politically aware Indians refused to join hands with the British for the formation of the All-India federation because the representatives and the representation power of the Princely States was still in the hands of the British and hence this was against the requirement of the Indian National Congress which wanted the representation powers to be in the hands of the Indian and therefore they did not agree with the formation of the All-India federation.
The second reason was that the act failed to provide any form of flexibility to the people on a constitutional level in terms of their amendments of their rights. This was a topic that was of great importance to the people and the power for the same was in the hands of the British government. In the eyes of the people, this represented a disregard for the wishes of the people and the new Act did not make any amendments to this situation which was a pressing issue for the citizens and hence this was another reason the Act was not as effective as it should have been.
The last reason was the absence of provisions for providing a proper federal structure and Dominion Status. As a nation that was looking for gaining its independence from the clutches of the British, a new federal structure and Dominion Status was a step forward to the achievement of this goal. The Act instead of providing for these needs, placed a majority of the power in the hands of the Governor-General who was a channel for the British to exert their dominance. With the absence of a federal structure and the Governor General not being responsible for the Central Government, the governance of the country was in shambles which discouraged the people from believing in the Act bringing a great change.
Therefore, the Act was unable to provide the people with what it had proposed and had instead provided the people with changes that they considered unnecessary while the real concerns of the people were ignored by the British who aimed at expressing their dominance over the Indians and India through this Act.
Despite the disadvantages described above, the Government of India Act of 1935 did have its own importance. Despite the fact that many Indians especially those among the politically aware vehemently disliked the act, it played a crucial role in the paving the road for India’s independence. It had proposed many salient features such as the creation of an All-India Federation, provisions for safeguards, reservations etc. In terms of provinces especially, the new act of 1935 was an improvement over the previous situation. This Act also laid down the groundwork for negotiations between the British and the Indians with regards to their independence from the former. The Government of India Act of 1935 also did include a number of characteristics within it that would subsequently become a part of the foundation of our current Constitution.
However, when viewed at from a broader perspective, it was fairly evident that a greater part of the act was formulated to protect the interests of the Britishers rather than the Indians. After the attainment of independence from the Britisher’s, India repealed the Government of India Act of 1935 and replaced it with the Constitution of India of 1950, that exists today, that all citizens of India obey and follow.
- 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.
- 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
- Anubhav Pandey, Government of India Act, 1935, IPLEADERS(July 2nd, 2018), https://blog.ipleaders.in/government-of-india-act-1935/
- Anonymous, The Government of India Act, 1935, SELFSTUDYHISTORY(March 8th, 2015), https://selfstudyhistory.com/2015/03/08/the-government-of-india-act-1935/
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