Modern India

Modern India History – The Government of India Act – 1858-1947 – Exam Free Study Materials

The Government of India Act refers to any one of a series of Acts passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom to regulate the government of British India, in particular:

Sepoy Mutiny 1857

’Indian Mutiny, also called Sepoy Mutiny or First War of Independence, widespread but unsuccessful rebellion against British rule in India in 1857–59. Begun in Meerut by Indian troops (sepoys) in the service of the British East India Company, it spread to Delhi, Agra, Kanpur, and Lucknow.

Government of India Act of 1858

This significant Act was enacted in the wake of the Revolt of 1857—also known as the First War of Independence or the ‘sepoy mutiny

The act known as the Act
for the Good Government of India.
It changed the designation of the Governor-General of India to that of Viceroy of India. He was the direct representative of the British Crown in India.Lord Canning thus became the first Viceroy of India. It ended the system of double government by abolishing the Board of Control
and Court of Directors.

It created a new office, Secretary of State for India, vested with complete
authority and control over Indian administration.Established a 15-member Council of India to assist the secretary of state for
India. The council was an advisory body. The secretary of state was made the chairman of the council.

It constituted the secretary of state-in-council as a body corporate, capable of suing and being sued in India and in England.

Indian Councils Act of 1861

It made a beginning of representative institutions by associating Indians with the law-making process. In 1862, Lord Canning, the then viceroy, nominated three Indians to his legislative council.The Raja of Benaras, the Maharaja of
Patiala and Sir Dinkar Rao.

The Council initiated the process of decentralisation by restoring the legislative powers to the Bombay and Madras Presidencies. It also provided for the establishment of new legislative councils for Bengal,
North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) and Punjab, which were established in 1862, 1866 and 1897 respectively.

The Act also gave a recognition to the ‘portfolio’ system, introduced by Lord Canning in 1859.• It empowered the Viceroy to issue ordinances, without the concurrence of the legislative council, during an emergency. The life of such an ordinance was six months.

Indian Councils Act of 1892

The Act 1892 increased the number of additional (non-official) members in the Central and provincial legislative councils, but maintained the official majority in them.It increased the functions of legislative councils and gave them the power of discussing the budget and addressing questions to the executive.
The act made a limited and indirect provision for the use of election in filling up some of the non-official seats both in the Central and provincial legislative

Indian Councils Act of 1909

This Act is also known as Morley-Minto Reforms. It considerably increased the size of the legislative councils, both Central and provincial. It retained official
majority in the Central Legislative Council but allowed the provincial legislative councils to have non-official majority.It enlarged the deliberative functions of the legislative councils at both the levels.

The Act provided (for the first time) for the association of Indians with the executive Councils of the Viceroy and Governors. 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.

Government of India Act of 1919

The Government of India Act of 1919 was thus enacted, which came into force in 1921. This Act is also known as Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. It relaxed the central control over the provinces by demarcating and separatingthe central and provincial subjects. The central and provincial legislatures wereauthorised to make laws on their respective list of subjects. It further divided the provincial subjects into two parts transferred and reserved. The transferred subjects were to be administered by the governor with
the aid of ministers responsible to the legislative Council. The reserved subjects, on the other hand, were to be administered by the governor and his executive council without being responsible to the legislative Council.

The introduced, for the first time, bicameralism and direct elections in the country.Thus, the Indian Legislative Council was replaced by a bicameral legislature consisting of an Upper House (Council of State) and a Lower House (Legislative Assembly). It required that the threeof the six members of the Viceroy’s executive Council (other than the commander-in-chief) were to be Indian.
The act extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for Sikhs, Indian Christians,Anglo-Indians and Europeans. It granted franchise to a limited number of people on the basis of property, tax or education.
It separated, for the first time,provincial budgets from the Central budget and authorised the provincial legislatures to enact their budgets.

Government of India Act of 1935

The Act provided for the establishment of an All-India Federation consisting of provinces and princely states as units. The Act divided the powers between the Centre and units in terms of three list Federal List (for Centre, with 59 items),Provincial List (for provinces, with 54 items) and the Concurrent List (for both,with 36 items). Residuary powers were given to the Viceroy. However, the federation never came into being as the princely states did not join it.

The act abolished dyarchy in the provinces and introduced ‘provincial autonomy’ in its place. The provinces were allowed to act as autonomous units of administration in their defined provided for the adoption of dyarchy at the Centre. Consequently, the federal subjects were divided into reserved subjects and transferred subjects. However,
this provision of the Act did not come into operation at all.It introduced bicameralism in six out of eleven provinces.It further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labour(workers). It abolished the Council of India, established by the Government of India Act of 1858. The secretary of state for India was provided with a team of advisors.

It extended franchise. About 10 per cent of the total population got the voting right. It provided for the establishment of a Reserve Bank of India to control the currency and credit of the country.It provided for the establishment of a Federal Court, which was set up in 1937.

Indian Independence Act of 1947

This Act ended the British rule in India and declared India as an independent and sovereign state from August 15,1947. It provided for the partition of India and creation of two independent dominions of India and Pakistan with the right to secede from the British Commonwealth.It abolished the office of viceroy and provided, for each dominion, a governor general, who was to be appointed by the British King on the advice of the dominion cabinet.

This Act empowered the Constituent Assemblies of the two dominions to frame and adopt any constitution for their respective nations and to repeal any act of the British Parliament, including the Independence act itself.It empowered the Constituent Assemblies of both the dominions to legislate for their respective territories till the new constitutions were drafted and enforced.No Act of the British Parliament passed after August 15, 1947 was to extend to
either of the new dominions unless it was extended thereto by a law of the
legislature of the dominion.It abolished the office of the secretary of state for India and transferred his
functions to the secretary of state for Commonwealth Affairs.It proclaimed the lapse of British paramountcy over the Indian princely states and treaty relations with tribal areas from August 15,1947. It granted freedom to the Indian princely states either to join the Dominion of India or Dominion of Pakistan or to remain independent.

The act provided for the governance of each of the dominions and the provinces by the Government of India Act of 1935, till the new Constitutions were framed. The dominions were however authorised to make modifications in the Act.
It deprived the British Monarch of his right to veto bills or ask for reservation of certain bills for his approval. But this right was reserved for the Governor General. The Governor-General would have full power to assent to any bill in the
name of His Majesty.It designated the Governor-General of India and the provincial governors as constitutional (nominal) heads of the states. They were made to act on the advice of the respective council of ministers in all matters.

The act dropped the title of Emperor of India from the royal titles of the king of England. It discontinued the appointment to civil services and reservation of posts by the secretary of state for India. The members of the civil services appointed before August 15, 1947 would continue to enjoy all benefits that they were entitled to till that time. At the stroke of midnight of 14–15 August, 1947, the British rule came to an end and power was transferred to the two new independent Dominions of India and Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten became the first governor-general of the new Dominion of India.He swore in Jawaharlal Nehru as the first Prime Minister of independent India.
The Constituent Assembly of India formed in1946 became the Parliament of the Indian Dominion.

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