The Government of India Act of 1919Introduction
The Government of India Act 1919 was an act of the British Parliament aimed at
increasing the participation of Indians in their own government. The Act was
based on the recommendations of a report by Edwin Montagu, Indian Secretary of
State at the time, and Lord Chelmsford, Governor-General of India from 1916 to
his 1921. The constitutional amendment established by this act is therefore
known as the Montague His Chelmsford Reform or Montford Reform. The sole purpose
of this law was to ensure Indian representation in government. This law
introduced reforms at both the central and state levels of government.
Features of the Government of India Act 1919Provincial Government
- Dictatorship introduced.
- The Governor-General was the Chief Executive of the State.
- Topics split into two lists: Reserved and Forwarded
- The Governor-General, along with his Executive Council, was responsible
for the reservation list. Subjects on this list included law and order,
irrigation, finance, and land income.
- Ministers were responsible for the subject of the forwarded list.
Subjects included were education, local government, health, excise tax,
industry, public works, and religious giving.
- These ministers were appointed from among the elected members of the
- The Executive Council, unlike the Ministers, was not accountable to the
- The Secretary of State and the Governor-General could intervene in
matters under the Reserved List, but their intervention was limited to the
- Increased the size of the state legislature. About 70% of the members of
parliament are currently elected
- There were community and class voters.
- Some women could also vote.
- The bill required the approval of the governor to pass.
- He also had veto power and could issue ordinances
Salient Features of the Act
Central Level Government
- The Governor-General may suspend ministers for any reason he deems
appropriate. In addition, he retained full control of finances.
- The Legislative Council could enact legislation, but it required the
consent of the Governor.
- The governor rejected the bill and was able to enact an ordinance.
- By law, the Governor-General became the chief executive officer.
- The governor's executive council consisted of his eight members, three
of whom were Indians.
- The Governor-General was able to reinstate subsidy cuts, approve bills
rejected by the Central Assembly, and enact regulations.
- The law introduced bicameral legislation. The House of Representatives
or Central Legislative Assembly and the Senate or Council of State.
- MPs were able to ask questions and petitions, propose deferrals and vote
on parts of the budget under the new reforms.
- Parliament had virtually no control over the Governor-General and his
- Composition of the House of Representatives:
The The House of Representatives consists of 145 members nominated or
indirectly elected by the provinces.
- 41 people were nominated (26 official members and 15 unofficial
- Composition of the House of Lords:
In the House of Lords, he has 60 members. The term of office is five years,
and members are male only.
- 26 were nominated and
- 34 were elected (20 generals, 10 Muslims, 3 Europeans and 1 Sikh).
Significance of the Act
- Parliament was addressed by the Governor.
- He could convene a session, postpone it, or even abolish it.
- The parliamentary term was his three years, and could be extended at the
Indians received secret information about the regime and realized their duty.
This instilled in the Indians a sense of nationalism and awakening, and they
moved towards achieving Swaraj's goals.
Expanding Voting Rights:
India has expanded electoral districts and people have started to understand the
importance of voting.
By this Act, State Autonomy existed in India. The law gave the people
administrative powers, and the government's administrative pressure was greatly
Disadvantages of the Act
Irresponsible Central Government:
Spread of Communism:
- At the pan-India level, no responsible government was provided for in
Limited Expansion of Voters:
- A flawed electoral system and limited voting rights failed to gain
popularity. It promoted a sense of communism with an independent electoral
Lack of Administrative Control:
- The Assembly's electorate was expanded to about 1.5 million, while
India's population was estimated at about 260 million.
Inadequate Subject Division:
- In the centre, the Legislature was unable to control the Viceroy and his
- State ministers could not control finances and bureaucracy. This creates
a certain amount of friction between the two. The 4,444-member cabinet was
often not consulted even on important issues, and could be overruled by the
governor-general on issues he considered special.
- The governor-general had unlimited powers and could make decisions
against decisions of councils and ministers.
- Almost all important administrative matters depended on the governor.
- Subject division was not satisfactory at the Center.
- The Central Assembly had little power and could not control finances.
- At the state level, the division of subjects and his parallel
administration into two parts was unreasonable and impracticable. His topics
such as irrigation, finance, policing, journalism and judiciary were
This Act provided for the establishment of the Public Service Commission for the
first time in India. The law also provided for a statutory commission to be set
up after ten years to examine government functions. As a result, the Simon
Commission was established in 1927. It also established the Indian High
Commission in London.
Written By: Joyleen Meki,
2nd Year Student, Lovely Professional
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