20 Mar


The Act of 1919 did not make important changes at the Centre. The Indians felt that the Reforms of 1919 had not given them enough powers and they were dissatisfied with them. The Rowlett Act, the Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy, Martial Law and other sad happenings added to the resentment and bitterness of the people. The major Indian parties and influential sections of people in the country boycotted the Simon Commission. The recommendations of the Round Table Conferences were contained in a white paper which was published in 1933 and discussed in the parliament.

The Government of India Act, 1935

A committee was set up under the chairmanship of Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India, to consider the recommendations of the white paper. The report of the committee was published in 1934 which was contained in a Bill of Law. The report along with the Bill was presented in the British Parliament for approval. The Parliament passed the Bill which after the Royal assent on 24th July 1935 was enforced in the country as Government of India Act, 1935.

Salient Features of Act of 1935

It was the most important and most comprehensive legislation introduced by the British Government in India. The Act contained 14 parts and 10 schedules and consisted of two parts. 

Part I pertained to provincial subjects while Part II contained federal list of subjects. The Act came into operation on 1st April, 1937 except part II which could not be enforced until a specific number of Princely States acceded to the Indian Federation.

a) Provincial Reforms

The provincial reforms were as follows.

  • The provinces were given more authority and powers and for the first time the provinces were made the separate entities.
  • The system of Diarchy was scrapped in the provinces and introduced in the centre.
  • Three lists of subjects were drawn up which were the federal list, the provincial list and the concurrent list.
  • The provincial legislatures were given powers of legislation on provincial and concurrent subjects.
  • The provincial executive was handed over to the representatives of the people who were accountable before the provincial legislatures.
  • The country was divided into 11 provinces.
  • Responsible parliamentary system was introduced in the provinces. The provinces were given complete autonomy. The Ministers were to be chosen from the representatives of the people.
  • Every province was given a council of ministers whose advice was binding on the Governor. However, in the discharge of his responsibilities the Governor was to act under the general control of the Governor-General.
  • Special powers were given to the governors for the protection of the rights of the minorities.

b) Federal Part of the Act

The main provisions of the Federal part of the Act were as follows:

  • The Act proposed to give a federal form to the Indian Constitution.
  • The proposed Federal Legislature was a bicameral body consisting of the Council of States (Upper House) and the Federal Assembly (Lower House). 
  • The Council of State was to consist of 260 members, out of these 104 nominated by the rulers were to represent the Indian States, 6 were to be nominated by the Governor-General and 150 were to be elected. The Council of State was a permanent body and its members were to be chosen for nine years, one-third retiring every three years.
  • The Federal Assembly was to consist of 375 members, out of these, 250 members were to be representatives of British India and 125 of the Indian States. Its life was fixed at five years, unless dissolved earlier by the Governor-General.
  • Dyarchy was to be introduced at the Centre. The Federal subjects were to be divided into two parts--- Reserved (Governed by the Governor-General) and Transferred (Controlled by ministers responsible to the Legislature).
  • The division of legislative power is essential in a Federation.
  • A Federal Court of India was to be established.

An Appraisal of the Act of 1935

The Act of 1935 failed to satisfy various political sections of the country. The political leaders of India rejected it for it did not meet the demands of the different political factions. Quaid-e-Azam described it as “thoroughly rotten, fundamentally bad and totally unacceptable”. Rajgopalacharia, too, declared it as worst than the system of Dyarchy. Nehru condemned it as “a new chapter of slavery”.

The Federal System introduced by the Act of 1935 was defective in many ways. There was no guarantee of individual liberties neither it could give a workable dominion status. The people were not given their rights. All authority was vested in the Parliament which was under British influence. The system of Dyarchy which had failed in the provinces was introduced in the Centre without any prospective results. Vast authority was given to the Governors in the provinces and to the Viceroy in the Centre which was against the principle of democracy and provincial autonomy. The Minister of State could interfere in the Government services without any reason.

The Central part of the Act could not be enforced and was suspended for some time. However, the provincial part of the Act was enforced on 1st April 1937, under which the elections were to be held in the country.


The Act was a significant step towards self-rule in sub-continent, though the ultimate powers were not devolved. However, it initiated a political process which eventually lead to independence of Sub continent.

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