The Mont-Ford (Montegue Chelmsford) commission submitted its report in 1918. It professed to paveway for self-government in India, however it also aimed at appeasing Indians to persuade to supportBritish during First World War (1914-18). For the first time government showed its intention of gradualintroduction of responsible government in India.The Government of India Act, 1919 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It was passedto expand participation of Indians in the government of India. The Act covered ten years, from 1919 to1929. This retraction of British imperialism was also partially a result of India’s enthusiastic participationin World War I and continued struggle of Indians which was growing stronger.
The structure of this Act also allowed Britain to use the Princely States (who were directly represented inthe Council of States) to offset the growing power of the native political parties.The main provisions were the following –I. Provincial Diarchy (Dual Rule) – The Act provided a dual form of government (a ‘diarchy’) forthe major provinces. It relaxed control over provinces by demarcating subjects as ‘centralsubjects’ and ‘provincial subjects’. Provincial subjects were further divided as –a. Reserved Subjects – Administered by governor with the help of his ‘Executive Council’.The ‘reserved list’ included Defence (the military), Foreign Affairs, and Communications.
b. Transferred Subjects – Administered by Governor with the aid of ‘Ministers’ responsiblefor ‘Provincial Legislative Council’. The ‘transferred list’ included Agriculture, supervisionof local government, Health and Education.This dual system of government was known as ‘Diarchy’. This new system, however, failed togain popular acceptance and Simon Commission recommended that Diarchy should be doneaway with and 1935 Act did the same.II. For the first time introduced ‘Direct Elections’ and limited franchise was granted on the basis oftax paid, education, property etc. in the countryIII.
A bicameral system at center (the Central Legislature would comprise two chambers – theCouncil of State and the Indian Legislative Assembly) was introduced and majority members ofboth the houses in this bicameral system were directly chosen.IV. Establishment of unicameral Provincial Legislative councils.V. The Central Legislature was empowered to enact laws on any matter for whole of India.VI. Separate Electoral provision of Morley Minto was retained.VII.
The Governor General was given powers to summon, prorogue, dissolve the Chambers, and topromulgate ordinances. Thus, despite reserved and transferred list, governor general reignedsupereme.VIII. The number of Indians in Viceroy’s Executive Council was increased to three out of eightmembers. The number was increased, however the council still remained at best an advisorybody and no real power conferred.Review Provision for Reforms – The Montagu-Chelmsford report stated that there should be a reviewafter 10 years. Sir John Simon headed the committee (Simon Commission) responsible for the reviewwhich recommended further constitutional change.
Three Round Table Conferences were also held inLondon later in 1930, 1931 and 1932 with representation of the major interests to consider furtherconstitutional measures. Gandhi attended the 2nd Round Table Conference of 1931 after negotiationswith the British Government.One important significance of the reforms was that, demand by nationalists for self-government orHome Rule couldn’t be termed as seditious since attainment of self-government for Indians nowofficially became a government policy which was indicated in August Declaration of Montegue.The 1919 reforms did not satisfy political demands in India for various reasons –? These measures were rammed through the Legislative Council with the unanimous opposition ofthe Indian members.
Indians were resentful that British would decide what was good and whatwas bad for Indians. Several members of the council including Jinnah resigned in protest.? The British repressed opposition, and restrictions on the press and on movement were reenacted in the Rowlett Act introduced in 1919.
? Other major disagreement between Congress and the British was separate electorates for eachcommunity which Congress opposed but which were retained in Ramsay MacDonald’s’IndianCommunal Award’ of 1932.Another faction of Congress wanted to go ahead with constitutional means and were in favor ofaccepting government proposals. Led by Surendranath Banarjee, they formed ‘Indian Liberal Federation’and were known as Liberals. They, however, failed to make an impact on Indian political scene anddidn’t perform well in any elections.