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The Government of India Act 1935 - Modern Indian History

Update on 2024-04-15

The Government of India Act 1935 - Modern Indian History

The Government of India Act 1935: If you want detailed information about this Act, read this article. We have discussed various topics such as features of the Government of India Act 1935, the Importance of the Govt of India Act 1935, why the Government Act 1935 was passed, the reasons for its failure, and the History of GOI Act 1935, etc. So let's begin with some general information.

When was the Government of India Act 1935  was Enforced in? 

Well, the  Government of India Act 1935 was enforced in year 1935 and came into the effect in the year 1937. The introduction of the GOI Act 1935 led to the rise of the federal form of government in India. In simple words, this act played a major role in the formation of a "Federal India”.

Government of India Act 1935 History:

Why was the 1935 Indian Government Act introduced? When speaking about the history of the Government of India Act 1935, this question is the first one to strike our minds.

Well here are your answers:

The Government Act of India 1935  was formed to replace the Government Act of 1919. Since the late 19th century, Indian leaders were increasingly demanding greater involvement in the government.

During World War I, the contribution of India to the British war made the British authorities realize that there is a need to change some constitutional acts. This realization led to the enforcement of the GOI Act 1919. This act had given birth to a novel system of government which was called provincial diarchy which means that certain government sectors such as education will be ruled by ministers who were responsible to the provincial legislature.

On the other hand, other public and finance sectors will be governed by the British-appointed provincial government. Britishers were well aware of the fact that providing a bigger role to Indians in the government could lead to their downfall. Therefore they kept most power to themselves and then introduced the Government Act of 1919.

However, after some years of the enforcement of the 1919 Act, it had been noticed that the dyarchy was a failed act. So a review was conducted by Simon Commission and he prepared a report in which the demand for the scrapping of the act (diarchy) was stated and also a recommendation was made to introduce a larger act that can administer a responsible government in all the provinces.

Even after Simon Commission's report, the demands of Indian leaders were not fully accepted by the higher British authorities and they released their end conclusion for the Simon Commission’s report. The conclusions drafted by Britain were not satisfactory for the Indian Leaders, hence the conclusions weren't accepted by Congress (the biggest and most powerful political party of that time).

After which a round table conference was held in the early 1930s where the leaders of Indian Political parties and leaders of princely states came together to discuss the need for a new constitutional framework that allows the Indians to have an influential power in the government.

Government of India Act 1935 Features:

Below we have briefly explained the Salient features of the Government of India Act 1935. Candidates who are preparing for the Civil competitive exams should know that candidates are asked about the three main provisions of the Govt of India Act 1935 notes in the civil services exam, so read and understand these points carefully:

  1. Provincial Autonomy

The Government of India Act 1935 gave autonomy to all the provinces of India. Under this act, the Diarchy was abolished at the provincial levels and introduced at the central level and the Governer was made the head of the executive under this executive.

A council of Ministers was formed to provide advisory support to the governor, These ministers of the council were answerable and responsible for the legislatures who controlled them. However, the British authorities could still have the power to suspend or dissolve a provincial government.

  1. Diarchy was abolished in the provinces & Only Remained at the Centre

All the subjects under the Federal list were categorized into two:

  1. Transferred Subjects
  2. Reserved Subjects

The transferred subjects were under the authority of the Governor-General and administered by him and his council of ministers. The council was responsible to the legislature. Some of the transferred subjects included education, health, forests, and local governments.

On the other hand, reserved subjects were administered by the Government General and his three counselors. Unlike the transferred subject's Governor, they don't have to act in the confidence of the legislature and were not responsible to the legislature.

Sectors like defense, ecclesiastical affairs (church-related), external affairs, press, police, taxation, justice, power resources, and tribal affairs were included in the reserved subjects. However, the act has given special powers to the Governor-General to interfere in the transferred subjects as well.

  1. Established the Federal Court

The act also gave birth to the first Federal court of India, which was established in Delhi. The Federal Court was set up to resolve the dispute between the provinces and also between the center and the province. It had 1 Chief Justice and 6 or fewer than 6 judges.

  1. Bicameral Legislature

The Act has introduced the idea of forming a bicameral legislature. It is one of the most important features of the Government of India Act 1935. Bicameral legislature means a system of government in legislature comprised of two houses.

These two houses were the Federal Assembly which was established as the lower house and the other was the Council of States which was called the upper house. According to the Government of India Act 1935, the federal assembly had a term of five years.

  1. Franchise

 It was the Government of India Act that introduced the idea of conducting direct elections in India.

  1. Indian Council was abolished under the GOI Act 1935. Instead of an entire council, the Secretary of State for India would have a team of advisors

  2. Reorganization of India

  • Burma (now known as Myanmar) was separated from India, and Sindh was carved out from the Bombay Presidency.
  • Bihar and Odisha were separated to become two entirely different states.
  • Aden was also separated from British India and established as a separate colony of the U.K
  • Under this act, a federal Railway authority was established to oversee the Indian Railways.
  • The act later led to the establishment of the Reserve Bank of India (which is now the Central bank of India).
  • The GOI 1935 Act also led to the establishment of provincial, federal, and Joint Public Service Commissions.
Powers were Divided Under the Government of India Act 1935:

As we have already discussed, the GOI 1935 Act divided the powers into the central level and provincial level. The Viceroy was vested with all the residual powers.

There we three lists that divided the power under each level of government:

  • Federal List (Central)
  • Provincial List (Provinces)
  • Concurrent List (both)
Why did the Government of India Act 1935 Got Replaced Later?

Please note that the Government of India Act 1935 was later replaced by the Constitution of India. There were many reasons behind the failure of the Government Act 1935.

The major reason behind the failure of the Govt of India Act 1935 was that this act failed to provide an actual federal structure as the majority of the authoritative power still laid in the hands of the Governor-General. Precisely, the GOI Act 1935 failed to deliver what it was made for.

As we have discussed earlier, the Indian leaders were not truly satisfied with the laws stated under this act because despite granting provincial autonomy, the viceroy and governors still possessed "special powers and authorities" which was more than enough to abolish all the laws made to give power to the Indian leaders.

Also, the Act failed to deliver what it actually proposed, therefore the act was strongly opposed by the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. The Indian leader was well aware of the truth that by setting up separate communal electorates, the British wanted to ensure that the Congress Party cant gain enough power to rule on its own., It was basically their trickery to divide people.

Government of India Act 1935 Quick Facts:
  • The GOI Act 1935 was passed by British Parliament under the supervision of the British Government of India.
  • The Government of India Act of 1935 is the lengthiest act formed in British rule. It consisted of a total of 321 sections and 10 schedules.
  • The GOI Act 1935 is the last act passed by the British government in India before the partition of India in 1947.

After the act was passed, the government realized that the act is too lengthy to be regulated efficiently and therefore the government decided to split it into two acts:

  1. The GOI Act 1935
  2. The Government of Burma Act 1935
  • The GOI Act 1935 was derived from the discussions and recommendations made in the - Report of the Simon Commission, Third Round Table Conferences, The White Paper of 1933, and reports of the Joint Select Committees.

Signing Off:

Like any other Act, the Government of India Act 1935 has also some merits and demerits. But undoubtedly the formation of this act was a huge step toward the country's Independence. After the enforcement of this act, the circumstances changed to a great extent for India and there was no going back after that.

Finally, after 15 years of it being in practice, the act was replaced on 26 January 1950 with our very own "Constitution of India".

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