Administrative And Legislative Reforms In India During British Raj (1857-1947)

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Armed Rebellion or First War of Independence of 1857, gave strong message to the British Parliament that now the East India Company's rule was not possible in India. Immediately next year (1858) they passed a resolution and decided to assume sovereignty over India from the East India Company.

After that a long 90 years of ruling was continued till 15th August 1947. In these 90 years they came with various administrative and legislative reforms to satisfy the Indian politicians and independence leaders. Through these reforms they proposed participation of Indians in the governance of the country but they were mere lollipops nothing more significant.
But those Reforms and Acts became handy when the Constituent Assembly was assembled for making the Indian Constitution.
Also Read : Administrative And Legislative Reforms in India Before 1857

Government of India Act 1858
  • By this Act British Government became the direct ruler of India without any popular participation of Indians in the administration.
  • By this Act they exercised all the powers through the Secretary of State for India. The Secretary of State was being assisted by a 15 membered Council of India.
  • Whole country was divided into provinces with a Governor/Lieutenant Governor as a head and he was being assisted by an Executive Council.
  • These provincial government was under a Governor General who was responsible to the Secretary of State. And the Secretary of State was ultimately responsible to the British Parliament.

Indian Councils Act 1861

  • This was an important landmark in the constitutional history of India. For the first time in this Act, Indian people were associated into the expanded council of Governor General with the work of legislation.
  • This Act decentralized the legislative powers of the Governor Generals Council.

Indian Councils Act 1892

  • According to this Act the non-official members of the Indian Legislative Council were to be nominated from the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and the Provincial Legislative Council. Similarly the the non-official members of the Provincial Councils were to be nominated by local bodies such as universities, district boards, municipalities, zamindars etc.
  • These councils had powers to discuss the budget and to ask questions to the Executive.

Indian Councils Act 1909

  • This Act was the result of recommendation of the then Secretary of State for India (Lord Morley) and the Viceroy (Lord Minto), that's why this Act is popularly known as Morley-Minto Reforms. 
  • The main provisions of this Act was that the number of additional members of the Indian Legislative Council was increased from 16 to 60. Similarly the size of Provincial Legislative Councils was increased by including elected non-official members so that Official majority was gone.
  • An election was also introduced in the in the Indian Legislative Council but there Official majority was retained.
  • One​of the main provisions of this Act was that Legislative Councils was given powers to move resolutions on the budget, and on any matters of public interest except Foreign Affairs, Defence and Indian States.
  • This Act provided separate electorate for the Muslim community. This leads to the separation of India into many parts.

The Government of India Act 1915

  • This Act was only a consolidation of all the provisions of the preceding Government of India Acts into one Act.

The Government of India Act 1919

  • This Act was formulated by the then Secretary of State for India Mr. E.S. Montagu and the Governor General Lord Chelmsford formulated proposals for the Government of India Act,1919.
  • A 'Dyarchy' or dual Government system was introduced in all Provinces of India by forming a responsible Government in Provinces. However the powers of the Governor remained as it was.
  • The subjects of administration were divided between the Central and Provincial subjects. Central subjects were under full control of Central Government while Provincial subjects were under full control of Provincial Government.
  • Provincial subjects were further divided into two parts that is 'Transferred Subjects' and 'Reserved Subjects'. The Transferred subjects were to be exercised by the Governor with consultation of the Legislative Council in which proportion of elected members were increased to 70%. While the Reserved Subjects were to be exercised by the Governor and his Executive Council without any consultation with Legislative Council.
  • The Provinces were empowered to present their own provincial budget separated from the Central budget. Provinces were also given powers to levy taxes to raise the provincial revenue so that Provinces could run their administration with those revenues.
  • However the Central Government retained the power to legislate and rule for the whole country when it was needed. Also the control of Governor General over Provincial Government was retained by stating that, even though assented by the Governor, would become law only when it was assented by the Governor General also.
  • For the first time the legislation became'bi-cameral' that is it consists Upper House and Lower House both. The Upper House was named as the Council of State (composed of 60 members of whom 34 were elected) while the Lower House was named as the Legislative Assembly (composed of 144 members of whom 104 elected).
  • The most worse thing of this Act was that electorates were arranged on a communal background which led a massive division in Indian society which led to partition of India.

The Government of India Act 1935

  • This Act was framed on the basis of the reports of the Simon Commission, headed by Sir John Simon and constituted in 1927 to inquire into the working of the Act of 1919, placed its report in 1930. 
  • This Act became the fundamentals for the Constituent Assembly sat for framing the Indian Constitution. This Act is also known as the Mini Constitution of India.
  • This Act prescribed for a federal Government but it never came into ​being.
  • By this Act the Executive powers a Province was also exercised by by a Governor on behalf of the British Crown and not as a subordinate of the Governor General.
  • The Executive powers of the Centre was vested in the Governor General (on behalf of the British Crown).
  • The central legislature was bi-cameral, consisting of Federal Assembly and the Council of State. Similarly in six Provinces, the legislature was bi-cameral, consisting of a Legislative Assembly and a Legislative Council. In other Provinces, the Legislature was uni-cameral.
  • Every bills passed by the Central Legislature was subjected to the veto of Governor General and the British Crown.
  • The Governor General had powers to stop discussion on any pending bills, if he found that it would affect his special powers and responsibilities. Additionally the Governor General had independent powers of legislation besides the Legislature of the Centre and Provinces. And also on some subjects no bill or amendment could be introduced in the Legislature without the prior approval of the Governor General.
  • In this Act there was a three fold division of the subjects of administration and legislation. There was a Federal List of Subjects on which the Federal Legislature had exclusive powers of legislation, while there was a Provincial List of Subjects on which the Provincial Legislature had exclusive powers of legislation and there was one more list of subjects that was Concurrent list on which both of the Legislatures had competence. The subjects which were not enumerated in either of the three lists, the Governor General had powers to legislate on those ones.
The Indian Independence Act 1947

  • This Act was simply the amendment of the Government of India Act 1935. This Act was the result of The Mountbatten Plan.
  • By this Act an interim Constituent Assembly was set up to draw the future Constitution of both India and Pakistan.
  • By this Act India ceased to be a Dependency, and the suzerainty of the British Crown over the Indian states. The treaty relations with Tribal Areas lapsed from that date. The office of the Secretary of the State was abolished and the Governor General lost extraordinary powers of legislation.
  • The Constituent Assembly was given powers to function as the Central Legislature with complete sovereignty.
In between the Acts of 1935 and 1947 there were three missions were sent to India, in which two of them were failed, those were 'Cripps Mission' and 'Cabinet Mission Plan'. The third and the successful one was 'The Mountbatten Plan'