Montague-Chelmsford Reforms

Government of India Act, 1935 | Free History Notes

Among Indian leaders, there was a growing call for constitutional reform. The British acquiesced to Indian demands to include more Indians in the administration of their own country as a result of Indian support to Britain during the First World War. Simon Commission Report, Round Table Conference recommendations, White Paper published by the British government in 1933 (based on the Third Round Table Conference), Report of the Joint Select Committees.

Creation of an All India Federation

  • Federalism in British India was to consist of princely states and British India.
  • Provinces in British India were required to join the federation, but princely states were not required to do so.
  • Due to the lack of support from the required number of princely states, this federation never took place.

The Act divided powers between the centre and the provinces. The subject lists for each government were divided into three lists.

  • Federal List (Centre)
  • Provincial List (Provinces)
  • Concurrent List (Both)

The Viceroy was vested with residual powers.

Below is a table detailing some of the changes brought about by the Government of India Act, 1935:

1.Provincial autonomy
2.Diarchy at the centre
3.Bicameral legislature
4.Federal court
5.Indian Council

Provincial autonomy

  1. The Act gave provinces more autonomy.
  2. At the provincial level, the monarchy was abolished.
  3. Executive power was vested in the Governor.
  4. He was advised by a Council of Ministers. Ministers were accountable to provincial legislatures. They could also be removed by the legislature.
  5. However, governors still retained their special reserve powers.
  6. A provincial government could still be suspended by British authorities.

Diarchy at the centre

  1. Federal List subjects were divided into two categories: Reserved and Transferred.
  2. The Governor-General was responsible for administering the reserved subjects with the help of three counsellors appointed by him. They were not accountable to the legislature. Among these subjects were defence, ecclesiastical affairs (related to the church), foreign affairs, press, police, taxation, justice, power, and tribal affairs.
  3. There was a Governor-General and a Council of Ministers of no more than 10 ministers that administered the transferred subjects. The Council acted in confidence with the legislature. There were topics such as local government, forests, education, and health on this list.
  4. The Governor-General could interfere with transferred subjects too, however, if he had ‘special powers’.
  5. The 150 out of 156 representatives of British India were to be elected on communal basis while six were to be nominated by Governor General from amongst women, minorities and depressed classes. 
  6. It further extended the principle of communal electorate for depressed class (Scheduled castes) women and labour.

Bicameral Legislature

  1. There would be a bicameral federal legislature.
  2. The Federal Assembly (lower house) and the Council of States (upper house) were the two houses.
  3. Its term was five years.
  4. Princely states had representatives in both houses as well. There was no election of princely state representatives; it was the rulers who chose them. There would be elections for British India representatives. Many governors had to nominate representatives.
  5. Some provinces, such as Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Bihar, Assam, and the United Provinces, also introduced bicameral legislatures.

Federal Court

  1. At Delhi, a federal court was established to resolve disputes between provinces and between the center and the provinces.
  2. In addition to a Chief Justice, a maximum of six other judges would also serve.

Indian Council

  1. The Indian Council has been abolished.
  2. Instead, a team of advisors would be assigned to the Secretary of State for India.


  1. For the first time in India, direct elections were introduced by this Act.


  1. Sindh was split off from Bombay Presidency.
  2. Separation of Bihar and Orissa took place.
  3. Burma was separated from India.
  4. The British colonized Aden as well after it was separated from India.

Other points

  1. Both the provincial and federal Indian legislatures remained under the jurisdiction of the British Parliament.
  2. To control Indian railways, a Federal Railway Authority was set up.
  3. Among the provisions of the act was the establishment of the Reserve Bank of India.
  4. As part of the Public Service Act, federal, provincial, and joint commissions were established.
  5. It was a crucial step in the development of a responsible constitutional government in India.
  6. After independence, the Government of India Act 1935 was replaced by the Constitution of India.
  7. Despite granting autonomy to the provinces, the governors and viceroy had considerable ‘special powers’, which the Indian leaders considered to be undemocratic.
  8. In order to ensure that the Congress Party could never govern on its own, the British instituted separate electorates for communal purposes. Moreover, these electorates divided the people.

Frequently Asked Questions on Government of India Act 1935

Q 1. What are the main attributes of Government of India Act 1935?

Ans. Government of India Act, 1935 was passed with an aim to make further provision for the Government of India and was passed by the British Parliament in August 1935.

Q 2. Under whose supervision was the Government of India Act 1935 passed?

Ans. The Government of India Act 1935 was passed under the supervision of the British Government. It was the longest act enacted by the British Parliament at that time.

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