The Defence of India Act 1915 was a law that gave the Government of British India special powers to restrict German-inspired revolutionary threats that had begun to sow seeds among revolutionary nationalists in India during World War I (1914-18)
Defence of India Act 1915 History
Punjab, Bengal, and Maharashtra had become the epicentre of violence among revolutionary nationalists against British rule in India. Some of the aggressive government strategies undertaken by the British Government in the early 20th century further added fuel to the fire. Among these repressive strategies introduced by the British Government were
In the Bengal Partition, 1905 a territorial division of the Bengal Presidency was created based on communal lines, separating predominantly Muslim areas from Hindu areas.
Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act, 1907 this Act banned public meetings that were seditious by nature and could disrupt public tranquillity.
The Press Act, of 1908 the legislation imposed strict censorship on all kinds of publications, newspapers, and other print material with seditious content that could incite violence among the public.
The Explosive Substance Act, of 1908 the Act banned the use of explosives that could endanger life or property.
These acts stimulated prominent attacks of assassinations and attempted assassinations of British civil servants, Indian informants, and other prominent public figures. Cases of robbery, murder and other incidents of violence caused by Indian revolutionary nationalist groups were also on the rise.
The Defence of India Act 1915 - Overview
On 19 March 1915, the Defence of India Act 1915 was enacted as an emergency law by Charles Hardinge, the then Governor-General of India. It was passed as a temporary wartime measure that lasted for the entire duration of World War I and was to expire six months after.
A special tribunal was set that dealt with such cases. Records suggest that by 1918, 800 internees or prisoners were detained under the Defence of India Act 1915.
Under the Defence of India Act 1915, the Governor-General had special powers to make rules. The laws were primarily undertaken to restrict the violent activities of revolutionaries and nationalities. The Act played a crucial role in keeping the activities of the Anushilan Samiti and Ghadar threat under control.
Impact of the Defence of India Act 1915
The Act was seen as a necessary measure during the war and was unanimously supported during the court session.
46 executions and 64 life sentences of revolutionaries were witnessed in the Lahore Conspiracy Trial and Benares Conspiracy Trial under the Defence of India Act 1915.
A resolution against the Act was passed in the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in 1917. The repressive use of the Act saw its extension in the Rowlatt Act of 1919 and led to the non-cooperation was ushered by Mahatma Gandhi in 192022.
FAQs on Defence of India Act 1915
Q.1. Why was the Defence of India Act 1915 implemented?
The Defence of India Act 1915 was enacted to maintain order and restrict the revolutionary movement in India.
Q.2. Who passed the Defence of India Act 1915?
Lord Charles Hardinge, former Governor-General of India, passed the Defence of India Act 1915.
Q.3. What did the Defence of India Act 1915 allow?
The Defence of India Act 1915 gave the Government of British India special powers to deal with the threats of Indian revolutionaries during the First World War.
Q.4. Why was the Defence of India Act 1915 opposed?
Defence of India Act 1915 was a regressive law that incited political discontent and agitation among Indian politicians. It further culminated in the Rowlatt Act, which imprisoned suspects and allowed political cases to be tried without juries.