Government of India Act 1919: Features, Montagu Chelmsford Reform UPSC

By K Balaji|Updated : October 7th, 2022

The Government of India Act 1919, also known as the Council's Act 1919, and the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, describe how the British Parliament agreed to the participation of Indians in their government system and administration. It is significant to learn about this act because it was the first time the British government had shown some kind of responsibility toward the Dominion of India.

Government of India Act 1919 UPSC is usually asked under Modern History in both Prelims and Mains Exam. Through this article, one can learn the history, features, and provisions of the Government of India Act 1919.

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Government of India Act 1919

The Government of India Act 1919 was enacted by the Secretary of State for India, Edwin Samuel Montagu, and the Viceroy of India, Lord Chelmsford. The British government, for the first time, declared that they wanted to introduce a responsible government in India. It was a provision that classified the powers of central and provincial governments.

Montague Chelmsford Reform UPSC

  • India was supposed to remain an integral part of the British Empire. There was no room for independence until now.
  • A Gradual Decentralization of Authority was proposed. The powers of the Viceroy in Delhi were to be distributed among the provinces.
  • The unitary form of government continued despite decentralization.
  • The British Parliament was responsible for making a responsible government in India.
  • However, provinces were provided with partial responsibilities; therefore, there was no change in the working style of the central government. There was no diarchy in the Central Government.
  • The bicameral system was introduced in the political system of India. The Indian Legislative Council was replaced by a bicameral system which was a combination of the Council of States and the Legislative Assembly (which are the present-day Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha).
  • Under the Government of India Act 1919, it was the first time the budget for the center and provinces were separated. This means provinces are now allowed to make their budgets according to the requirements.
  • Separate communal electorates were extended to the Christians. Muslims already had a separate communal electorate. After that, Sikhs, Christians, and Anglo-Indians were also included.

History of Montague Chelmsford Reform

The Government of India Act 1919 is also called the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms because, in 1917, Edwin Montagu was made the Secretary of State for India. Edwin Montagu aimed at the gradual development of Indians to form a self-governing country. He proposed this idea to the British Parliament. Lord Curzon agreed to the proposal. He advised Edwin Montagu to increase the number of Indians in government practices. The collective proposal of Lord Curzon and Edwin Montague was approved and accepted by the cabinet and hence implemented.

Features of the Government of India Act 1919

Some prominent features of the Government of India Act 1919 are as follows:

  • In the Government of India Act 1919, the powers of the center and the states were divided and limited the central government's control over the provisions.
  • With this, the central government and the provincial government were allowed to make the rules and regulations according to their respective lists of subjects. However, the unitary form of government was still to be continued.
  • In the Montagu Chelmsford Reform Act, the provinces were further classified into Transferred Subjects and Reserved Subjects based on administration.
  • The transferred subjects were administered under the Governor with the help of ministers who were responsible to the Legislative Council. The resultant subjects were administered by the Governor and Executive Council.
  • This dual style of governance was known as the dyarchy. Dyarchy is a word that has been derived from the Greek word di-arche, meaning double rule.
  • The Government of India introduced the bicameral and direct election systems in India. The bicameral legislature consisted of an upper house and a lower house, whose members were chosen by the process of by-elections.
  • Three out of the six members of the Viceroy's Executive Council were supposed to be Indian, other than the Commander and Chief, who was British.
  • Along with all these things, the Government of India Act 1919 also established a new office for the High Commissioner of India in London, and some of the powers as yet held by the Secretary of State for India were transferred to him.
  • The very interesting part about this act was that it established the concept of a public service commission and health. A Central Public Service Commission was set up in 1926, which was opened to recruit civil servants.
  • This act separated the provincial budgets from central budgets, where provinces were to manage their budgets according to requirements.
  • And lastly, it appointed a legal commission to report on the work every 10 years.

Provisions of Government of India Act 1919

The major provisions of the Government of India Act 1919 are as follows:

  • It enacted the establishment of the PSC, i.e., the Public Service Commission.
  • There were three Indians out of eight in the Executive Council.
  • The office of the High Commissioner of India was established in London, UK.

Defects in Government of India Act 1919

There were some major defects in the Government of India Act 1919 as well, which are listed below:

  • The state governments were given the authority to manage the budgets for themselves, but they couldn't participate in any of the direct financial matters of the central government.
  • The ministers were not involved in the crucial decision-making for the country, and rather they were countermanded by the governors if they tried to give any suggestions.
  • The governor could easily overrule any of the decisions made by the provincial ministers if they didn't like them. Therefore, it can be easily concluded that Indians, however, were made ministers but were still deprived of the original powers of administration.

Montague Chelmsford Reform UPSC

The Government of India Act 1919 UPSC is a part of Modern Indian History and has a slight reference to Indian Polity as well. That is why the Montague Chelmsford Reform of 1919 is crucial in terms of the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains exams. Several questions have been asked about the Government of India Act 1919 in the UPSC Exam.

Candidates can prepare the topic GOI Act 1919 using Indian History Notes for UPSC or NCERT Books for UPSC. After preparing the topic, they can solve UPSC previous year question papers to practice & revise.

Also Check:

Government of India Act 1919 UPSC Questions

The following question was asked in the UPSC Prelims exam on the Government of India Act 1919:

UPSC Prelims-2012 (Question):- The distribution of powers between the center and states in the Indian Constitution is based on the scheme provided in the

  1. Morley-Minto Reforms, 1909
  2. Montague-Chelmsford Act, 1919
  3. The Government of India Act, 1935
  4. Indian Independence Act, 1937

Answer:- Option 2

UPSC Prelims-2015 (Question):- The Government of India Act, 1919 clearly defines

  1. The separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature
  2. The jurisdiction of the central and provincial governments
  3. The power of the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy
  4. None of the above

Answer:- Option 2


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FAQs on Government of India Act 1919

  • The British government had to regulate law and order in British India. Therefore, they initiated a series of acts called the Government of India Act. The Saint Helena Act was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also created the post of Governer-General of India.

  • The Government of India Act, 1919 was based on Montagu Chelmsford's Reforms, which aimed at introducing the gradual self-governing plan in British India.

  • The key feature of the Government of India Act 1919 is that it marked the end of benevolent despotism. Benevolent means kind-hearted or gracious, and despotism means dictatorship. Therefore, ideally, the British were ruling India as a Benevolent Despotism.

  • Dyarchy means' dual rule'. The Dyarchy was introduced by Edwin Montagu and Lord Chelmsford, where they decentralized the powers among the provinces and the center.

  • The Montague Chelmsford Reform of 1919 is an important topic in the UPSC Syllabus. It has been noticed that questions from the topic have been asked in both UPSC Prelims and Mains Exam. It is an important topic for both History and Polity.

  • To download the Government of India Act 1919 UPSC PDF, you can directly get it from here. Other than this, you can also refer to the article given above.

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