Minto Morley Reforms - Indian Council Act 1909, Government of India Act PDF

By Aarna Tiwari|Updated : February 6th, 2023

Morley Minto Reforms were a set of political reforms introduced in India in 1909 during British rule. The aim of the reforms was to increase the representation of Indians in the Indian Councils and the governance of India at large. Also referred to as the Indian Council Act 1909, the reforms were introduced by the British Secretary of State for India, Lord Morley, and were passed with the support of Lord Minto, the Viceroy of India at the time.

Furthermore, the reforms allowed the creation of separate electorates for Muslims and the appointment of Indians to the executive council of the Viceroy. The concept of a separate electorate was also introduced under Morley Minto reforms making it a significant act in Indian History.  Hence, Morley Minto reforms is an essential topic for aspirants planning to take the Civil Services exam.

Table of Content

What is Morley Minto Reforms?

The Morley Minto Reforms 1909 or Govt of India Act 1909 were introduced to appease the Congress and introduce a separate electorate based on religion. The legislative council was expanded to include Indian members. Go through the major highlights of Minto Morley Reforms for the upcoming exam. 

Morley Minto Reforms - Government of India Act 1909 

Morley Minto Reforms Date

12 March 1909

The 1909 Act was introduced by

The British Parliament

The objective of Morley Minto Reforms

The Indian Council Act 1909 introduced communal representation and a separate electorate in Indian politics.

The size of the legislative councils was increased.

For the first time, the association of Indians with the executive councils of the Viceroy and Governors.

Morley Minto Reforms Governor-General

The Earl of Minto

Morley Minto Reforms amended

the Indian Councils Acts of 1861 and 1892 were amended.

Importance of Indian Council Act 1909

Responsible for the association of elected Indians with the administration.

Indians got an opportunity to criticize the executives and make suggestions for better administration of the country.

Territories Affected 

Territories under British possession in India

Background of Morley Minto Reforms

The Morley Minto Reforms 1909 were a response to the growing Indian nationalism and calls for greater representation in the governance of India. They marked a turning point in Indian history and paved the way for more substantial reforms and movements for the independence of India. 

With these reforms, there was a hike in the size of the legislative councils at the center and provincial levels. Hence, the Minto Morley reforms were one of the most notable ordinances that were passed by the British parliament. 

Provisions of Indian Council Act 1909

The Indian Councils Act 1909, also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms, made several key provisions, such as:

  • The act increased the number of elected members in the Imperial Legislative Council and the Provincial Legislative Councils.
  • The act provided for the creation of separate electorates for Muslims, thereby giving them separate representation in the councils. This led to more participation from Muslim community.
  • The Provision of Indian Council Act 1909 also provided for communal representation, meaning that seats were reserved for specific communities, such as Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Anglo-Indians.
  • The reforms played a key role in achieving a greater representation of Indians in the governance of their country.
  • Lord Minto came to be known as the Father of the Communal Electorate.

Importance of Morley Minto Reforms

The Minto Morley reforms were considered a significant step in the Indian freedom struggle. In fact, it is believed they marked a beginning of a new era for India. Thus, the importance of the reforms can be highlighted through a number of points, including:

  • Political Representation: The reforms marked the first time that Indians were given any meaningful representation in the governance of their own country. This was seen as a significant step forward in the struggle for greater Indian independence.
  • Rise of Nationalism: The Minto Morley reforms 1909 sparked a new wave of Indian nationalism, as Indians became more politically aware. This was especially true for Muslims, who were given separate electorates under the reforms and became more politically active as a result.
  • Hindu-Muslim Divide: The creation of separate electorates for Muslims under the Morley Minto Reforms is seen as a major contributing factor to the division between Hindus and Muslims from then on. This divide would have lasting impacts on Indian politics and society at large.

Features of Indian Council Act 1909

The Morley Minto reforms 1909 had several key features and played a critical role in the history of India and its freedom struggle. We have provided the important features in a tabulated manner for your reference below.

  • Objectives of Morley Minto reforms such as the Indian Council Act 1909 introduced increased communal representation and a separate electorate to Indian politics.
  • For the first time, the association of Indians with the executive councils of the Viceroy and Governors.
  • The size of the legislative councils was increased.
  • The date of the Morely Minto reforms is 12th March 1909.
  • The impact of the reforms was that it gave Indians an opportunity to criticize the executives and make suggestions for better administration and governance of the country.
  • The limitation of the Morley Minto reforms was no real transfer of power from the British government to the Indians. Hence, it was a limited step that only added a token representation of Indians in the legislative council.
  • The Governor-General of the Indian Council Act was the Earl of Minto.

Analysis of Minto Morley Reforms

The Minto Morley Reforms, also known as the Indian Council Act of 1909, were instituted to increase the representation of Indians in the legislative councils. The reforms can be assessed through the following points:

  • The reforms were a response to the growing need for better representation of Indians in the governance of India.
  • The reforms provided separate electorates for Muslims, which sparked a new wave of Indian nationalism but also added to the Hindu-Muslim divide in the country.
  • They increased the number of elected members in the legislative councils, but the councils remained largely powerless. 
  • The British government still maintained control over the administration of India and there was no real transfer of power.

Defects of Morley Minto Reforms

Although the Morley Minto reforms were seen as a milestone for the Indian independence movement, they weren’t completely successful. This is because despite the reforms, the legislative councils remained powerless and there was no significant transfer of power from the British to the Indians.

Furthermore, the powers of the legislative council did not include the right to make any laws. Hence, ultimately, it was the British government that still controlled the Indian administration. So, we can conclude that the Indian Council Act 1909 was only a limited step that did not generate any great impact on Indian politics, which was the biggest defect of the Morley Minto reforms 1909.

Morley-Minto Reforms UPSC

The Morley-Minto Reforms topic, also known as the Indian Councils Act 1909, is important in Modern Indian History. Over the years, several questions have been asked about this topic in UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains GS Paper- 1. To cover the Morley-Minto Reforms or the Indian Councils Act 1909, one needs to go through the Indian History Notes, along with readings of the NCERT Books for UPSC and the books. The Indian Councils Act 1909 is also covered in the Polity section of the UPSC Syllabus.

Indian Council Act 1909 UPSC Questions

Go through the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to practice Morley Minto Reforms UPSC questions asked in the past. You can also practice Mains answer writing for this topic.

Question: Which among the following statements is/are correct regarding the Morley-Minto Reforms?

  1. The Size of the Legislative Council was increased.
  2. It introduced a separate electorate for the Muslims.
  3. It Introduced direct elections to legislative councils.
  4. The deliberative functions of the Legislative Councils were increased.

Choose the correct option from the codes given below:

  1. 1 and 2 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 1 and 4 only
  4. 1, 2, 3, and 4

Answer: Option D

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FAQs on Indian Council Act 1909 and Morley Minto Reforms

  • The Morley Minto reforms were a set of political reforms introduced in India in 1909. The objective of the reforms was to increase the representation of Indians in the Indian Councils. The reforms were introduced by Lord Minto and Lord Morley, and were thus, named after them. The candidates can download the Morley Minto reform notes for UPSC preparation.

  • The Indian Councils Act of 1909, also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms, was aimed as a response to the growing nationalism in the country. Since the Indian National Congress was asking for greater independence, the British government saw the Morley Minto reforms as a concession to the demands.

  • These reforms were put forth by the Governor-General, the Earl of Minto. Some of the main points of Morley Minto reforms were as follows:

    • Increased political representation
    • Separate electorates for Muslims
    • Communal representation
  • The main objective of the Morley Minto reforms was to address the growing demands for greater representation of Indians in the governance of India. Hence, the reforms were a way for the British government to provide a limited degree of political representation for Indians in the legislative councils.

  • The Morley Minto Reforms 1909 can be considered a failure because it only provided limited representation to Indians in the legislative councils with no real powers. Moreover, the separate electorates for Muslims created a Hindu-Muslim divide in India.

  • The Indian Council Act was introduced in 1909 by John Morley and Lord Minto. They are commonly known as the Morley Minto Reforms. John Morley was the secretary of state from the year 1905 to 1910 in British India and Lord Minto was the Viceroy at that time.

  • Morley Minto Reforms are known for their introduction of the ‘separate electorate’ concept. According to this concept, the Muslim members were to be elected through the Muslim votes only. It actually brought in the concept of ‘communal representation’ for the Muslim community.

  • The Morley-Minto reforms were introduced in the year 1909 by the then secretary of state John Morley & Lord Minto. They are also known as the Indian Council Act (1909). They were actually introduced as an amendment to the Indian Council Act of 1892.

  • The Morley-Minto Reforms are also called the Indian Council Act as this was the original act that was actually introduced in the year 1861 and again in 1892. The Indian Council Act of 1892 could not achieve its desired aim and therefore another amendment was made in 1909 which was alternatively called the Morley-Minto Reforms.

  • Congress was in opposition to the Morley-Minto Reforms as it was in favour of the idea of self-government or a Parliamentary form of government. It also did not favour the idea of a separate electorate as it was against the communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims. According to this concept, Muslims could only vote for Muslims in the elections which led to a Hindu-Muslim divide.

  • The Indian Council Act of 1909 or the Morley-Minto Reforms is considered important as it introduced the concept of election in India for the first time. It favored the induction of elected Indian representatives within the British administration.

  • The Indian National Congress strongly opposed the Morley-Minto reforms. The Congress was not in favour of the idea of a separate electorate as it promoted an anti-Muslim idea and communalism.

  • John Morley played an important role in the reforms as it was he who persuaded the viceroy Lord Minto to elect Satyendra P Sinha to the Executive Council of the Viceroy. Sinha was to be the first Indian to join the council.

  • The two main merits of the Indian Council Act were that firstly it enabled the induction of Indian members into the Executive Council and secondly, it increased the authority of the members of the councils including the Indians to raise objections on the working of the government & suggest ideas for better administration.

  • The major demerits of the Indian Council Act are that it legalized the idea of communalism by introducing a separate electorate. Muslims could only vote for Muslims. The second demerit was that although members of the Council could give their opinions, they were not in a position to make any changes happen.

  • The Indian Council Act was known as the Morley Minto Reforms as the act was introduced in 1909 by John Morley & Lord Minto. John Morley was the secretary of state at the time and Lord Minto was the Viceroy of the Executive Council.

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