Government of India Act 1919: Features of 1919 Act | Montagu Chelmsford Reforms

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

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. One of the salient features of the Government of India Act 1919 is that it suggested the decentralisation of Central power to provinces.

Government of India Act 1919 UPSC notes are important to prepare the Modern History section in both the Prelims and Mains Exam. Through this article, one can learn the history, features, and provisions of the GOI Act 1919.

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.

  • 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 centre 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 centre 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.

Significance of Government of India Act 1919

The Government of India Act 1919 was significant because it marked the first major step towards constitutional reforms in India and laid the foundation for India’s eventual transition to a self-governing nation. Furthermore, it introduced the principle of diarchy or dyarchy, which meant dividing responsibilities between federal and provincial governments, and introduced elected Indian members to the legislative council.

The Government of India Act 1919 also established the office of the Governor General and defined the powers of the federal and provincial governments, among other provisions. These reforms paved the way for further constitutional developments in India and the eventual transfer of power from British colonial authorities to the Indian leaders.

Also called the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, the act resulted from the efforts of Indian political leaders and the Indian National Congress, who had been demanding greater political rights and Indian participation in the administration of the country. The act also represented the need for constitutional reforms to address the demands of the Indian people.

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.

Outcomes of Government of India Act 1919

Since the Government of India Act 1919 was a major step that paved the way for a self-governing country, it naturally had some significant outcomes. While they may have had both positive and negative outcomes, the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms were certainly a milestone for constitutional reform in India.

  • Introduction of Diarchy: The Government of India Act 1919 introduced the principle of diarchy, dividing responsibilities between federal and provincial governments and providing for the participation of elected Indian members in the legislative council.
  • Strengthening the Position of the Governor General: The Montagu Chelmsford Reforms strengthened the position of the Governor-General by giving him greater powers and responsibilities.
  • Dissatisfaction among Indian Political Leaders: Although the act represented some progress, it did not go far enough in transferring power to Indian leaders, leading to dissatisfaction among Indian political leaders and the citizens.
  • Scope for Future Reforms: The Government of India Act 1919 paved the way for future reforms that would be more effective in transferring power from British colonial authorities to Indian leaders.

Montague Chelmsford Reform UPSC

In our Indian history, there have been many acts and laws passed by the British rulers and the Indian government, which made significant changes in the rules and regulations for common people in our nation. One such example is the Government of India Act 1919 passed by the colonial government. Aspirants preparing for the UPSC exam must be thorough with the Montague Chelmsford Reforms or the GoI Act 1919 to score well in the Prelims and Mains exams. For a deeper understanding, check out the questions on the Government of India Act 1919 from the UPSC previous year question papers and mock tests.

☛ Related Articles:

Our Apps Playstore
SSC and Bank
Other Exams
GradeStack Learning Pvt. Ltd.Windsor IT Park, Tower - A, 2nd Floor, Sector 125, Noida, Uttar Pradesh 201303
Home Practice Test Series Premium