Government of India Act 1935 – All breaks, no engine

The changes introduced by the Government of India act 1919 were too short of a self government in our country. There was only partial transfer of powers through a system of dyarchy. The act was inadequate to satisfy the National aspirations.

The division of subjects in Reserved and transferred was illogical and not acceptable. In November 1920, there were elections which were boycotted by the congress. The government of India act 1919 envisaged the centralization through the division of authority between the central and provincial governments in various fields of administration but central legislature was competent to legislate on the Provincial subjects and there was still no federal principle in operation and Government in India was still unitary.

The act of 1919 could not satisfy any one. The dyarchy as an experiment failed, when it was put to practice as there was no substantial transfer of power to the representatives of the people.

There was an emergence of a new spirit, zeal and unity among the educated Indians under the banner of Indian National Congress.

  • In January 1915, Mahatma Gandhi had returned to India from South Africa. In may 1915 he established Sabarmati ashram in Gujarat.
  • The Champaran agrigarian dispute of North Bihar, a similar dispute in Gujarat at kaira and also a labor dispute in Ahmadabad made Mahatma Gandhi a national hero and his influential political career started. He devised a new technique Satyagraha.
  • The British were irked by the growing revolutionary terrorism and the ongoing First World War. In 1919, a committee was established by the Governor general Chelmsford under the judge of the Kings Bench in London Sydney Rowlatt. The responsibility of this committee was to investigate into the nature and extent of revolutionary activities and suggest measures. This committee submitted its report in April 1918. Based upon the recommendations of this committee two bills were introduced. One was dropped and another was passed. The name of this passed bill, which was now an act was Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act which was called Rowlatt Act.
  • On February 6, 1919, Gandhi Ji decided to launch the Satyagraha and criticized the Rowlatt act as subversive and unjust and against the principles of liberty. The volunteers courted arrest and a strike was launched country wide on April 6, 1919. On April 13, 1919 the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy occurred and the Satyagraha lost momentum.
  • Before the government of India act 1935 passed, 3 round conferences in London were held. These have been discussed in our Independence struggle.

Salient Features

  • The Government of India Act 1935 introduced the provincial autonomy and provided for an all India federation.
  • This act introduced dyarchy at the central level.
  • This act had 321 sections and 10 schedules.
  • It made a provision for establishment of a Federal court.
  • The franchisee was extended.
  • It divided the subjects in 3 lists.
  • The Indian council was abolished and an advisory body was introduced.
  • Burma was separated from India, and Aden was surrendered to British Colonial office.

The political conscious of the people of India was not considered. There was no provision of any fundamental right. It perpetuated the sovereignty of the British parliament over India.

All India Federation

The government of India act 1935 provided for an all India federation. In this all India federation the british India provinces, the chief commissioners of the provinces and those Indian states which might accede to be united were included. The federation consisted of 11 provinces, 6 chief commissioners provinces and other states. The accession to the federation was voluntary.

Some notable Points for UPSC Prelims

  • This act ended the system of dyarchy introduced by the Government of India Act 1919 and provided for the establishment of a “Federation of India”, to be made up of both British India and some or all of the “princely states”
  • This act introduced for the first time the direct elections and increased the franchise from seven million to thirty-five million people.
  • The partial reorganization of the provinces included separation of Sind from Bombay, Splitting Bihar and Orissa into separate provinces, Complete separation of Burma from India, Detachment of Aden from India and establishing as a separate colony.
  • However, the degree of autonomy introduced at the provincial level was subject to important limitations: the provincial Governors retained important reserve powers, and the British authorities also retained a right to suspend responsible government.
  • The act proposed that federation of India could come into existence only if as many princely states (which had been given option to join or not to join) were entitled to one half of the states seats in the upper house of the federal legislature.
  • The parts of the Act intended to establish the Federation of India never came into operation, due to opposition from rulers of the princely states. The remaining parts of the Act came into force in 1937, when the first elections under the Act were also held.
  • The proposed federal polity was to have a bicameral legislature at the center.

Upper House

The upper house was called Council of States and it consisted of 260 members. Out of these 260 members 156 were to represent the provinces and 104 to the native states. Out of the 156 which were to represent the provinces, 150 were to be elected on communal basis. Seats reserved for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, were to be filled by direct elections and Seats reserved for Indian Christians, Anglo Indians and Europeans was to be filled by indirect method of a electoral college consisting of their representative members.

Lower House

The lower house was to be called the federal assembly. It consisted of 375 members out of whom 250 were to represent the provinces and 125 to represent the princely states. The term of the assembly was five years but it could be dissolved earlier also.

Federal Court

A federal court was established which began its functioning from October 1, 1937. The chief Justice of the federal court was Sir Maurice Gwyer. It consisted of One Chief Justice and not more than 6 Judges.

Federal Railway Authority

The Government of India Act 1935 vested the control of the railways in federal railway authority , a new 7 member body. This authority was kept free from the control of ministers and councilors. The idea was to assure the British Stakeholders of the railways that their investment was safe. J

The Simon commission had promised ‘Dominion Status’ for India in 1929 , but the Government of India Act did not confer it. This act by providing separate electorates for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Europeans, Anglo Indians, Indian Christians etc. proved to be an instrument of disintegrating the unity fabric of the country. It was over obstructing and Nehru called it “all breaks , no engine”.

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