Indian Councils Act 1909

Lord Minto served as Viceroy of India since from 1905 to 1910. He succeeded Lord Curzon in 1905. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman who is first man to be given official use of the title ‘Prime Minister’ became Prime Minister in 1905. When he formed his cabinet he appointed John Morley as Secretary of State for India.

This was the time of unrest in India. Both the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India decided to work out some scheme to reform the Legislative councils. This culminated as Indian Councils act 1909 or Minto-Morley reforms. The idea was to give locals some more power in the legislative affairs. The act was passed in 1911. A provision was made for the expansion of legislative councils at the both the levels viz. central as well as provincial. The Indian Councils Act, 1909 was an unfortunate turn in our history for many reasons.

Important Provisions

Following were some of the important provisions of these reforms:

  • It introduced separate and discriminatory electorate. This was for the first time that, electorate for returning to the representatives to the councils was decided on the basis of class & community. For the provincial councils a provision of three categories was made viz. general, special and chambers of commerce. For the central council, one more category Muslims was added. This was for the first time that, the seats in the legislative bodies were reserved on the basis of religion for Muslims. This is called Communal representation.
  • The Minto Morley reforms are known to envisage a separate electorate for Muslims and this had a long lasting impact on India’s polity.
  • This was for the first time that Muslim community was recognized as a completely separate section of the Indian nation and this triggered “A Cancer” in India called “Hindu-Muslim Disharmony” which later culminated in India and Pakistan.
  • Separate constituencies were marked for the Muslims and only Muslim community members were given the right to elect their representatives.
  • The number of members of the legislative councils at the center was increased from 16-60.
  • the number of the members of the provincial legislatures was also increased and it was fixed 50 for Bengal, madras and Bombay and 30 for rest of the provinces.

Some other features

The act empowered the members to discuss the budget and move resolutions before it was approved finally.  The members were given rights to ask supplementary questions and move resolutions to on matters related to loans to the local bodies. The members given right to discuss matters of the public interest but please note that the House was not binding on the government. In The Lahore Session of Indian National Congress, 1909, strong disapproval was expressed against the separate electorate formed on the basis of religion.

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