Indian Councils Act 1909 (Morley Minto reforms)

The Indian Councils Act 1909 or Morley-Minto Reforms  or Minto-Morley Reforms was passed by British Parliament in 1909 in an attempt to widen the scope of legislative councils, placate the demands of moderates in Indian National Congress and to increase the participation of Indians the governance. This act got royal assent on 25 May 1909.


Though the Indian Councils Act of 1892 had introduced limited representation with indirect elections, it failed to placate the Indians who were much more conscious of their rights by now.  There was a lot of resentment against reign of Lord Curzon, who had already irked the public by the foolish idea of partition of Bengal. There was a rise of extremism in the congress. Government, on one hand wanted to suppress the extremists but on other hand wanted to pacify the moderates. Meanwhile, Gopal Krishna Gokhale went to England and met Mr. Morley, the Secretary of State for India. Viceroy Lord Minto also emphasised the need of making some reforms. 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. The idea was to give locals some more power in the legislative affairs. A provision was made for the expansion of legislative councils at the both the levels viz. central as well as provincial.

Salient Provisions

Expansion of the Legislative Councils

The act enlarged the size of the legislative council both Central and Provincial. The number of members in the Central Legislative Council was raised from 16 to 60. The number in Provincial legislative council was not uniform. Legislative councils of Bengal , Bombay and Madras was increased to 50 members each. The provincial legislature of U.P. was to have 50, of Assam, Burma and Punjab 30 each.

Communal Representation

For the first time, the Indian Councils act  gave recognition to elective principle for the appointment of nonofficial members to the councils. However, it introduced separate and discriminatory electorate.  The electorate 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. However, for the central council, a fourth 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.  Separate constituencies were marked for the Muslims and only Muslim community members were given the right to elect their representatives.

The separate electorate for Muslims had a long lasting impact on India’s polity. It recognized the Muslim community as a separate section of the India and triggered the cancer of Hindu-Muslim disharmony which ultimately culminated in the partition.

Under the separate electorates, Muslims could vote exclusively for the Muslim candidates in constituencies specially reserved for them. The idea was to establish that the political, economic and cultural interests of the Hindus and Muslims were distinct. The unity between Hindus and Muslims is a illusion and this act sowed the seeds of the Muslim Communism.

Other Features
  • The act empowered the members to discuss the budget and move resolutions before it was approved finally. They were given rights to ask supplementary questions and move resolutions to on matters related toloans to the local bodies.
  • The members given right to discuss matters of the public interest however, the house was not binding on the government.Rules were also framed under the act for the discussion of matters of general public interest in the legislative councils.
  • No discussion was permitted on any subject not within legislative competence of the particular legislature any matter affecting the relations of the Government of India with a foreign power or a native state, and any matter under adjudication by a court of law.

Critical Analysis of the Act

The Minto-Morley Reforms of 19O9 could not come up to the expectations of the Indians. What the people of India demanded was that there should be set up a responsible government in the country. But the sacred heart of the reforms of 1909 was “benevolent despotism” and it was basically a subtle attempt to create a “constitutional autocracy”.

Further, though non-official majority was given in the Provincial Councils, the practical result was nothing. The non-official majority was nullified by the fact that it included nominated members. There was no real majority of those who represented the people.

A shadow rather than substance

The reforms of 1909 afforded no answer and could afford no answer to the Indian political problem. The real political solution was lying in complete self-rule and accountable governance but the 1909 Act was only a face saving device. The position of the Governor- General remained unchanged and his veto power remained undiluted and the Act was successfully maintained relentless constitutional autocracy. Under such circumstances narrow franchises, indirect elections, limited powers of the Legislative Councils ushered a complete irresponsible government. The Act rather added new political problem with the introduction of the separate electorate system. While the parliamentary forms were introduced, no responsibility was conceded. At the same time there were no connection between the supposed primary voter and a man who sits as his representative on the Legislative Council. In such a situation, the political participation, awareness and education remained a distant dream. In nutshell, it can be said that 1909 Act was ‘the shadow rather than the substance’.

Merits of Minto-Morley Reforms

Nevertheless, the Minto-Morley Reforms had some of their merits. They mark an important stage in the growth of representative institution, and one step ahead towards the responsible association of elected Indians with the administration. Further, it also gave recognition to the elective principle as the basis of the composition of legislative council for the first time. It gave some further avenues to Indians to ventilate their grievances. They also got opportunity to criticise the executives and make suggestions for better administration. The enlargement of the legislatures furthered the demand of complete indianization of the legislature.

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  • chandan tiwari

    it’s too gud

  • madhuri

    It is good to get a knowledge.

  • Tharik Azeez from Kalpeni

    Nice and easy written…..I think that this morely mino act sowed the seeds for pakistan and the british delibratly did this for preserving their own interst and to self benefits not for the muslim community………….

  • Deepak Thorat

    Indian council act 1909

    The British Paramountacy enacted the Indian Council Act 1909 to carry forward the process of constitutional development. With the help of this act the British Government attempted to conciliate the moderates because it was a part of British policy of “Divide and Rule”.

    1) The strength of legislative council was enlarged from 16 to 60 members.
    2) The functions were also expanded, now the non- officials members were allowed to ask supplementary questions. They could also move resolution regarding making any suggestions in the taxation system or could ask grant for development of local bodies.
    3) The act also granted separate electorate for Muslims and landlords.
    4) The act also provided that Indians could also become members of Governor General’s Executive Council and members of Indian Council too. Thus lord Satyendra Prasanna Sinha became the 1st indian member of Governor General Executive Council. He was given the law portfolio. K. G. Mehta and Sayyed Hussein Bilgrami became the 1st members to enter in the Indian Council..

    In Governor General Executive Council strength to be not less than 16 and not more than 60 members..

    For legislative purpose 33 members ( indirect election) i.e 27 officials, 3 non- officials, 3 from special category.
    For executive purpose 27 members ( direct election) i.e 12 from each presidency, 5 from Muslim community, 1 from bengali Muslim ( but should be zamindar, 7 from zamindar community and 2 from trader’s community..

    12 presidencies and it’s state legislative members strength :-

    1) Bombay – 50 members
    2) Madras – 50 members
    3) United Provinces – 50 members
    4) Bengal – 50 members
    5) Bihar – 45 members
    6) Odhisa – 45 members
    7) Punjab – 30 members
    8) North West Frontier Provinces – 30 members
    9) Eastern Bengal – 30 members
    10) Berma – 30 members
    11) Assam – 30 members
    12) Central Provinces – 25 members

  • ali mohamad talie

    it was the time when india was indepression and the britishers took benefit from it

  • sanjay sharma

    communal division .At the name of reforms

  • shouvik biswas

    Indian council act 1909 was the starting point for Pakistan.

  • hrishav108

    what is the source of content.,.pls [email protected]