Government of India act, 1935 – salient features

Government of India Act, 1935 – salient features

The Government of India Act 1935, which was the biggest act ever enacted in India and due to its length, it was split into two different acts

  • The Government of India Act, 1935, having 321 sections and 10 schedules.
  • The Government of Burma Act, 1935 having 159 sections and 6 schedules.

The Act’s Primary Source of Information was based on the following:

  • The Report of the Simon Commission
  • The Discussions at The Third Round Table Conference
  • The White Paper of 1933
  • The Joint Select Committee Reports.

Features of Government of India Act, 1935 – salient features

Government of India Act, 1935 had the following features

  • The Reserve Bank of India was established via this act.
  • The Act stated that Federal and Provisional Legislature would be established.
  • A Joint Public Service Commissions were to be established.
  • Burma was separated from India.
  • The System of Diarchy-Dual Governance was ended and autonomous powers was given to the provinces.
  • A Federation of India was to be established made up of British India and Princely States.
  • Direct Elections were introduced which gave rise to Universal Adult Franchisee without any restrictions.
  • The Viceroy was vested with Residual Powers.
  • The Governor-General was to head the Executive.
  • The Governor-General was to be advised by a Council of Ministers.
  • The Council of Ministers were accountable to the Provisional Legislatures who also had the power to control and remove them.
  • The Governors still retained The Special Reserve Powers.
  • Any Provisional Government could still be suspended by The Authorities.
  • BiCaramel Legislature was also introduced where Two Houses were established:
    1. Federal Assembly (lower house)- The Federal Assembly had a tenure of five years. It had 375 members in total out of which 250 were the representatives of British India 125 members from the princely states.
    2. Council of States (upper house)- The Council of States was a permanent body with one third of its members retiring every 3rd year. It had a total of 260 members of which 156 representatives of British India and 101 representatives of the Indian states.
  • The Indian Council introduced by The Indian Council’s Act (1861), amended by The Indian Council’s Act (1892) and further amended by The Indian Council’s Act (1909), was abolished and a team of advisors was given to The Secretary of State of India.
  • Representatives of Princely states-The representatives from The Princely States were to be selected by the rulers and not the government officials and the seats allotted to them were based on their importance not on their population.
  • Representatives of British India-The Representatives for British India were to be elected and some could be nominated by The Governor-General. The seats were reserved for Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had to be filled via direct election while those reserved for Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Indian Christians and Depressed Classes were to be filled by Indirect election. The Seats which were to be filled by nomination of The Governor-General had to be from the women, minorities and the depressed classes.
  • Federal Railway Authority– A Separate Federal Railway Authority was established which had 7 members and were free from the control of ministers and Councillors and were to report directly to The Governor-General.

  • All the powers were divided into Three Lists:
    • Federal List (Centre)It had 59 Subjects under it
    • Provincial List (Provinces)-It had 54 Subjects under it
    • Concurrent List (Both)It had 36 Subjects under it.
  • The Federal List was Further divided under two lists:
    1. Reserved Subjects
    2. Transferred Subjects
    • The Reserved Subjects were under The Governor-General who carried out his responsibility, with the help of Three Counsellors appointed by him. The Counsellors were not accountable to the legislature. These Subjects included were Defence, Religious Affairs, External Affairs, Press, Police, Taxation, Justice, Power Resources and Tribal Affairs.
    • The Transferred Subjects were under the control of The Governor-General with his Council of Ministers (not exceeding 10 at any point). The Council was under the administration of the legislature. The Subjects in this list included Local Government, Forests, Education, Health, etc. The Governor-General had special powers to interfere in Reserved Subjects.
  • Reorganization of the Provinces– The Sind Province was separated from Bombay, Bihar was made a separate Province divided from The Province of Orissa. Burma and India were separated and Aden was split from India and made a different separate Colony.
  • Establishment of Federal Court– The Government of India Act, 1935 provided for the establishment of a Federal Court to adjudicate disputes relating to the federal matters. The Court was to be established at Delhi and had 1 Chief Justice and not more than 6 Regular Judges. The Federal Court had Original Jurisdiction to pronounce judgements on matters related between the provinces Centre/between the provinces. The Court had the power to grant Special Leave to Appeal. It also had the power for accepting of appeals from High Court to Federal Court.
  • The Proposed All India Federation was to have 11 British India Provinces, 6 Chief Commissioners Provinces and all those Princely States who may agree for the inclusion of their states in the Proposed All India Federation, as it was voluntary. The terms on what rules and regulations were applicable when any Princely State joined The Proposed All India Federation was all explained in The Instrument of Accession.
  • Dominion status – The Simon commission had promised Dominion Status for India in, but the same was not conferred by Government of India Act. This act of providing separate electorates for Hindus, Muslims, Anglo Indians etc. was perceived as an instrument of disintegrating India and dividing it into pieces. It was over obstructing and Jawaharlal Nehru had called it “all breaks, no engine”.
  • Materialization: The Proposed All India Federation could not be formed as the required terms and conditions could not be met. Since all conditions could not be met India continued to be governed on The Act of 1919 but some features of The Government of India Act 1935 like establishment of The Federal Bank (The Reserve Bank of India), The Federal Court did come into force. The first elections under the Act were also held in 1937.

Author: Samar Jain,

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