This article is written by Joyleen Meki, A 2nd year student of BA.LLB studying at Lovely Professional University, Punjab. This article contains relevant facts about the government of India Act of 1919.

The Government of India Act of 1919


The Government of India Act 1919 was an act of the British Parliament aimed at increasing the participation of Indians in their own government. The Act was based on the recommendations of a report by Edwin Montagu, Indian Secretary of State at the time, and Lord Chelmsford, Governor-General of India from 1916 to his 1921. The constitutional amendment established by this act is therefore known as the Montague His Chelmsford Reform or Montford Reform. The sole purpose of this law was to ensure Indian representation in government. This law introduced reforms at both the central and state levels of government.

Features of the Government of India Act 1919

Provincial Government


  • Dictatorship introduced.
  • The Governor-General was the Chief Executive of the State.
  • Topics split into two lists: Reserved and Forwarded
  • The Governor-General, along with his Executive Council, was responsible for the reservation list. Subjects on this list included law and order, irrigation, finance, and land income.
  • Ministers were responsible for the subject of the forwarded list. Subjects included were education, local government, health, excise tax, industry, public works, and religious giving.
  • These ministers were appointed from among the elected members of the Legislative Council.
  • The Executive Council, unlike the Ministers, was not accountable to the legislature.
  • The Secretary of State and the Governor-General could intervene in matters under the Reserved List, but their intervention was limited to the Transferred List.


  • Increased the size of the state legislature. About 70% of the members of parliament are currently elected. 
  • There were community and class voters.
  • Some women could also vote.
  • The bill required the approval of the governor to pass. 
  • He also had veto power and could issue ordinances

Governor’s Powers:

  • The Governor-General may suspend ministers for any reason he deems appropriate. In addition, he retained full control of finances.
  • The Legislative Council could enact legislation, but it required the consent of the Governor.
  • The governor rejected the bill and was able to enact an ordinance.

Salient Features of the Act

Central Level Government


  • By law, the Governor-General became the chief executive officer.
  • The governor’s executive council consisted of his eight members, three of whom were Indians.
  • The Governor-General was able to reinstate subsidy cuts, approve bills rejected by the Central Assembly, and enact regulations.

Legislative Reform:

  • Bicameral Legislation:
  • The law introduced bicameral legislation. The House of Representatives or Central Legislative Assembly and the Senate or Council of State.
  • MPs were able to ask questions and petitions, propose deferrals and vote on parts of the budget under the new reforms.
  • Parliament had virtually no control over the Governor-General and his Executive Council.
  • Composition of the House of Representatives:
  • The House of Representatives consists of 145 members nominated or indirectly elected by the provinces.
  • 41 people were nominated (26 official members and 15 unofficial members). Composition of the House of Lords:
  • In the House of Lords, he has 60 members. The term of office is five years, and members are male only.
  • 26 were nominated and 34 were elected (20 generals, 10 Muslims, 3 Europeans and 1 Sikh).

Governor’s Authority:

  • Parliament was addressed by the Governor.
  • He could convene a session, postpone it, or even abolish it.
  • The parliamentary term was his three years, and could be extended at the governor’s discretion.

Significance of the Act

Indians Awakening:

Indians received secret information about the regime and realized their duty.

This instilled in the Indians a sense of nationalism and awakening, and they moved towards achieving Swaraj’s goals.

Expanding Voting Rights:

India has expanded electoral districts and people have started to understand the importance of voting.

State Autonomy:

By this Act, State Autonomy existed in India. The law gave the people administrative powers, and the government’s administrative pressure was greatly reduced.

Disadvantages of the Act

Irresponsible Central Government:

  • At the pan-India level, no responsible government was provided for in the law.

Spread of Communism:

  • A flawed electoral system and limited voting rights failed to gain popularity. It promoted a sense of communism with an independent electoral system.

Limited Expansion of Voters: 

  • The Assembly’s electorate was expanded to about 1.5 million, while India’s population was estimated at about 260 million.

Lack of Administrative Control:

  • In the centre, the Legislature was unable to control the Viceroy and his Executive Council.
  • State ministers could not control finances and bureaucracy. This creates a certain amount of friction between the two. The 4,444-member cabinet was often not consulted even on important issues, and could be overruled by the governor-general on issues he considered special.
  • The governor-general had unlimited powers and could make decisions against decisions of councils and ministers.
  • Almost all important administrative matters depended on the governor.

Inadequate Subject Division:

  • Subject division was not satisfactory at the Center.
  • The Central Assembly had little power and could not control finances.
  • At the state level, the division of subjects and his parallel administration into two parts was unreasonable and impracticable. His
  • topics such as irrigation, finance, policing, journalism and judiciary were “pending”.


This Act provided for the establishment of the Public Service Commission for the first time in India. The law also provided for a statutory commission to be set up after ten years to examine government functions. As a result, the Simon Commission was established in 1927. It also established the Indian High Commission in London.


Author: Mercy Nkomo,

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