Government of India Act 1935: Key Features, Significance and More

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1935 government of india act

The Government of India Act 1935 was the longest and most complex Act ever passed by the British Parliament. It was enacted in response to the growing demand for self-government in India and became a historic act, which laid the very foundation for the making of the Indian Constitution. The blog explores this historic act, so let’s delve into it together!

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The background for the legislation goes back to – 

  • The First World War, when India supported Britain. This gesture of support aided Britain in acknowledging Indians into administrative roles. 
  • The growing demand for constitutional reforms by the Indian leaders.
  • Failures and Lessons from –

What are the Key Features of the Government of India Act 1935

The Act consisted of 10 schedules with 321 sections into it. The significant and key features of the act are as mentioned –  

Key FeatureChanges Bought
Abolition of DiarchyThe Act abolished the system of diarchy, which had been introduced by the Government of India Act 1919.
Introduction of Provincial Autonomy1. The Act of 1935 transferred all provincial subjects to Indian ministers, making the provinces responsible governments.
2. However, the British ministers retained control over key subjects such as defence and foreign affairs.
3. The provinces were given their own legislatures and executives, and they were responsible for a wide range of subjects, including education, agriculture, and public health.
Provision for a Federal Government1. Establishment of a federal structure of government, with Central and Provincial governments. 
2. Introduction of three lists – I) Federal List – 59 subjects ii) Provincial List – 54 subjects iii)Concurrent List – 36 subjects.  
3. A Federal List was made and divided into – 
a. Reserved subjects were classified as matters of church, press, taxation, budget, police, justice and tribal affairs.
b. Transferred subjects included – forest, health, education and local government.
4. The Governor General with the support of 3 Counsellors had control of the reserved list, while the Governor General with not more than 10 Council Ministers looked after the transferred list.
5. The Governor-General also had the power to interfere with the transferred subjects.
Bicameral Legislature1. Two Houses – the Federal Assembly ( Lower House)  and Council of States ( Upper House) were introduced.
2. The term limit was five years.
3. Princely states were nominated but, representatives of British India were elected.
4. The legislature was introduced in provinces like – Assam, Madras, Bombay, Bengal, Bihar and the United Provinces
Other FeaturesResiduary Powers were in the hands of the Viceroy.
Introduction of Direct Elections for the first time in the provincial legislature.
The Secretary of State has a team of advisors and abolished the Council of India.
Established a Federal Court in Delhi by 1937, with 1 Chief Justice and 6 Judges for resolution of conflicts between provinces and centre.
Proposed establishment of the Reserve Bank of India ( RBI).
A Federal Railway Authority was formed for Indian Railways.
Proposed introduction of more Federal, Provincial and Joint Public Service Commissions.
Communal Representation through Separate ElectorateProposed Separate Electorates for Women, depressed classes (scheduled castes) and labourers (workers).

The Act also gave the Governor-General a number of special responsibilities, including the protection of minorities and the prevention of communal violence.

Also Read – Complete List of Governor General of India

What was the Significance of the Government of India Act 1935?

The Government of India Act 1935 was a significant milestone in India’s constitutional development. It was the first time that the British government had transferred such a large measure of power to Indians.

  • The act was a significant step towards sеlf-govеrnmеnt for India after the Government Act of 1919.
  • It introduced a numbеr of important dеmocratic rеforms, such as dirеct еlеctions to thе provincial lеgislaturеs.
  • It also gavе thе Indian pеoplе a grеatеr voicе in thе govеrnancе of thеir country.
Image Source: The Hindu Archives

What was the Impact of the Government of India Act 1935?

Thе impact of the Govеrnmеnt of India Act 1935 was –

  • The Act led to the rise of new political parties, such as the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League.
  • Thе introduction of provincial autonomy lеd to thе formation of еlеctеd provincial govеrnmеnts, which wеrе dominatеd by thе Indian National Congrеss. Thе Congrеss usеd its powеr in thе provincеs to promote social and еconomic reforms, and to build up thе movеmеnt for indеpеndеncе.
  • It also gave a greater voice to the Indian people in the governance of their country.

Also Read – What is the Difference Between Governor-General and Viceroy?

Failure of the Government of India Act 1935

The Government of India Act 1935 was not without its failures. The federal structure of government that it established was never fully implemented. The Act also failed to resolve the issue of communalism in India. The act failed to achieve its main objective of establishing a federal government of India. The princely states were reluctant to join the federation, and the Act itself was too complex and cumbersome to work effectively

  • Thе fеdеral structurе of govеrnmеnt that it еstablishеd was nеvеr fully implеmеntеd.
  • The act also failed to solve the issue of communalism in India.
  • It was criticised for various special responsibilities the Viceroy had.
  • The act was seen as the charter of slavery in the eyes of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • The legislation was rigid in nature and left no initial possibility of growth.
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Additional Facts

  • With the introduction of direct elections to the provincial legislatures, increasing the number of Indians eligible to vote from 5 million to 35 million and the percentage increased from 4% to 14%.
  • The Act established a federal structure of government, with a central government and provincial governments. The central government was responsible for 59 subjects, while the provincial governments were responsible for 182 subjects.
  • Under the act, Muslims got 33% i.e. ⅓ seats in the Federal Legislature.
  • The Federal Court is at present known as the Supreme Court of India

Also Read – Full List Of Viceroys Of India

However, the Government of India Act 1935, introduced several features which later formed the core and the very nucleus of the present Indian Constitution.

Relevant Blogs

Sarkaria CommissionIndia’s Journey to Independence
Lord LansdowneLord Wellesley
Quit India MovementPallava Dynasty
Indus Valley CivilizationThe Bengal Famine 1770
Partition of India and Pakistan (1947)Lord Wavell Plan and The Shimla Conference

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