UPSC : The Act of 1909 UPSC Notes | EduRev
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Evaluation of Reforms
- The Indian Councils Act of 1909 (Morley-Minto Reforms) is very important in the constitutional history of India. It introduced important changes. The following were the most important features or the changes introduced by the Morley-Minto Reforms:-
- Expansion of the Imperial Legislative Council. The Indian Councils Act of 1909 enlarged the size of the Imperial Legislative Council. The number of additional members had been sixteen since 1892. Now it was raised to a maximum of sixty. The total strength of Imperial Legislative Council could thus be 69. Out of these 37 were to be officials and 32 non-officials.
- Out of 37 official members, 28 were nominated officials while 9 were ex-officio members. These 9 ex-officio members were Governor-General, Commander-in-Chief, Governor of the Province, where the meeting took place (extraordinary members), and 6 ordinary members of the Executive Council of the Governor-General.
- Of the 32 non-official members, 27 were elected and 5 were nominated non-officials. Thus official majority was retained at the Centre.
- Expansion of Provincial Legislative Councils. The size of Provincial Legislative Councils was enlarged.
- Enlargement of functions. The functions of the Legislative Councils were increased. Elaborate rules were made for the Provincial Legislative Councils. Any member could move a resolution relating to taxation, new loan or any other proposal in the financial statement. The Council could not discuss interest on debit, ecclesiastical expenditure or expenditure on State railways.
- The members could ask questions and supplementary questions but the members incharge of the department concerned could refuse to answer the supplementary questions put offhand. He could ask for time.
- The members could move resolutions but these were to be properly expressed and must raise definite issues. These were not to include arguments, inferences and ironical remarks.
- Matters of general public interest could be discussed. There could, however, beno discussion of a subject outside the competence of the particular legislature, any matter affecting the relations of the Government of India with a foreign power on a native State or any sub-judice matter.
- Increase in the number of the members of provincial Executive Councils. The Act raised the number of members of Executive Councils in Bombay, Bengal and Madras from two to four. Executive Council could also be constituted for Lt. Governor’s provinces.
- Restricted and Discriminatory Franchise. The franchise was neither wide noruniform. It was highly restricted and discriminating. The property qualifications were very high and differed from place to place. Worse still, the voting qualifications were higher in case of non-Muslims than in the case of Muslims. This discrimination was kept even in the case of university constituencies. A Mu-slim graduate of 5 years’ standing could vote but the period was longer in case of non-Muslim graduates.
- Introduction of the system of communal and class electorates. The Act introduced the system of communal and class representation. In case of Provincial Legislative Councils, special electorates were constituted for the due representation of different communities, classes and interests. The same was true of Imperial Legislative Council.
- Appointment of Indians to Executive Councils. The Indians were appointed to Executive Councils. S.P. Sinha was appointed a member of Governor-General’s Executive Council.
- No responsible Government. The Act did not introduce responsible Government. This was clearly stated by Lord Morley in his speech in the House of Lords in December 1908.
- Minto-Morley Reforms of 1909 were not liked by most Indians from the very outset. Even the Moderates, who welcomed the reforms at first, were soon disillusioned. These reforms have been criticised on the following grounds:-
- The Indians wanted responsible government but it was denied to them by the Reforms of 1909. Only minor additions were made in the powers of the Legislative Councils. The reforms introduced only a change of degree and not of kind. The power essentially remained in the hands of the Government.
- The reforms introduced the structure of the Parliamentary form of Government but its essence, the responsibility of the executive to legislature, was absent. It led to irresponsible and thoughtless criticism of the Government. Several Indian political parties made the legislative platform for throwing mud on the Government because they knew that they would not be called to shoulder responsibility.
- The Act gave undue importance to vested interests, like landlords and chambers of commerce, by giving them special representation.
- The system of election was introduced but franchise was highly restricted. The number of voters was very small. In some constituencies, there were only about a dozen voters. Naturally votes could be purchased.
- The Act did not enfranchise women. They were not given any political status.
- Indirect system of election was another defect of the Act. The people elected members of local bodies and they elected members of the provincial legislatures. They in turn elected members of Imperial legislature. Thus there could be absolutely no link between the people and their representatives in the Provincial Legislative Councils and still less with their representatives in the Imperial Legislative Council.
- Non-official majorities were created in case of Provincial Legislative Councils, but it did not mean that power had come into the hands of the representatives of the people. The elected members were still in minority. The official and nominated non-official members could outvote the elected members.
- The hateful system of communal electorate was introduced. It encouraged communal thinking in place of territorial thinking. It created further disunity among the Indians. The evil did not end with giving separate electorates to the Muslims in 1909. The Sikhs got it in 1919 and it was further extended to Indian Christians and Anglo-Indian in 1935. One of the effects of the introduction of the system of communal electorates was the division of India into two dominions in 1947.
- The Indians wanted the British Government to declare that its ultimate aim was to grant self-government to the Indians. The Act remained silent on this point.