- The Act of 1935 aimed at winning new Indian collaborators and tapping new sources of revenue. Factors which necessitated the passing of the Act were:
- Indian National Congress had condemned Act of 1919 and boycotted elections held under it.
- Swarajists entered Legislative Councils to ‘wreck the scheme from within the councils’.
- Simon Commission was appointed in 1927 to review the constitutional set-up and in 1930 Simon Commission Report was released. In 1930 the Government of India submitted Reform Proposals. However Congress continued civil Disobedience Movement during 1930-34.Civil Disobedience Movement
Important features of the Act were
- Proposal for All India Federation of
(a) British Indian Provinces and
(b) willing Indian States.
- Provincial Autonomy replaced Dyarchy.
- Statutory division of powers between the Centre and Provinces. Three lists of subjects for legislation i.e. Central, Provincial and Concurrent.
- Power of Amendments of Constitution reserved for British Parliament.
- Elaborate ‘safeguards’ and ‘reservations’ provided to protect British interests in India.
- System of Communal and Class electorates further extended.
- Provision for a Federal Court, Federal Bank, Federal Public Service Commission and Federal Railway Authority.
Major provisions of the Act were:
- Crown’s authority in India to be exercised by His Majesty through Secretary of State.
- India Council abolished.
- A body of Advisors, between 3 and 6, to assist the Secretary of State.
- Secretary of State not bound to consult Advisors except in matters concerning Civil Services.
- Expenses of India Office were to be borne by British Exchequer.
- Dyarchy i.e. partial Responsible Government, provided for at the Centre.
- Governor-General to exercise extensive executive powers and act in 3 capacities:
(a) in his discretion (regarding Reserved Subjects).
(b) in his individual judgement (in discharge of his special responsibilities).
(c) on the advice of Ministers.
- Oddly enough, election to the Council of State (upper house) was direct, to the Federal House (lower house) indirect.
- Council of State was a permanent body, with 1/3rd members retiring every third year. Duration of Assembly 5 years.
- Pernicious system of communal and class electorates further extended.
- Governor-General could
(a) restore cuts in grants
(b) certify bills rejected by Legislature
(c) issue ordinances.
(It is, however, important to note that as pre-conditions for formation of Federation were not fulfilled, the Federation never came into existence. Central Government was carried on upto 1946 as per the provisions of the Government of India Act 1919.)
- Provinces granted autonomy and separate legal identity.
- Provinces freed from ‘the superintendence, direction and control’ of the Secretary of State and Governor- General.
- Provinces henceforth derived their legal authority direct from British Crown.
- Governor as Crown’s nominee and representative exercised authority on King’s behalf in a province.
- Provinces given independent financial power and resources. Provincial governments could borrow money on their own security.
- Provincial autonomy replaced dyarchy in provinces.
- Distinction between Transferred and Reserved subjects abolished.
- Responsible governments in provinces set up under Chief Minister elected by Legislatures.
- Governor not to act as a constitutional head but had special responsibilities. His seven special responsibilities included:
(a) Prevention of grave menace to peace and tranquility.
(b) Safeguarding legitimate interests of Minorities.
(c) Safeguarding rights of imperial services.
(d) Prevention of administrative discriminations against British commercial interests.
(e) Securing good government of partially excluded areas.
(f) Safeguarding rights of Princely States and their rulers.
(g) Execution of Governor-General’s orders with regard to Federal interests.
- Provincial Autonomy applicable to 11 Governors’ provinces.
- Bicameral legislatures in 6 provinces—Bengal, Bombay, Madras, Bihar, U.P. and Assam.
- Women got the right on same basis as men.
- Communal and class electorates further elaborated.
- Ministers answerable to and removable by the adverse vote of the Legislature.
- 30% of the Budget still non-votable.
- Governor could (a) refuse assent to a bill (b) promulgate ordinances (c) enact Governor’s acts.
An Overview of the Act:
- The proposed federal set-up contained many odd peculiarities and was very defective.
- Numerous ‘safeguards’, ‘special responsibilities’ of the Governor-General worked as brakes in the proper functioning of the act. Provincial autonomy proved a farce. Governors still acted as pivots of provincial administration.
- Act enfranchised 14% of the population in British India.
- Extension of the system of communal electorates and representation of various interests promoted separatist tendencies—culminating in partition of India.
- Act provided a rigid constitution with no possibility of internal growth. Right of amendment reserved for the British Parliament.
- Act is no way provided a blueprint for Indian independence. Nationalists described the Act a new and revised charter of Indian slavery.