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MainProvisionsofthe
IndianActof1935andIts
Achievements
by:S.Priyadarshini|category:Articles

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AftertheconclusionoftheThirdRoundTable
ConferenceinLondonawhitepaperwasissuedin
March1933givingdetailsofthebasisoftheworkingof
thenewconstitutionofIndia.Amongtheprincipal
sourcesfromwhichtheActdrewitsmaterialswerethe
SimonCommissionReport,thereportoftheAllParties
Conference(theNehruReport),thethemeofthe
discussionsofthreeRoundTableConferences,the
WhitePapers,theJointSelectCommitteeReportand
theLothianReport.
ThislengthyActofIndiawaspilotedintheHouseof
CommonsbytheSecretaryofStateforIndia,Sir
SamuelHoareinFebruary1935.Itbecamethe
GovernmentofIndiaActin2ndAugust,1935.ThisAct
establishedaFederationofIndiamadeupofBritish
IndianProvinces(GovernorsProvinceand
CommissionersProvince)andIndianstateswhich
mightaccedetobeunited.Inthecaseofstates
accessiontotheFederationwasvoluntaryandthe
Federationcouldnotbeestablisheduntil:
(a)Anumberofstates,therulerswhereoffwere
entitledtochoosenotlessthanhalfofthe104seatsof
theCouncilofstate,and
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(b)Theaggregatepopulationwhereofamountedtoat
leastonehalfofthetotalpopulationofalltheIndian
StateshadaccededtotheFederation.Thetermson
whichastatejoinedtheFederationweretobelaid
downintheInstrumentofAccession.
Contents[hide]
TheFederalExecutive:
TheFederalLegislature:
ProvincialAutonomy:
ProvincialLegislature:
CongressMinistries:

TheFederalExecutive:
Dyarchy,rejectedbytheSimonCommission,was
providedforintheFederalExecutive.Defence,External
Affairs,EcclesiasticalAffairsandtheadministrationof
theTribalAreaswerereservedinthehandsofthe
GovernorGeneraltobeadministeredbyhimwiththe
assistanceofmaximumofthreeCouncilorstobe
appointedbyhim.
TheotherFederalsubjectswouldbeadministeredby
theGovernorGeneralwiththeassistanceandadviceof
aCouncilofMinisters(notmorethanten)tobe
appointedbyhimandtoholdofficeduringhis
(GovernorGeneral)pleasureandtoberesponsibleto
theFederalLegislature.
TheGovernorGeneralhadspecialresponsibilities
regardingcertainspecifiedsubjects(thepreventionof
anygravemenacetothepeaceandtranquilityofIndia
oranypartthereofinrespectofthesesubjectshehad
fullfreedomtoacceptorrejecttheadviceofthe
Ministers.ThepositionoftheCouncilofMinisterswas
onlyornamentalratherthanuseful.
TheFederalLegislature:
TheFederalLegislaturewasconstitutedoftwoHouses,
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theCouncilofStateandtheFederalAssembly.The
Councilofstatewastobeapermanentbodywithone
thirdofitsmembershipbeingvacatedandrenewed
triennially.Itwastoconsistof156electedmembersof
BritishIndiaandnotmorethan104fromtheIndian
states(tobenominatedbytherulersconcerned).
TheFederalAssemblywhosedurationwasfixedforfive
yearswastoconsistof250representativesofBritish
Indiaandnotmorethan125membersfromtheIndian
states.ThememberstotheFederalAssemblyweretobe
electedindirectlybythemembersoftheProvincial
LegislativeAssembliesonthesystemofproportional
representationwiththesingletransferablevote.The
membersfromthestatesweretobenominatedbythe
rulers.
Residuarylegislativepowerswerevestedinthe
GovernorGeneralinthematteroftheenlistmentof
subjectseitherintheFederalLegislativelistorthe
ProvincialLegislativelistortheconcurrentLegislative
list.Thepowersofthelegislaturewerecribbed,cabined
andconfined.TheFederalLegislaturewasnotallowed
todealwiththelawsaffectingtheBritishSovereign,or
theroyalfamily,ormattersconcerningtheArmyAct,
theAirForceActorlawsfortheamendmenttothe1935
Act.DiscriminatorylegislationagainstBritish
commercialorotherinterestswasbanned.
Besidesthereweremanysubjectsofimportanceon
whichlegislationcouldnotbeinitiatedwithoutthe
previoussanctionoftheGovernorGeneral.Any
rejecteditemsofthebudgetcouldbeplaced,bythe
directionoftheGovernorGeneralbeforetheCouncilof
State.
IncaseofdifferencebetweentwohousestheGovernor
GeneralcouldsummonajointsittingandevenifaBill
waspassedbyboththehouseshecouldvetotheBill
andreturnitbackforreconsiderationorreserveitfor
hismajestysconsideration.
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ThemainfeatureoftheActof1935wastheprovisionof
theresponsibleGovernmentwithsafeguards.TheAct
madetheGovernorGeneralthepivotoftheentire
constitution.TheGovernorGeneralhadthejurisdiction
togivetheunityandtodirecttodifferentconflicting
elements.
TheGovernorGeneralactedinthreedifferentwaysor
capacities.Normallyhewastoactontheadviceofhis
ministers.Hehadtherighttoactonhisindividual
judgment.Hisspecialresponsibilitywastosafeguard
thefinancialstabilityandcreditofIndia,The
maintenanceoflawandorder,theprotectionofthe
minorities,andthepublicservantsweresomeother
dutiesoftheGovernorGeneral.AFederalCourtwas
establishedanditwasgivenexclusiveoriginal
jurisdictionindisputesbetweentheFederationthe
ProvincesandthestatesjoiningtheFederation.
TheStatesaccessiontotheFederationwasvoluntary.
ThetermsonwhichastatejoinedtheFederationof
Indiaweretobelaiddowninaninstrumentof
accession,therightsandobligationsoftheBritish
crowninrespectoftheIndianstatesweretoremain
unaffected.Therightsandobligationswereleftin
chargeoftheCrownRepresentative.Itwaspermissible
tocombinetheofficeofGovernorGeneralandCrown
Representativeinthesameperson.
InbothHousesoftheFederalLegislaturethestates
weregiventheirquotaofrepresentation.Butthe
membersfromthestatewerenottobeelected.Inspite
ofsuchwiderangeofprovisionsthePrincesofthe
NativeStateshoweverrefusetojointheFederation.
Theywerealarmedbythechangingsituationinthe
countrycausedbytherapidspreadofthenational
movement.
Theyapprehendedthatachievementofdemocratic
freedombythepeopleofBritishIndiawould
underminetheautocraticruleintheirownstate.They
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alsofearedthataccessiontotheFederationwouldbring
themundertheauthorityoftheFederalGovernmentof
Indiainsomeessentialmatters.
ProvincialAutonomy:
AsinthecaseoftheFederationtheExecutiveauthority
ofaprovincewasvestedinaGovernorappointedto
representthecrownintheprovince.Hispositionwas
largelymodeledonthatoftheGovernorGeneral.The
administrationoftheProvincialaffairswastobe
ordinarilycarriedonbyacouncilofministers
appointedbytheGovernorfromamongtheelected
membersoftheProvincialLegislatureandresponsible
tothemonly.Theministersheldofficesolongasthey
enjoyedthepleasureoftheGovernor.
TheGovernordidnotonlyactastheconstitutional
headoftheprovincemerelyactingontheadviceofthe
CouncilofMinisters,hehadsomespecial
responsibilitiesregardingthemaintenanceofpeaceor
tranquilityoftheprovinceoranypartthereof.Inthe
dischargeofhisspecialresponsibilitieshewas
authorizedtoactinseveralmattersinhisdiscretion
withoutconsultinghisministersandtogivehis
individualjudgment.
Inthatcasehewastoonlyconsidertheadviceofthe
CouncilofMinister.TheGovernorhadenormous
powerswhichincludedmanylegislativepowersaswell
asovernonvotableitemscomprisingabout40%ofthe
budget.Hecouldbyaproclamationtaketheentireor
partialgovernmentoftheprovinceintohisownhand.
ProvincialLegislature:
TheconstitutionoftheProvincialLegislaturevaried
fromprovincetoprovince.InallProvincialAssemblies
allmembersweredirectlyelectedbythepeople.In
provinceslikeMadras,Bombay,Bengal,U.P.,Biharand
AssamtherewasbicameralLegislatureconsistingofa
LegislativeCouncilandaLegislativeAssemblyandin
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eachoftheseLegislativeCouncilstheGovernorhadthe
powertonominatesomemembers.
Therewere50seatsinNorthWestFrontierProvince,
60eachinOrissaandSindh,108inAssam,112in
CentralProvinces,152inBihar,175eachinthePunjab
andBombay,215inMadras,228intheUnited
Provincesand250inBengal.
Theseparatistsystemofrepresentationbyreligious
communitiesandothergroupswasaprominentfeature
oftheActof1935.Theelectoralprocedurewas
governedbytheCommunalawardoftheBritish
GovernmentasmodifiedbythePoonaPactinrespectof
ScheduledCastes.
UnderthisseatsintheLegislaturesweredividedamong
variouscommunitiesandgroupsbesidestherewere
separateconstituenciesforGeneralMuslims,
Europeans.AngloIndians,Sikhs,IndianChristiansetc.
SomeofthegeneralseatswerereservedforScheduled
Castes.ThismethodofCommunalawardoftheBritish
GovernmentaccentuatedtheCommunaldisharmonyin
thecountrywhichpavedthewayfortheeventual
partitionofIndia.
TheActof1935createdgeneraldisappointmentofall
politicalparties.Withinnumerablechecksrestrictions,
reservationsandsafeguardsthenewActwasstillfar
awayfromevenareasonablemeasureofself
Government.ThestatusofIndiathatofdependency
graduallygravitatingtowardsthatofdominion.
TheCongressPresidentDr.RajendraPrasadcriticized
theabsenceofanyprovisionforautomaticgrowthof
developmentofselfGovernment.Hefurthersaidthat
itwillbeakindoffederationinwhichunabashed
autocracywillseatentrenchedinonethirdofIndiaand
peepineverynowandthentostranglepopularwillin
theremainingtwothirds.TheMuslimLeagueledby
JinnahalsorejectedtheFederalSchemedescribingitas
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adevicetowithholdresponsibilityattheCentre.The
Actwasintroducedasapoliticalsolutionofthe
problemsinordertosafeguardtheBritishfinancial
interestsinIndia.
TheBritishGovernmentmiserablyfailedtoovercome
theoppositionoftheIndianNationalCongress,the
MuslimLeagueandthePrincesagainsttheFederal
Scheme.SotheFederalSchemewaswithheldexcept
theestablishmentoftheFederalCourtandthe
Provincialsschemewasintroducedon1stApril,1937
causingadrasticchangeinthepatternofprovincial
politics.MadanMohanMalaviyasaidthatthestatue
hassomewhatademocraticappearanceoutwardlybut
itisabsolutelyhollowfrominside.
Butwhateveritslimitation,theActof1935markeda
decisiveturningpointinIndiasconstitutionalhistory.
Parliamentaryinstitutions,evenifinaweakenedform,
weretheframeworkofthenewGovernmentalsetup.
TheoperativepartofthisActhoweverremainedin
forcetill15thAugust,1947whenitwasamendedby
IndependenceofIndiaat1947.
CongressMinistries:
WiththeendoftheCivilDisobedienceMovementmany
Congressmenbegantoconsiderthepracticabilityof
workingalongthelinesofthenowdefunctSwaraj
party.FinallytheCongressdecidedtocontestthe
comingelectionstobeheldunderthenewAct.Pandit
JawaharlalNehruwasinfavourofcontestingthe
electionsbutnotoftakingpartinanyprovincial
Government.AParliamentaryBoardwassetupbythe
Congresstodealwiththemattersconcerningthe
elections.
Nehruhowevermadeitclearthathewasnotkeenon
Congressformingministriesbuttocarrythemessageof
theCongresstotheMillionsofvotersandtothescores
ofmillionsofthedisfranchised,toacquaintthemwith
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ourfutureprogrammeandpolicy.Butintheelection
heldin1937theCongresssweptthepollssofaras
generalorpredominantlyHinduseatswereconcerned.
Congressministrieswereformedinsevenoutof11
provinces.On18thMarch,1937theAllIndiaCongress
Committeeadoptedaresolutionanddirectedthe
CongressMinistersofdifferentprovinces.
ThedeclaredCongresspolicywastocombatthenew
Actandendit.Nehrureiteratedthatintheeventofany
demandofthepeoplebeingturneddownbytheBritish
Government,theCongressmembersofthelegislatures
shouldworkinsideandoutsidethelegislaturesfor
puttinganendtothenewconstitution.
Thiswouldinevitablyleadtoadeadlockswiththe
BritishGovernmentandbringoutstillfurtherthe
inherentantagonismbetweenBritishimperialismand
Indiannationalismandexposetheautocraticand
undemocraticnatureofthenewconstitution.
TheMuslimLeaguehadobtainedalargenumberof
seatsreservedforMuslims.TheLeaguesoffertoform
coalitionministriesintheprovinceswasturneddown
bytheCongresswhichresultedinmakingthegapwider
betweenthetwopoliticalparties.FollowingthisJinnah
publiclyproclaimedthattheCongresshaddonenothing
fortheMuslimsinIndia.
AddressingtheLucknowSessionoftheMuslimLeague
inOctober,1937JinnahsaidThepresentleadershipof
theCongressespeciallyduringthelasttenyearshas
beenresponsibleforalienatingtheMusalmansofIndia
moreandmorebypursuingapolicywhichis
exclusivelyHinduandsincetheyhaveformedthe
Governmentsinsixprovinceswheretheyareina
majority.
Theyhavebytheirwords,deedsandprogrammeshown
moreandmorethattheMusalmans,cannotexpectany
justiceorfairplayattheirhands.Fromtheclasses
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JinnahwenttotheMasseswiththecryofIslamin
danger.HeaccusedtheCongressofkillingeveryhope
ofHinduMuslimsettlementintherightroyalfashion
ofFascismandblamedGandhijifordestroyingthe
idealwithwhichtheCongresswasstarted.Jinnahsaid
He(Gandhi)istheonemanresponsibleforturningthe
Congressintoaninstrumentfortherevivalof
Hinduism.HisideaistoreviveHindureligionand
establishHinduRajintheCountry.Thesetypeof
statementofJinnahforcedtheIndianpoliticstobe
bipolarized.
InspiteofthehostileattitudeoftheBritishGovernors
oftheProvinces,thebureaucracyandtheMuslim
League,theCongressMinistriesineightprovincesout
ofeleventookupradicalmeasuresforthewelfareofthe
people.Greaterattentionwaspaidtovillages,to
agriculture,tocollegeeducationandindustries.Reform
ofeducationalsystem,introductionofbasiceducation,
ofjailsandenforcementofprohibitionweretakenup.
Abolitionofsalttaxandofrepressivelawscameunder
activeconsideration.Nodistinctionwasmadebetween
communityandcommunity,highcasteandlowcastein
theCongressadministration.Forthisventureofthe
MinistersGandhijiencouragedtosaythatavast
opportunityisatthedisposaloftheministersinterms
oftheCongressobjectivesofCompleteIndependence,if
onlytheyarehonest,selfless,industrious,vigilant,and
solicitousforthetruewelfareofthestarvingmillions.
ButtheCongressMinistersweredestinedtobeshort
livedandtheirworkswerealsocriticizedbytheBritish
GovernorsandtheMuslimLeague.Inthesecondition
therecameagreatshockbythedeclarationofthe
SecondWorldWar.Italteredthesituationinan
dramaticmannerandforcedtheCongresstoa
revolutionarypath.
DuringtheperiodofwarGandhijiandJawaharlal
NehruwereinfavourofsupportingtheBritish
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Governmentfortheonlyreasonthatitwasastruggle
betweenFascismandDemocracy.ButtheCongress
policywasthatnocooperationwaspossibleunlessthe
CongressdemandedthatIndiamustbedeclaredan
Independentnationandpresentapplicationmustbe
giventothisstatustothelargepossibleextent.This
ideaofoppositiontotheBritishGovernmentwas
projectedbySubhashChandraBose.
Hebelievedthatonlyafterthedefeatandbreakingup
oftheBritishEmpirecouldIndiahopetobefree.Due
tothevitalissuesinvolved,theCongressappointeda
WarSubCommitteewithJawaharlalNehruasthe
headtogivealeadtotheCongressinthisregard.
InOctober,1939theCongressrefusingtobehood
winkeddemandedthatIndiamustbedeclaredan
independentnationandpresentapplicationmustbe
giventothisstatustothelargestpossibleextent.To
thisdemandstheViceroyLinhithgowrepliedon
October17,1939inalengthystatementtheessenceof
whichwasthattheentireconstitutionalschemewould
bereopenedandreexaminedafterthewarandduring
thecontinuanceofthehostilitiesaconsultativegroup
onwhichallthediverseinterestsandcommunitiesof
Indiawouldberepresented,wouldbeconstitutedtoaid
theViceroyintheConductoftheWar.
TheCongressimmediatelydeclaredthestatementas
evasiveandunsatisfactory.GandhijideclaredThe
Congresshadaskedforbreadandithadgotstone,the
Congresswillhavetogotowilderness.On22nd
October,1939theCongressWorkingCommitteeafter
declaringtheViceroysstatementunsatisfactory
declaredthatinthecircumstancestheCommittee
cannotpossiblygiveanysupporttoGreatBritainforit
wouldamounttoanendorsementoftheimperialist
policywhichtheCongresshasalwayssoughttoend.
TheresolutionfurtheraskedtheCongressministriesto
resignwhichtheydidforthwith.TheGovernors
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immediatelyproclaimedemergencyinwhichthe
constitutioncouldnotworkandassumedallthepowers
ofadministrationintheirrespectiveprovinces.
HoweverthenonCongressMinistriescontinued.
ThebureaucracywashappytoseetheCongressoutof
powerandMuhammadAliJinnahaskedtheMuslim
LeaguetocelebrateaDayofDeliveranceandthanks
givingatthefalloftheCongressGovernment.
Communalismwasencouragedtothemaximumextent
evenbytheGovernment.
TheresignationofCongressMinistriesimpairedthe
WareffortoftheGovernmentofIndiaandinreturnthe
GovernmentdemonstratedtotheWorldthatthe
Congress,thelargestrepresentativepolitical
organisationofIndiawasnotcooperatingtheBritish
GovernmentintheprosecutionoftheWar.Tobelittle
thecharacterandobjectivesoftheCongressandto
encouragetheMuslimLeagueLinlithgrowtriedhis
best.
ThisnaturallydrovehimtopampertheLeagueleader
JinnahandotherpoliticalpersonalitiesoftheIndian
subcontinent.ThisdirectlypromptedtheMuslim
Leaguetopitchthedemandhighwiththeassurance
thattheywillbeconsidered.
TheCongresstiredoftheverbosityoftheViceroyput
forwarditsdemandforaConstituentAssemblyasthe
onlysolutionofIndiasproblembothConstitutional
andCommunal.Jinnahimmediatelyfeltfoulofthe
suggestionandassuredofthebackingofthe
Governmentbeganaseriesofattacksdescribingitas
chimerical.
InaletterJinnahsaidtotheViceroyon23rdFebruary,
1940thattheGovernmentshouldnotmakeany
commitmentwithregardtothefutureconstitutionof
Indiaoranyinterimsettlementwithanyotherparty
withouttheapprovaloftheLeague.
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TheViceroysrelationwiththeLeagueannoyedthe
CongressasanindexoftheoldpolicyofDivideand
Rule.TheViceroypromisedtodeterminethefuture
constitutionofIndiaonthelinesmostsatisfactorytoall
partiesconcerned.

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