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Government of India (GOI) Act, 1935

Government of India

In August 1935, the British Parliament approved the Government of India Act, which stood as one of the lengthiest acts passed by the Parliament up to that point. This important legislation was actually composed of two distinct acts: the Government of India Act 1935 and the Government of Burma Act 1935.

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Government of India Act, 1935 – Overview

A cursory detail of the Act is given in the table below:

Government of India Act 1935
AimAn Act to make further provision for the Government of India.
Territorial ExtentTerritories under direct British control 
Enacted byParliament of United Kingdom
Royal Assent24th July 1935
Commenced1st April 1937
StatusRepealed on 26th January 1950 in India

Government of India Act, 1935 – Background

  1. Indian leaders increasingly called for constitutional changes in the country.
  2. India’s assistance to Britain during World War I played a vital role in convincing the British authorities to consider greater Indian participation in governing their own nation.
  3. The Government of India Act of 1935 drew its foundations from several crucial sources:
    • Simon Commission Report
    • Recommendations from the Round Table Conferences
    • White Paper from 1933 (based on the Third Round Table Conference)
    • Report of the Joint Select Committees

Features of the Act

  • The Government of India Act of 1935 marked a significant change in the governance of India, replacing the older Government of India Act of 1919. The previous system of dyarchy, where provincial governments had two parts, one answerable to the Secretary of State for India and the other to the local voters, was found inefficient. In 1935, the new act established a Federation that derived its authority from the Crown and the British Parliament, comprising both provinces and princely states.
  • This act introduced separate electorates based on religion and profession, which unfortunately promoted communal divisions and hindered the sense of nationalism. The Federal Legislature had an Upper Chamber directly elected and a Lower Chamber indirectly elected by Provincial Legislatures. It clearly defined the division of powers between the Federal Government and the Provinces, but left residuary subjects at the discretion of the Governor-General.
  • The act included safeguards and special responsibilities for the Governor-General and Provincial Governors. The power to amend the constitution remained with the British Parliament, not the Federal Legislature. The Federal Legislature consisted of members from provinces and princely states, with those from provinces elected by the people and those from princely states nominated by the princes.
  • The act established three lists: Federal, Concurrent, and Provincial, for legislative purposes. In case of conflicts on Concurrent subjects, the Federal Legislature’s laws would usually prevail. The Governor-General formed a Council of Ministers from the Federal Legislature, and anyone not already a member had to become one within six months. They advised the Governor-General in exercising his powers.
  • In times of constitutional failure, the Governor-General could issue a proclamation to carry on administration. He could also declare a state of emergency, granting the Federal Legislature authority over Provincial List matters. Importantly, the Governor-General was not bound by his ministers’ advice. Additionally, the act created the Federal Court, the highest judicial authority in India, overseeing the work of the High Courts and subordinate to the Privy Council.
  • It’s important to note that while the Government of India Act of 1935 did make some adjustments aimed at rectifying the issues in the Morley-Minto Reforms, like getting rid of dyarchy, it fell short of meeting the genuine demands of the Indian population. This Act failed to win the approval of both provincial citizens and the princely states, leaving them dissatisfied with its provisions.

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