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Government of India Act 1935

NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC civil services exam preparation. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like bank PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on.

The Government of India Act was passed by the British Parliament in August 1935. It was the longest act enacted by the British Parliament at that time. So, it was divided into two separate acts namely, the Government of India Act 1935 and the Government of Burma Act 1935.Background

  • There was a growing demand for constitutional reforms in India by Indian leaders.
  • India’s support to Britain in the First World War also aided in British acknowledgment of the need for the inclusion of more Indians in the administration of their own country.
  • The Act was based on:
    • Simon Commission Report
    • The recommendations of the Round Table Conferences
    • The White Paper published by the British government in 1933 (based on the Third Round Table Conference)
    • Report of the Joint Select Committees


Creation of an All India Federation

  • This federation was to consist of British India and the princely states.
  • The provinces in British India would have to join the federation but this was not compulsory for the princely states.
  • This federation never materialised because of the lack of support from the required number of princely states.

Division of powers

  • This Act divided powers between the centre and the provinces.
  • There were three lists which gave the subjects under each government.
    1. Federal List (Centre)
    2. Provincial List (Provinces)
    3. Concurrent List (Both)
  • The Viceroy was vested with residual powers.

Provincial autonomy

  • The Act gave more autonomy to the provinces.
  • Diarchy was abolished at the provincial levels.
  • The Governor was the head of the executive.
  • There was a Council of Ministers to advise him. The ministers were responsible to the provincial legislatures who controlled them. The legislature could also remove the ministers.
  • However, the governors still retained special reserve powers.
  • The British authorities could still suspend a provincial government.

Diarchy at the centre

  • The subjects under the Federal List were divided into two: Reserved and Transferred.
  • The reserved subjects were controlled by the Governor-General who administered them with the help of three counsellors appointed by him. They were not responsible to the legislature. These subjects included defence, ecclesiastical affairs (church-related), external affairs, press, police, taxation, justice, power resources and tribal affairs.
  • The transferred subjects were administered by the Governor-General with his Council of Ministers (not more than 10). The Council had to act in confidence with the legislature. The subjects in this list included local government, forests, education, health, etc.
  • However, the Governor-General had ‘special powers’ to interfere in the transferred subjects also.

Bicameral legislature

  • A bicameral federal legislature would be established.
  • The two houses were the Federal Assembly (lower house) and the Council of States (upper house).
  • Federal assembly had a term of five years.
  • Both houses had representatives from the princely states also. The representatives of the princely states were to be nominated by the rulers and not elected. The representatives of British India were to be elected. Some were to be nominated by the Governor-General.
  • There were to be separate electorates for the minority communities, women and the depressed classes.
  • Bicameral legislatures were introduced in some provinces also like Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Bihar, Assam and the United Provinces.

Federal court

  • A federal court was established at Delhi for the resolution of disputes between provinces and also between the centre and the provinces.
  • It was to have 1 Chief Justice and not more than 6 judges.

Indian Council

  • The Indian Council was abolished.
  • The Secretary of State for India would instead have a team of advisors.


  • This Act introduced direct elections in India for the first time.
  • About 10% of the whole population acquired voting rights.


  • Sindh was carved out of Bombay Presidency.
  • Bihar and Orissa were split.
  • Burma was severed off from India.
  • Aden was also separated from India and made into a Crown colony.

Other points

  • The British Parliament retained its supremacy over the Indian legislatures both provincial and federal.
  • A Federal Railway Authority was set up to control Indian railways.
  • The Reserve Bank of India was established as per this Act.
  • The Act also provided for the establishment of federal, provincial and joint Public Service Commissions.


  • The Act was a milestone in the development of a responsible constitutional government in India.
  • The Government of India Act 1935 was replaced by the Constitution of India after independence.
  • The Indian leaders were not enthusiastic about the Act since despite granting provincial autonomy the governors and the viceroy had considerable ‘special powers’.
  • Separate communal electorates were a measure through which the British wanted to ensure the Congress Party could never rule on its own. It was also a way to keep the people divided.

The Government of India Act 1919

NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC civil services exam preparation. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on.

The Government of India Act 1919 was an act of the British Parliament that sought to increase the participation of Indians in the administration of their country. The act was based on the recommendations of a report by Edwin Montagu, the then Secretary of State for India, and Lord Chelmsford, India’s Viceroy between 1916 and 1921. Hence the constitutional reforms set forth by this act are known as Montagu-Chelmsford reforms or Montford reforms.

Main provisions of the Government of India Act 1919Provincial government

  • Executive:
    • Dyarchy was introduced, i.e., there were two classes of administrators – Executive councillors and ministers.
    • The Governor was the executive head of the province.
    • The subjects were divided into two lists – reserved and transferred.
    • The governor was in charge of the reserved list along with his executive councillors. The subjects under this list were law and order, irrigation, finance, land revenue, etc.
    • The ministers were in charge of subjects under the transferred list. The subjects included were education, local government, health, excise, industry, public works, religious endowments, etc.
    • The ministers were responsible to the people who elected them through the legislature.
    • These ministers were nominated from among the elected members of the legislative council.
    • The executive councillors were not responsible to the legislature unlike the ministers.
    • The Secretary of State and the Governor-General could interfere in matters under the reserved list but this interference was restricted for the transferred list.
  • Legislature:
    • The size of the provincial legislative assemblies was increased. Now about 70% of the members were elected.
    • There were communal and class electorates.
    • Some women could also vote.
    • The governor’s assent was required to pass any bill. He also had veto power and could issue ordinances also.

Central government

  • Executive:
    • The chief executive authority was the Governor-General.
    • There were two lists for administration – central and provincial.
    • Provincial list was under the provinces while the centre took care of the central list.
    • Out of the 6 members of the Viceroy’s executive council, 3 were to be Indian members.
    • The governor-general could issue ordinances.
    • He could also certify bills that were rejected by the central legislature.
  • Legislature:
    • A bicameral legislature was set up with two houses – Legislative Assembly (forerunner of the Lok Sabha) and the Council of State (forerunner of the Rajya Sabha).
    • Legislative Assembly (Lower House)
    • Members of the Legislative Assembly:
    • The nominated members were nominated by the governor-general from Anglo-Indians and Indian Christians.
    • The members had a tenure of 3 years.
  • Council of State (Upper House)
    • Only male members with a tenure of 5 years.
    • Members of the Council of State:
  • The legislators could ask questions and also vote a part of the budget.
  • Only 25% of the budget was subject to vote.
  • Rest was non-votable.
  • A bill had to passed in both houses before it became a law.
  • There were three measures to resolve any deadlock between both the houses – joint committees, joint conferences and join sittings.
  • Governor-General
    • The governor-general’s assent was required for any bill to become a law even if both houses have passed it.
    • He could also enact a bill without the legislature’s consent.
    • He could prevent a bill from becoming law if he deems it as detrimental to the peace of the country.
    • He could disallow any question, adjournment motion or debate in the house.

Who could vote?

  • Franchise was restricted and there was no universal adult suffrage.
  • Voters should have paid land revenue of Rs.3000 or have property with rental value or have taxable income.
  • They should possess previous experience in the legislative council.
  • They should be members of a university senate.
  • They should hold certain offices in the local bodies.
  • They should hold some specific titles.
  • All this narrowed the number of people who could vote to an abysmal number.

Indian Council

  • There were to be at least 8 and a maximum of 12 members in the council.
  • Half of the members should have ten years of experience in public service in India.
  • Their tenure was to be 5 years.
  • Their salaries were increased from £1000 to £1200.
  • There were to be 3 Indian members in the Council.

Other salient features

  • This act provided for the first time, the establishment of a public service commission in India.
  • The act also provided that after 10 years, a statutory commission would be set up to study the working of the government. This resulted in the Simon Commission of 1927.
  • It also created an office of the High Commissioner for India in London.

Merits of the Government of India Act 1919

  • Dyarchy introduced the concept of responsible government.
  • It introduced the concept of federal structure with a unitary bias.
  • There was increased participation of Indians in the administration. They held some portfolios like labour, health, etc.
  • For the first time, elections were known to the people and it created a political consciousness among the people.
  • Some Indian women also had the right to vote for the first time.

Limitations of the Government of India Act 1919

  • This act extended consolidated and communal representation.
  • Franchise was very limited. It did not extend to the common man.
  • The governor-general and the governors had a lot of power to undermine the legislatures at the centre and the provinces respectively.
  • Allocation of the seats for the central legislature was not based on population but the ‘importance’ of the province in the eyes of the British.
  • The Rowlatt Acts were passed in 1919 which severely restricted press and movement. Despite the unanimous opposition of Indian members of the legislative council, those bills were passed. Several Indian members resigned in protest.

Indian Councils Act 1892

NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC civil services exam. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on. This article talks about the Indian Councils Act of 1892. Modern history is an important segment in the UPSC exam syllabus.

The Indian Councils Act 1892 was an act of the British Parliament that increased the size of the legislative councils in India.

Indian Councils Act 1892 Notes


  • The Indian National Congress (INC) was formed in 1885. There was a growing feeling of nationalism and this led the INC to put forth some demands to the British authorities.
  • One of their demands was the reform of the legislative councils.
  • They also wanted the principle of election instead of nomination.
  • The INC also wanted the right to hold discussions on financial matters which was hitherto not allowed.
  • The Viceroy at the time Lord Dufferin set up a committee to look into the matter. But the Secretary of State did not agree to the plan of direct elections. He, however, agreed to representation by way of indirect election.

 Indian Councils Act 1892 Features

Provisions of the Indian Councils Act 1892

  • The act increased the number of additional or non-official members in the legislative councils as follows:
    • Central Legislative Council: 10 – 16 members
    • Bengal: 20 members
    • Madras: 20 members
    • Bombay: 8 members
    • Oudh: 15 members
    • North Western Province: 15
  • In 1892, out of 24 members, only 5 were Indians.
  • The members were given the right to ask questions on the budget (which was barred in the Indian Councils Act 1861) or matters of public interest but had to give notice of 6 days for it.
  • They could not ask supplementary questions.
  • The principle of representation was initiated through this act. The district boards, universities, municipalities, chambers of commerce and zamindars were authorised to recommend members to the provincial councils.
  • The legislative councils were empowered to make new laws and repeal old laws with the permission of the Governor-General.

Assessment of the Indian Councils Act 1892

  • It was the first step towards a representative form of government in modern India although there was nothing in it for the common man.
  • The number of Indians was increased and this was a positive step.
  • However, since the British conceded only a little, this act led indirectly to the rise of militant nationalism in India. Many leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak blamed Congress’s moderate policy of petitions and persuasions for a lack of positive developments and called for a more aggressive policy against British rule.

Government Of India Act 1858

NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC civil services exam. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on. This article talks about the Government of India Act 1858 which is an important part of modern Indian history for IAS exam.

The Government of India Act 1858 was an Act of the British parliament that transferred the government and territories of the East India Company to the British Crown. The company’s rule over British territories in India came to an end and it was passed directly to the British government.Background

  • The Revolt of 1857 served as a jolt to the British government.
  • There was widespread resentment against the company in Britain as the policies of the company were blamed for the revolt.
  • Queen Victoria, who was the monarch of Britain, also became the sovereign of British territories in India as a result of this Act.

Features of Government of India Act 1858

Provisions of the Government of India Act 1858

  • East India Company was liquidated.
  • Indian territories of Britain were to be governed in the name of the British Queen.
  • The Court of Directors and the Board of Control were scrapped.
  • The powers of the Company’s Court of Directors were vested with the Secretary of State for India.
  • This Secretary of State was to be a British MP and a member of the Prime Minister’s cabinet. He was to be assisted by a council of 15 members.
  • He was also the channel of communication between the British government in Britain and the Indian administration. He also had the power to send secret despatches to India without consulting his council.
  • Via the Secretary of State, the British parliament could ask questions regarding Indian affairs.
  • The representative of the British government in India was the Governor-General and Viceroy (both the same person to avoid conflict).
  • The Viceroy and the governors of the various presidencies were appointed by the Crown.
  • The Viceroy was to be assisted with an Executive Council.
  • This act made India a direct British colony.
  • This act abolished the dual government of the Pitt’s India Act.
  • This act also ended the doctrine of lapse.
  • The Indian Civil Services was to be instituted for the administration of the country. There was provision for Indians also to be admitted to the service.
  • It was decided that the remaining Indian princes and chiefs (more than 560 in number) would have their independent status provided they accept British suzerainty.


  • First Secretary of State for India: Lord Stanley
  • First Governor-General and Viceroy of India: Lord Canning

The Charter Act Of 1853 – Features & Significance

NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC Civil Services Exam. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on. This article talks about the 1853 Charter Act.

The Charter Act 1853 was passed in the British Parliament to renew the East India Company’s charter. Unlike the previous charter acts of 17931813 and 1833 which renewed the charter for 20 years; this act did not mention the time period for which the company charter was being renewed. This Act was passed when Lord Dalhousie was the Governor-General of India.

Provisions of the Charter Act 1853

  • Governor-General’s office
    1. The Law member (fourth member) became a full member with the right to vote.
    2. The Legislative Council which had six members now had 12 members.
    3. The 12 members were: 1 Governor-General, 1 Commander-in-Chief, 4 members of the Governor-General’s Council, 1 Chief Justice of the Supreme Court at Calcutta, 1 regular judge of the Supreme Court at Calcutta, and 4 representative members drawn from among the company’s servants with at least 10 years tenure, appointed by the local governments of Bengal, Bombay, Madras and North Western Provinces.
    4. The Governor-General could nominate a vice president to the council.
    5. The Governor-General’s assent was required for all legislative proposals.
  • The Court of Directors could create a new presidency or province. This was because of the difficulties that were faced in administering the increasingly large Indian territories of Britain.
    1. Since 1833 and 1853, two new provinces of Sind and Punjab were added.
    2. It could also appoint a Lieutenant Governor for these provinces. In 1859, a Lt. Governor was appointed for Punjab.
    3. This Act also led to the creation of Assam, Burma and the Central Provinces.
  • The Act provided for the appointment of a separate governor for the Bengal Presidency. It maintained that the governor of Bengal should be different from the Governor-General who was to head administration of the whole of India.
  • The number of Board of Directors was reduced from 24 to 18 out of which 6 people were to be nominated by the British Crown.
  • Indian Civil Services
    1. Macaulay Committee of 1854 gave India her first civil services.
    2. This act removed the right of patronage to appointments in civil service held by the Court of Directors.
    3. Appointment was to be done only by open competition based on merit and was open to all.
    4. The report recommended that only the ‘fittest’ be selected to the ICS.

Features of the Charter Act 1853

  • For the first time, the legislative and executive functions of the Governor-General’s council were separated.
  • This act served as the foundation of the modern parliamentary form of government. The legislative wing of the Governor-General’s Council acted as a parliament on the model of the British Parliament.
  • It extended the company’s rule for an indefinite period unlike the previous charter acts. Thus, it could be taken over by the British government any time.
  • Company’s influence was further reduced by this act. The Board of Directors now had 6 members who were Crown-nominated.
  • It gave birth to the Indian civil services and was open to all including Indians. This ended the system of appointments by recommendation and started a system of open and fair competition.
  • For the first time, local representation was introduced into the legislative council in the form of four members from the local governments of Bengal, Bombay, Madras and North Western Provinces.

The Charter Act Of 1833 – Features & Significance

NCERT notes on important topics for the UPSC Civil Services Exam. These notes will also be useful for other competitive exams like banking PO, SSC, state civil services exams and so on. This article talks about the Charter Act of 1833.

The Charter Act of 1833 was passed in the British Parliament which renewed the East India Company’s charter for another 20 years. This was also called the Government of India Act 1833 or the Saint Helena Act 1833.

Features of the Charter Act of 1833

  • The company’s commercial activities were closed down. It was made into an administrative body for British Indian possessions.
  • The company’s trade links with China were also closed down.
  • This act permitted the English to settle freely in India.
  • This act legalised the British colonisation of the country.
  • The company still possessed the Indian territories but it was held ‘in trust for his majesty’.

Provisions of the Charter Act of 1833

India became a British colony

  • The Governor-General of Bengal was re-designated as the Governor-General of India. This made Lord William Bentinck the first Governor-General of India.
  • Thus, the country’s administration was unified under one control.
  • The Governors of Bombay and Madras lost their legislative powers.
  • The Governor-General had legislative powers over entire British India.
  • The Governor-General in council had the authority to amend, repeal or alter any law pertaining to all people and places in British Indian territories whether British, foreign or Indian native.
  • The civil and military affairs of the company were controlled by the Governor-General in council.
  • The Governor-General’s council was to have four members. The fourth member had limited powers only.
  • For the first time, the Governor-General’s government was called Government of India and the council was called India Council.

Indian Law Commission

  • The act mandated that any law made in India was to be put before the British Parliament and was to be called ‘Act’.
  • As per the act, an Indian Law Commission was established.
  • The first Law Commission had Lord Macaulay as its chairman.
  • It sought to codify all Indian law.

Split in Bengal Presidency

  • The act provided for the Presidency of Bengal to be divided into the Presidencies of Agra and Fort William.
  • But this never came into effect.

Indians in Government service

  • This was the first act that gave permission for Indians to have a share in the country’s administration.
  • It stated that merit should be the basis of employment to government service and not birth, colour, religion or race.


  • The act provided for the mitigation of slavery existing in India at that time.
  • The British Parliament abolished slavery in Britain and all its possessions in 1833.

Tilt towards Christianity

  • Since the number of British residents in the country was increasing, the act allowed for having three Bishops in India.
  • It also sought to regulate the establishment of Christian institutions in India.

Significance of the Charter Act of 1833

  • It was the first step in the centralisation of India’s administration.
  • The ending of the East India Company’s commercial activities and making it into the British Crown’s trustee in administering India.
  • Codification of laws under Macaulay.
  • Provision for Indians in government service.
  • Separation of the executive and the legislative functions of the council.