The British Parliament passed the Government of India Act in August 1935. The Act was based on the recommendation and discussion of the following-
The Report of the Simon Commission (1930).
The Report of All Parties Conference (Nehru Committee Report).
The discussion of the three Round Table Conferences.
The White Paper (March 1933).
The Joint Select Committee report.
The Lothian Report which determined the electoral provisions of the Act.
The Government of India Act 1935, had two main parts, dealing with the Federation of India and Provincial Autonomy. Some of its main features were-
It provided for the establishment of a ‘Federation of India‘ consisting of Governor’s Provinces and the Princely States. The instrument of Federation was to be an Instrument of Accession signed by the Princely States. While it was not necessary that all Princely States should join the Federation, the Federation could not be formed unless the acceding States sent not less than 104 members to the Council of States.
Dyarchy was withdrawn from the Provinces and implanted at the Centre. This meant that certain ‘Reserved Subjects’- such as defense, tribal affairs, external affairs, etc. were to be administered exclusively by the Governor-General. In other federal subjects, the Governor-General would be advised by his Council of Ministers. In other words, the new Act did not envisage a responsible Government at the Centre.
The proposed Federal Legislature was to be bicameral, with a Council of States with 250 members and a Federal Assembly of 375 members. The representatives of the Princely States in the Council of States and the Federal Assembly, numbering not more than 104 and 125 respectively, were to be nominated by their rulers, not elected by the people.
A threefold division of subjects was made- Federal, Provincial, and Concurrent.
The Act provided for the establishment of a Federal court with Jurisdiction over the States and the Provinces. The court was to consist of a Chief Justice and two puisne judges. It was given both original and appellate powers. It was the duty of the Federal Court to interpret the constitution and to see that the provinces and the Federal Council acted only within those spheres which were reserved for them by the constitution. However, the last word in this matter was to be said by the Privy Council sitting in London.
The Act of 1935 separated Burma from India. Sind and North West Frontier Province were given the status of provinces.
Provincial Autonomy replaced Provincial Diarchy (after the unpopular nature of Dyarchy in Provinces, Simon Commission suggested its abolition) i.e. Responsible Government was introduced in Provinces. Governor has to now act on the advice of the ministers responsible to Provincial Legislature. The Act divided the British Indian provinces into two categories i.e. 11 Governor’s Provinces (Madras, Bombay, Bengal, United Provinces, Punjab, Bihar, Central Provinces and Berar, Assam, NWFP, Orissa, and Sind) and 5 Chief Commissioner’s Provinces. Provincial autonomy was to be introduced only in the Governor’s Provinces.
London – Delhi relations: There was to be a transfer of financial control from London to Delhi in response to the long-standing demand of the Government of India for fiscal autonomy.
It further extended the principle of communal representation by providing separate electorates for depressed classes (scheduled castes), women and labour (workers).
Lower house termed as – Legislative Assembly and Upper House as Council of States.
Vote on Budget was also allowed.
‘Vote of No Confidence’ and ‘Idea of Collective Representation’ was introduced
Political Reaction to the Act of 1935:
Jawahar Lal Nehru criticized the Act as “a charter of slavery.” In his view, the safeguard ridden Act was “a machine with strong brakes but no engine.”
According to Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, “The new Act has been thrusted upon us. It has a somewhat democratic appearance outwardly, but it is absolutely hollow from inside.”
According to SirShanmukham Chetty, “It is indeed a far cry between the Government of India Act and Dominion Status.”
According to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, “It will be a kind of Federation in which unabashed autocracy will sit entrenched in one-third of India and peep in now and then to strangle popular will in the remaining two-thirds.”
According to ChakravartiRajagopalachariar, “The new Constitution is worse than dyarchy.”
According to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the scheme of 1935 was “thoroughly rotten, fundamentally bad and totally unacceptable.”
Dr. Keith denounced the proposed Federation as “bastard Federalism.”
According to C. Y. Chintamani, “I venture to describe the Government of India Act, 1935, as the anti-India Act…I feel with some bitterness that the Government of India at least in these matters may not incorrectly or unjustly be described as the Government ‘against’ India.”