Government of India Act, 1919

  • Reforms of 1909 did not satisfy any section.
  • As World War I went on, the emergence of the doctrine of self-determination, deeply influenced Indian public opinion.
  • A committee was appointed which together with the Viceroy helped Montagu prepare the draft of a reform scheme which was published in 1918 as Montagu Chelmsford Report based on which Government of India Act, 1919 was drafted.

Major provisions

  • Indian Legislative Council at the Centre was replaced by a bicameral system consisting of a Council of State (Upper House) and a Legislative Assembly (Lower House).
  • Communal representation was extended further with separate electorates for Sikhs, Christians and Anglo-Indians, besides Muslims.
  • Provinces were given power to decide on women’s representation in provincial assemblies.
  • It introduced dyarchy in the provinces, which indeed was a substantial step towards transfer of power to the Indian people.
  • However, provincial legislature was to consist of one house only (legislative council).
  • It separated the provincial and central budgets, with provincial legislatures being authorised to make their budgets.
  • A High Commissioner for India was appointed, who was to hold his office in London for six years and whose duty was to look after Indian trade in Europe. Some of the functions hitherto performed by the Secretary of State for India were transferred to the high commissioner.


  • Though a step was taken towards increasing association of Indians by raising their strength to 3 in Viceroy’s council, the departments assigned to them were comparatively unimportant.
  • Nor were these members made responsible to the legislative.
  • Division of subjects into two lists was not. Clear-cut or based on proper consideration.
  • Chief executive authority remained with Governor-general.
  • Communal politics of British was strengthened.

Response of Indians

  • Major political parties rejected the act as it lacked provision for responsible government and promoted communal politics.
  • Gandhiji said, “The Montford Reforms were only a method of further draining India of her wealth and of prolonging her servitude.”

Impact of Montague-Chelmsford Reforms on Indian Nationalism

  • Reforms made a new departure. For the first time in the history of British rule, provision for transfer of power although limited was made. It established parliamentary democracy and was the beginning of a process of decolonisation.
  • The national self-awakening made Indians move from the idea of self-government under colonial rule towards the demand for complete Independence.
  • Failure of the act to deliver as per demands of Indians provided an issue for Gandhi to expose colonial rule. Gandhi presented his mission as to liberate Indian politics from this constricted arena of constitutionalism which was imposed by the western world.
  • It encouraged struggle for power between Indians and British.
  • Congress Swaraj party was formed in 1923 and won a substantial number of seats. They used the councils to challenge British on several acts and bills. Ex. Public Safety bill.
Free UPSC MasterClass
This is default text for notification bar