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Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Indian Constitutional Developement (1861-1920)



  • For the purpose of the legislation, it enlarged the Central Council by addition of not less than 6 & not more than 12 additional members.
  • There were to be nominated by the Governor-General & that at least half of them were to be non-officials. Under this provision, three Indians were usually nominated. Thus, it initiated a process of Indian association in legislation.
  • The Act restored the legislative powers of the Councils of Bombay & Madras.
  • The Act allowed the establishment of new Councils in other Provinces. Accordingly, Councils of Bengal (1862), North-Western Provinces (1886), and Burma & Punjab (1897) were established.
  • Thus, it initiated recognition to issue ordinances in case of emergency.
  • The Act provided for the decentralization of business. Using this authority, Lord Canning introduced the portfolio system in India for the first time, thus laying the foundation of the Cabinet System in India.


  • In the Central Executive Council, the number of additional members was increased to not less than 10 and not more than 16. However, in the Centre as well as in provinces, the official majority was maintained.
  • The Act empowered the Governor-General-in-Council to make regulations for the nomination of additional members. Under this provision, the Governor-General could introduce a half-hearted system of election (limited or indirect election), even as the provision itself very carefully avoided the use of the word "election".
  • The introduction of the "elective principle", though veiled, was the as significant constitutional measure.
  • The members of the Central Legislature were allowed to hold a discussion on the annual financial statement.
  • Under the Act, many Indians entered the Councils. These included Pherozshah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhle, WC Banerjee, Surendranath Banerjee, Ashutosh Mookerjee, Rash Behari Ghosh & Lalmohan Ghosh.


  • The number of additional members was doubled or more than double and the maximum number in additional members in Governor-General's Council was raised to 60. 
  • In the provinces, for the first time, a non-official majority was introduced.
  • Of the 32 non-official seats, 5 were to be nominated by Governor-General while the remaining 27 were to be elected by the system of indirect election.
  • It introduced the system of separate electorates for Muslims who were also given weightage, i.e. more seats were given to them than the number warranted by their proportion in the local population. They were also allowed to compete for seats to be elected by the general electorates.
  • The member asking the original question was given the right to ask supplementary questions as well.


  • The Act began with a Preamble based on the "Montagu Declaration" of 20 August 1917.
  • The Secretary of State for India was now to be paid by the British Exchequer.
  • Some of his functions were also taken away & given to the High Commissioner of India.
  • In the Governor-General's Executive Council, three Indians would be included.
  • Bicameral Legislative was established at the Centre namely, the Indian Legislative Assembly & the Council of State.
The Indian Legislative Assembly (Lower House):
  • It was to consists of 145 members.
  • The Act introduced the system of direct election for the first time.
  • The system of communal electorate continued & was extended to Sikhs also.
The Council of State (Upper House):
  • It was to consists of 60 members.
  • The members were called "Honorable". Women were not allowed to become a member of the House.
  • The right to ask supplementary questions was extended to all members of the legislature.
  • The Governor-General was given the power of certification.
  • Under the Act, Provincial Autonomy was introduced for the first time.
  • The independent powers of the provinces were defined in the "Devolution Rules".
  • Accordingly, two lists were drawn- The central list & Provincial list. Residual power was vested in the Governor-General-in Council.
  • The system of Dyarchy was introduced in the provinces & the responsibility for certain subjects of the government was transferred to the Indian hands (Transferred list) while control over others was reserved in British hands (Reserved list).
  • Governor acted as the link between two halves of the Executive.
  • The instrument of Instructions was the document that laid down the basis of relations between the provincial governors & ministers.


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