The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms, 1919



The Home Rule movement and the rise of revolutionary terrorism mainly led the British authority to pacify the rising tide in India. Chelmsford, the Viceroy of India and Montague; the Secretary of Indian Council submitted a proposal in 1918 to the British Parliament. As a result, the Act of 19i9 was passed.

Accordingly, the number of members of the Council of the Secretary of State (Indian Council) was fixed at 12. Among them 3 were to be Indians and half of its total members were to be chosen from among those who must have resided in India at least for ten years. It limited the powers of the Secretary of States. The Viceroy was empowered to nominate as many members to his Executive Council as· he wished. The Councilors were nominated for five years.

The Central Legislature consisted of the Council of States and Legislative Assembly. The Upper House or Council of States consisted of 60 members. Among them 33 were to be elected and 27 were to be nominated by the Viceroy. Each province in India was allotted a fixed number of representatives to represent in the Council of States for five years.

The Legislature Assembly or the Lower House consisted of 144 members out of which 103 were to be elected and the rest of the members were to be nominated. The life of the Legislative Assembly was for 3 years. The franchise of both the Houses was restricted which differed in different provinces. The Viceroy was empowered to summon, prorogue and dissolve the Chambers. The first Speaker was to be nominated by the Viceroy and after that the speakers would be elected.

The provincial Legislature consisted of only one House known as the Legislative Council. The number increased now what was beforehand. The powers of the Councils also increased a little. However, the Viceroy had control over the Councils.

The communal electorate system was further enhanced. It created provision for 'separate electorates for Sikhs, Anglo-Indians, Christians and Europeans.

The Act of 1919 introduced Diarchy in the provinces. Accordingly, the Rights of the Central and Provincial Governments were divided in clear-cut terms. The central list included rights over defence, foreign affairs, telegraphs, railways, postal, foreign trade etc. The provincial list dealt with the affairs like health, sanitation, education, public work, irrigation, jail, police, justice etc. The powers which were not included in the state list vested in the hands of the Centre.

In case of any conflict between the 'reserved' and 'unreserved' powers of the State (the former included finance, police, revenue, publication of books, etc. and the latter included health, sanitation, local-self government etc.). The Governor had its final say. The Diarchy was introduced in 1921 in Bengal, Madras, Bombay, U.P., M.P., Punjab, Bihar, Orissa and Assam. In 1932, it was extended to the North-West Frontier Province.

No doubt, the Act of 1919 reformed some of the maladies of the Morley-Minot Reforms of 1909, and introduced .Diarchy. Still it was not free from short- comings. Limited franchise, no clear-cut division of powers between the Centre and the States, Viceroy's authority over every matter etc. were some of the defects of the Act of 19.19 which brought dissatisfaction among the Indians.